Densho Digital Archive
Oregon Nikkei Endowment Collection
Title: Jim Onchi Interview
Narrator: Jim Onchi
Interviewer: Stephan Gilchrist
Location: Portland, Oregon
Date: February 20, 2003
Densho ID: denshovh-ojim-01-0001

<Begin Segment 1>

SG: So, can you tell me what year, when you were born, and where you were born?

JO: I was born March 26, 1918, right here in Portland, Oregon, near 96th and Division which is, it's all building, new buildings down, I think Portland Adventist Hospital is there now, so, I don't know if I was born in a hospital or home, that I can't tell you.

SG: What was it like when you were growing up there?

JO: My family was a farming there, and that's all I can remember when I was growing up. Then we moved to Gresham, about 181st and Gresham. Family done the farming also there, and that's where I grew up most of the time.

SG: How old were you when you moved to Gresham?

JO: Oh, I can't exactly tell that part because I lost my dad when I was only thirteen, and that was one of the, 1932 was the worst Depression. It was the worst Depression in the world. And then I continued, my brother came back from Japan, and he was in Japan for seven year, came back, and we were kind of farming together with my mother. And meantime too, I went to school in Gresham area. Then I went to California also to work for a while. And before 1941, I believe somewhere, 1940, I guess, worked in Longview for a while logging, on a logging company. And of course, was 1942, I guess '41, December, the war broke out, December the 7th, and I was drafted into the army.


SG: You said you were born here in Portland, and your dad died when you were thirteen. And so what was, tell me more about your family, when you were a child.

JO: Well, of course, our time was, everything was done manually, and I remember working with a team of horses and harnessing them up, and we'd run the farm. We had a berry farm in what they call the Montavilla area. And so that was what my dad was doing and mother was farming, berry farming. And then we, of course, early before we moved to Gresham area, we had, we didn't have, I kind of remember we had tractors after going, moving to Gresham area, and my dad passed away just few years after we moved in Gresham. And so meantime, my brother came back from Japan after studying school over there, and my sister didn't come back. So in fact, she's still there in Japan now. So from there, we kept on farming in Gresham. When the war broke out why -- maybe I should go, say my dad passed away in 1932, and that was our worst year of Depression. So we went through that, and then we, family and I, we worked together, and my mother worked, that's all she did. She worked because she spoke little of English because she never did have opportunity to speak. She came over from Japan. My dad, my dad came from California. And in fact, he carried his buddy over, over the border of Mexico there because he wanted to get to United States, and so he carried him over the border, and he was over here working for railroad, I think. Then meantime, those early days, he was here alone and what they call a picture wedding. So my mother came over through the picture. And of course, my sister was oldest and my brother, George, was the second, and I was third, and then I got a younger brother, Joe. And all I can remember is the people from Japan, Issei people, worked hard. And then we moved to Gresham about, I don't know what year that is, but I remember when my dad passed away in 1932, so it was about couple years after him, we moved to Gresham. He passed away, and so my oldest brother decided to, he'd farm with my mother. And so that was 1940, 1939 or '41, worked in Longview, Washington, and for a while, and then I also worked in California for a while. Then the war broke out in December '41, I believe. And about four months later in March, I was drafted in army.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.