Densho Digital Archive
Oregon Nikkei Endowment Collection
Title: Kenji J. Yaguchi Interview
Narrator: Kenji J. Yaguchi
Interviewer: Linda Tamura
Location: Lake Oswego, Oregon
Date: April 20, 2014
Densho ID: denshovh-ykenji-01-0003

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LT: As a child, you had a lot of responsibilities on the farm and in the home. Can you talk about those?

KY: Yeah. My job was to... when you have a hog ranch and they're raised on a platform, rats. Rats were between, under the platform. It was my job to kill those rats, and I got one penny for every rat I killed, but I had to prove it, I'd have the tail, so there was no way I could cheat. I had to have the tail, and so I kept the tail. And I got pretty close to a thousand rats in a couple years, and got a penny apiece, that was a lot of money in those days. My father furnished the .22 and the shells, and that's what I used to kill the rabbits, the rats. .22 rifle, boom.

LT: So you learned to become a good shot, and you earned ten dollars. So how did you dispose of the rats before you cut the tails?

KY: No, as soon as I killed them, I buried 'em.

LT: As you got older, you also had responsibilities for rabbits.

KY: Oh, yes. I tried to raise rabbits after we moved from Fife to Firwood, and the railroad track spur was right in front of us. And the railroad boxcars will haul hay. And there's always crops of hay left. And I used to go to the spur and collect all the alfalfa scraps. That's what I used to feed my rabbits. That was their staple food. Plus vegetables, we used to raise carrots, onions, whatever. I also used that, too.

LT: So how many rabbits did you take care of at one time?

KY: I almost had seventy, eighty rabbits. I started off with two and raised, before I know, I had about seventy, yeah, about seventy, eighty.

LT: And where did you keep them, and what did you do every day to take care of them?

KY: No, see, rabbits were raised in a screened, like a box. And being screened, all the pellets would fall down to the bottom, so it was easy to raise rabbits in those days. I used to sell the rabbits live or dressed, either way. I could charge more for, it was dressed I got fifty cents a rabbit, undressed was twenty-five cents. And those days, I thought that was a lot of money.

LT: And how old were you when you were doing this?

KY: Gosh, I was in the sixth, seventh, eighth grade. So six, twelve, thirteen... twelve, thirteen.

LT: Were there any jobs you didn't like?

KY: The job I didn't like was I had to take the horse from Firwood to Fife, and I had to drag it, because it wouldn't let me ride it. So I'd lead the horse about five miles. Oh, I thought that was real boring. That was probably one of the worst jobs I ever had on the farm. From this farm to this farm. But I only did that only for about a year because about that time, we had tractors then. We had a [inaudible] single, two wheel tractor for small jobs, so we didn't need a horse anymore.

LT: By the way, how long did it take for you and Bessie to move from Firwood to Fife?

KY: Four or five hours. That's a long time.

LT: That is a long time. Now, you also had a farm.

KY: Huh?

LT: You also had a farm. Did you have responsibilities on your family farm?

KY: Yeah. You're being in the farm like that, there's work all the time. All the crops had to be harvested, like pickles, we took pickles, and had to be a certain (size). Can't be big, had to be about three inches, and we used to sell that to Nalley's. You heard of Nalley's? The Nalleys started a pickle farm, I mean, pickle, making pickles in Tacoma, Washington, that's where it first started. Now Nalley's are all over the United States. But they make stuff in New Jersey, New Orleans, all over the place.

LT: So you raised cucumbers for the pickles. What else did you raise?

KY: Oh, gosh, all kinds of vegetables: carrots, celery, cabbage, lettuce, turnips, name it, we raised it. Beans, peas, all that, all those crops.

LT: And so what was your responsibility on this farm?

KY: My responsibility is to harvest all those, cabbage, lettuce, celery, and get it ready for market.

LT: So what did you think about that job?

KY: Oh, I kind of enjoyed it. I didn't think that was bad. Number one, I felt that we had to do it. And if we had to do it, hey, make it fun. So I did make it fun.

LT: So how did you do that?

KY: Well, while you were harvesting, all the kids would sing, sing church songs in those days.

LT: Was there a favorite church song?

KY: Oh, gosh, there were so many of them, I can't tell you. All the church songs that we used to sing.

LT: Do you remember any that you could sing for us now?

KY: Oh, no. [Laughs] No, I should be able to, because in Ontario, I became a... we were Methodist all our lives. My mother was a Methodist, my father was a Buddhist but he raised us as Methodist. And when I was in Ontario, Oregon, I belonged to the church, I was chairman of the board and things like this. I also became a certified lay speaker in the Methodist church. And the responsibility of a certified lay speaker is to fulfill the pulpit when the minister is absent, whether it's your church or other churches in your area. Like we had another Methodist church in Ontario, Payette, Weiser, Payette and New Plymouth. I used to go to all those churches. They would call me and ask me if I would like to do it. I used to kind of enjoy that.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2014 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.