Detail of Lonesome Moon by Tameichi Wada, 1944.

June Yamamoto and Bob Wada in Harbor City, California, June 28, 2003.

Harbor City

Page 27 Santa Fe Manuscript

Tameichi WADA Slide Show

June Yamamoto and Bob Wada, daughter and son of Tameichi WADA, were interviewed on June 28, 2003, at the family home in Harbor City, California and at Yamamoto's home in Lomita.

June Yamamoto and Bob Wada, Tape 1 - Audio

    The grandfather of June Yamamoto and Bob Wada, Kumaichiro Wada immigrated to the United States in the late 1800's. He bought a house and farm in Gridley, California. He brought his wife and sons to Gridley. The boys moved to San Francisco to work as houseboys. In Japan the family owned a huge house and farmland in Gozenmatsu in Wakayama. The grandfather gave his farm to his best friend whose family still owns it. The mother's family also owned land in Wakayama. She gave her land to her brother.

    In 1928 the family started a laundry business. They rented land from a Chinese landlord in Marysville, California and built a cleaning plant. When the war broke out, Tameichi nearly won a lucrative contract with a new army base but was arrested by the FBI. The Wada family departed for their ranch outside of town and Mr. Hamilton took over the business. The Wadas lost everything. They also lost the ranch when the new operators failed to make payments.

    Their uncle and aunt bought the ranch and grew peaches, prunes and Crenshaw melons. He was the first grower of Crenshaw melons but was unsuccessful the first year since no one knew what they were. Their uncle started the cleaning business at 211 C Street around 1925. Four square blocks of the Japanese ghetto were demolished for urban renewal, but the Buddhist church survived.

    Their grandfather, Kumaichiro helped found the Marysville Buddhist Church. He and Terakawa-sensei collected donations to build the church and Kumaichiro served as its first president until war broke out. Yamamoto feels that Terakawa-sensei does not get the credit he deserves for founding the church.

    Yamamoto's grandfather and father were arrested the day after Pearl Harbor was attacked. Yamamoto returned from school to find that FBI agents ransacked her home and jailed her grandfather and father. Her mother was shaken up by the experience. The next day the local newspaper announced the arrests and Yamamoto felt that everyone shunned her. The family moved to the ranch outside of town.

    Yamamoto was graduated from high school but was not allowed to go to the graduation because of the curfew. She was supposed to have received a medal on stage for her winning essay: I am an American. As the oldest child, Yamamoto assumed the role of head of household but was unable to keep the cleaning business. Her father and grandfather were imprisoned at Fort Lincoln in Bismarck, North Dakota, and in New Mexican prison camps at Lordsburg and Santa Fe.

    The interviewer describes the Lordsburg shooting and subsequent courtmartial and editorializes about current U.S. policies regarding prisoners accused of being terrorists.

    Wada remembers his father wearing a Lordsburg, New Mexico sweatshirt.

June Yamamoto and Bob Wada, Tape 2 - Audio

    Tameichi created sand paintings in his workshop at night. Wada and his father built their house in 1956. Wada's father created bonsai. When Wada traveled to Japan someone broke in and stole all of his father's trees. Their father was very outgoing and liked to crack jokes. He played tennis as a youngster. He helped create sets for children's performances in Marysville. When on a cruise to Europe he created outlandish costumes: a steamship hat and a dancing lady.

    The Wadas were imprisoned at Tule Lake for the duration of the war. In 1944 their father and grandfather were transferred to Tule Lake. After the war, Tameichi became a gardener. In Lomita, Wada feared being the first returning Japanese to Narbonne High School, but was treated very nicely by his Caucasian classmates. Wada played sports.

    Wada worked as a gardener, owned a nursery, and worked as a flower grower at Sepulveda and Main. Yamamoto worked as a domestic for a movie director. Later her husband also worked as a gardener, opened a nursery and worked as a flower grower.

    Wada and his father designed and built their house from the foundation up. It took ten months.

Yamamoto has three daughters. Wada has two daughters and a son. Their brother Kei has four children. Their father was a very lively person. He became ill, suffered strokes and was moved to Keiro. One day he took off in a wheelchair and wound up a mile away. A homeless person brought him back.

    In Marysville, Yamamoto used to listen to her grandfather and his colleagues discuss the Buddhist church and town business. Yamamoto's grandfather owned a shoe store in the Japanese Town in Marysville. He sat outside in front of the store. When country people came, he saw their worn out shoes and gave them new pairs. Eventually he went out of business. He was one of the few Japanese grandparents around and was able to devote his time to church affairs.

    The Marysville Appeal Democrat printed an article about the arrest of her grandfather and father. Yamamoto and other Marysville residents suspect that the FBI made arrests based on information received from JACL members.

    Yamamoto realizes that the issei generation is nearly gone now. Around half of her nisei friends have already died. Yamamoto's grandfather died around 1956. He wrote haiku and had a talent for reciting poetry. He was friends with the rinban at the Los Angeles Nishi Hongwanji and attended services there.

Marysville people used to hold reunions for former townspeople with food and Marysville tomatoes and peaches. Now everyone is too old to organize reunions. It is too erai.

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