Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Henry Fukuhara Interview
Narrator: Henry Fukuhara
Interviewer: John Allen
Date: November 6, 2002
Densho ID: denshovh-fhenry-01-0001

<Begin Segment 1>

JA: I'd be interested in going back and have you tell me a little bit about your family when you were a young man, where they came from, what they did.

HF: Well, my father first came to the United States in 19'- in 1898, and he did various -- he came into San Francisco. And he came with a group of his friends from Hiroshima, Japan, and he did various jobs. When I say various jobs, he worked domestic and he worked in the fruit orchards, and then I don't know how he managed but he gradually worked his way down to Southern California, and he started to grow flowers in Southern California and then he went into farming, and he went into farming and he grew potatoes and cauliflower in a community called Fruitland, which is just adjacent to Little Tokyo in Los Angeles. And this is during World War I, and as all the Japanese immigrants who came to this country, they -- as soon as they made their fortune they were going to go back home. So, my father did make his fortune growing potatoes and cauliflower during that era of World War I, and then he was free to take us back home to Japan.

And at that time I was about eight years old, seven/eight years old, and I didn't know... I knew that they were getting ready to go someplace, but I didn't know what was happening. But someone came along and talked to my father and talked him into making more money since, since his friend knew that my father had the money so he talked him into going back into farming again instead of quitting and going back to Japan. So, he leased some land in what is called, what is now the Riviera Country Club, and he leased, he leased the land with several other families in that area. And there was a place called the mesa, and my father farmed the lower part where the Riviera Country Club is and five or six other farmers, they grew on the flat land called the mesa. Then he lost his shirt, so to speak, growing tomatoes, he just couldn't make, didn't make it. But everybody thought -- from my recollection of the conversation -- that he was, the tomato, the plants looked good, and all this, that he was going to have a good crop and so on. But the market wasn't good, so the tomatoes, he couldn't sell the tomatoes, so the tomatoes -- most of the tomatoes went for ketchup.

And then he had to start all over again, and I got a little ahead of myself, but when he, when he went to the what was Mandeville Canyon, which was adjacent to where the Riviera Country Club is, he built a new cottage. I call it a cottage... it's a bungalow, I should say, and that housed the family moving from Fruitland. And after he went broke there, I don't know how he, how he managed after going broke that he moved that house up to the Pacific Palisades and he managed to lease some land up there large enough that it accommodated three or four other families, and then he could only stay there for two years. But he went up there and farmed, and then he moved, and then after the two years was up, in the meantime he was taking, he was taking the produce on a Model T touring car. He would strap the, his produce, which is lima beans and zucchini squash, and he would tie those on the running board in the back, in the back seat, and then I would -- I often went with him to the market. And then on the way back from the market, he noticed a palm tree on Wiltshire Boulevard that had, that had, like nuts on it, they were palm -- they were seeds, and, and they were on the ground, some were on the ground. So he asked, he went and asked if he could have those seeds and on the way home from the market we picked those seeds up. And he planted the seeds, and then after the seeds sprouted he transplanted them into, into boxes, and then from, from there he thought of going into the nursery business.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2002 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.