Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Ted Hamachi Interview
Narrator: Ted Hamachi
Interviewer: Kirk Peterson
Location: West Covina, California
Date: March 4, 2010
Densho ID: denshovh-hted-01-0002

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RP: Did either of your parents ever share with you some of their early experiences in settling in America, how different it was or some Niseis talk about of their struggles to try to eke out a living?

TH: I don't hear, I didn't hear too much about the struggles, but I know that the first thing my mother did when she came to California was to learn how to be a seamstress. She went to tailoring school and later on as a kid I used to remember the curves and stuff, like a ruler that was curved, scissors, things of this nature that you needed to have to do tailoring work. She did better in the fields, she adapted herself to the fields and can work from sunup to sunset without too much trouble. She was a pretty healthy person.

RP: Were there any other members of your mother or father's family that also came to the United States?

TH: No, that's the problem, as kids we grew up and we had no cousins. The family that was closest to us was my dad's classmate that came from Fukuoka in the same village. And so they lived in Los Angeles, we lived out in the country, they came out to the country and from the early times I remember as a kid, we used to butcher a chicken and we used to have fried chicken every Sunday. This is in the time of hardship, after the Depression, we still ate quite well.

RP: Where did your parents originally settle in the southern California area?

TH: In San Gabriel Valley. It was real unfortunate that the last week of 1933... I'll go back a little bit. The summer of 1933, they had a big mountain fire right above Altadena, Pasadena. This fire burnt for over a month, just like the Station Fire of 2009, it just burned a lot and they couldn't put it out too easily. But that winter of 1933, it rained off and on, day and night, for a whole week between Christmas and New Year's. And when it started raining, the same thing happened where the mud flowed, the drainage weren't cement lined or anything so the ravaging, the water went through my dad's field. And so that forced us to move out of the area.

RP: What was your father growing in the early years that he was farming in San Gabriel Valley?

TH: Well, he was... going back again to the first time he came here, he could drive a team of horses and he learned this in Imperial Valley. That was when he came the first time, he worked in the Imperial Valley and he learned how by working for someone else, how to grow cantaloupes and so he brought that knowledge that he acquired early on. He grew a lot of cantaloupes. He would try to grow cantaloupe without watering it too much until the cantaloupes came on the vines. And then he would start watering the cantaloupes regularly. And that created more sugar and so his crops did well. The early pioneers had to fight the birds, the rabbits, they had to use guns or whatever method they could use to get rid of them. I think they even had dogs to chase after rabbits and stuff.

RP: What are some of your most vivid memories of working as kid on the farm?

TH: Well, I was the oldest son so I used to haul, when I was able to get around to doing it, I used a horse and I used to haul out cantaloupes out of the field. And sometimes you have accidents, but most of the times you did what you were told and how to do it.

RP: You mentioned you were the oldest son. Can you give us the names of your other brothers and sisters? Who was above you?

TH: My eldest sister was named Kazuko and she went by the English name of, might have been... I can't remember now. I was going to try to say Susie but that doesn't sound too good. My second sister, which was, she's four years older than I am, her name is Kikuno and she went by the name of Kay, K-A-Y. And I had a younger brother, four years younger, named Masaru and they called him Mas. And I have a kid brother that's fourteen younger than I am --

RP: Fourteen years?

TH: Yeah, and his name is Shig, Shigeru.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.