Densho Digital Archive
Japanese American Museum of San Jose Collection
Title: Dave Tatsuno Interview
Narrator: Dave Tatsuno
Interviewer: Aggie Idemoto
Location: San Jose, California
Date: January 20, 2005
Densho ID: denshovh-tdave-01-0015

<Begin Segment 15>

AI: What type of support system did your family have when you returned? You provided a lot of support for others by forming this hostel and trying to find jobs, but what about a support system for your own family?

DT: Well, you see, when I got back, first of all, we were fortunate that we had a home at 1625 Buchanan Street. And then the church -- because I was active in church -- asked me to do, help the evacuees come back. So I did that for about a year and a half. And actually, they paid me to do that, you see. The Presbyterian Church and the Reform Church combined, and the man that was in charge was Dr. Gordon K. Chapman, and he said, "Dave, we want you do that; help evacuees." And so I did that for a year and a half, and I got sick. I was so busy that... not a nervous breakdown, but I had kind of a breakdown. And so after a year and half, I figured that I had helped enough. And then I decided to reopen my store in Japantown. And then I had no location, because the corner store was rented, and it was occupied. So you know what we did? Next to the corner store was a three-story house. We jacked the whole house up and made a store in that, in that building. And at first, when the idea came up, I was talking to Mr. Honda, the Issei carpenter. And he said, "Tatsuno-san, why don't you jack your house up and make a store underneath?" I said, "Can you do that? Oh," I said, "how much does it cost?" "Oh, about two thousand dollars." [Laughs] It finally cost six thousand, but it was worth it because we had no rent after that. And so we had this house, we were living upstairs, and jacked up just enough height for the store, and the garage became a store. And that's how we started in 1946. All kind --

AI: And how were --

DT: -- all kinds of stories.

AI: So your store in San Francisco was established in 1946. What about the store in San Jose?

DT: Well, what happened was this: in 1946, we reopened the store underneath our house. In '47, just when we were gonna celebrate one year, we took our oldest son for a tonsil operation, to the Stanwood Hospital, and he died of a tonsillectomy. Anesthetics death, and he was almost seven. Very bright boy, he was loved by everybody; big eyes, long eyelashes, and we couldn't stay in San Francisco after that. So that's why we moved to San Jose, and came looking around for property, and little Japantown in San Jose, I didn't know too much about it. How are you going to find a location for a shop? Well, again, a funny thing happened. I walked into a grocery store run by Italian couple. And I asked them about location, and they gave me some suggestions, "Go downtown, go down to see the city manager," and everything, all that. Well, I came back, and I said, they said, "Why don't you use this place for a store?" But I said, "You people are running a business." "Oh, no, no." See, the new market had opened across the street, and so they were dying a slow death, and so they wanted to get out, you see. And so we rented that place, I negotiated for rental, they said they wanted two hundred dollars a month. I said, "One seventy-five." "No, two hundred." And so finally, I went back to San Francisco, and one month I didn't come. Then when I came back, they were surprised to see me, and so I said... finally, oh, I said, "One seventy-five," they said, "Two hundred," and then I went out to eat lunch. And I told 'em, "I'm going to eat lunch and come back and make up my mind by then." Well, when I came back, the man said, "You won't pay more than one seventy-five? You're very weak." And I said, "No." So we got it for one seventy-five with a three-year lease. And that's how we got started in that building.

AI: Good negotiating.

DT: Yeah, so it's, lot of stories about what happened.

AI: So with the tragic death of your brother in 1947, you, you just moved away from those memories and established --

DT: No, no, no. That was my son, not my brother.

AI: Your son, your son. Okay.

DT: Yeah. So we moved to San Jose, and we started the shop in San Jose on the day he died, a year after. July, we opened it in San Francisco, July he died in San Jose -- in San Francisco, and we moved to San Jose and opened July 11, 1948. So we've been there since 1948. And in the meantime, what happened? Would you believe this? That I'm very active in the YMCA, and I ended up by flying a quarter of a million miles for the YMCA in memory of my son. And I was in Geneva, Switzerland, for the world meeting, I was in Tokyo for the world meeting, I went back east a number of times as a living memorial to my son. And that happened when I -- at the YMCA of San Jose, they had a Youth World Committee, and the chairman was Dr. George, a professor at San Jose State. And his program became such that he couldn't continue, so they asked me to be chairman. So went to this committee of ten or so, I told them that I'd like to dedicate my Y work as a living memorial to my son, and I ended up a quarter million miles flying for the YMCA. I mean, it's, it's quite a story.

AI: It is.

DT: Yeah.

AI: Very heartwarming.

DT: Then, of course, scuba diving, how we started diving, I started the course at the Y, and we taught six thousand divers without an accident, but I'm not an instructor; I just got the course started, you see. And so one thing leads to the next.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2004 Densho and The Japanese American Museum of San Jose. All Rights Reserved.