By Dorothy Kaneko
My earliest memories of childhood was living in the town of Hood River with grandpa and grandma in a large house which was located near Yasuis store and the Hood River Hotel where we ate on August 14th. It has a second floor which must have been sleeping quarters, perhaps being rented. The first floor had a porch in front and a large room where people could be fed. I dont really remember how it was used.
In the back grandpa made tofu the old fashioned way. I remember some of the process involved pressing the soybeans with a long handle with a weight. I added to the pressure by sitting on the handle. Grandma made age at a large stove in the kitchen. I also remember her cooking. She was a good cook and excellent seamstress.
Occasionally grandpa would obtain fish to sell probably from Portland. He worked at the railroad station very close to our house. I dont know what he did there. He also used to take things to the hospital.
Thinking back, the house where we lived may have belonged to the Yasui family. I dont remember the Yasuis very well. The family did not associate with us. I remember Mr. Fujimoto whom I believe worked at the Yasui store located on the main street above our house. He was a relative of the Yasui family, may be Mr. Yasuis brother. The Yasuis had a daughter, Michi, close to my age. They did not associate with us or other Japanese families.
I remember going with grandpa to a hospital to visit people. I lived with them until I started school. I was told I could not speak English when I started school. I remember riding on a truck to go to school. Mom felt very sorry for me. I never talked about school.
My memories of early school days were when we lived at Copples. Our house was a little walk from the road. We picked hazel nuts that grew on bushes on our walk home. Later on when we were older, I remember climbing up the walls of the gravel pit where we were forbidden to go. The Tameno family lived fairly close to school. Ruth and I took a short cut coming home above their place through a wooded area where the gravel pit was located. The Indians who came to work during strawberry harvest time built little mounds of rocks used in producing steam, probably for steam baths. This same area had a little creek where we went fishing for crawfish.
The hill in front of our grade school was an area where the children went sleigh riding. Once dad hit some child: the child slid right in front of the car he was driving. Fortunately, the child survived. Behind the grade school was a large playground where baseball games were played. Ruth was a pitcher. In inclement weather, a large shed provided a place to play.
During the wintertime we rented a large house from Caugheys near the schoolhouse where Junior almost died of pneumonia. Dad continued to nurse him despite the fact that the doctor had given up hope. Dad had spoken about his ambition when he was a young man to become a doctor in Osaka. But he had to come to America because of family obligations. I believe he would have been a wonderful doctor.
I have vague memories when I almost died from asthma. A Japanese doctor from Portland misdiagnosed my illness as pneumonia. I had my tonsils removed twice.
Dad worked on the railroad with grandpa. He had received some personal tutoring from a young German lady. Dads English was better than the average Isseis. He was always studying. He communicated well with his neighbors and friends. He had a good sense of humor and was very well liked. I remember his little errands to the neighbors or friends always became very lengthy. I used to have to sit in the car for long periods waiting for him to emerge from the doorway.
We fished for crawfish with food tied on a string probably in Neal Creek. I dont remember eating them.
As you know Fumiko, Junior and I have the same birthdays. I remember the day Junior was born, dad brought a birthday cake to school during lunch hour for me. Junior was born at that time. I was born on the same date 9 years earlier. Fumiko was born in the evening on the same date one year after my birthday. We still have cake together. It is ironic that the 3 of us ended up in Chicago after everyone else in the family had left. We ended up caring for Mom except for the last year of her life -- which she spent with Betty Shibayama who lives in San Jose. San Jose had a better climate for Mom.
Chicago has severe winter weather, and Betty was very good to her. Flora was not too far away. I think Paul and Miyo helped also.
In Hood River after the Copples place near Ehrks hill, we lived in a house where grandpa and grandma lived near Alfred Dethmans (still in Odell) near Neal Creek, I think. We farmed for strawberries, asparagus, apples and some pears. There were a few large cherry trees that were great to climb. We had a few workers cabins. I remember a Philippine elderly man who helped us. Charles was his name.
Nishimotos lived near us. They were very good neighbors. Their 2 boys spent a great deal of time with our boys. We made mochi together before New Years. Mr. Nishimoto hunted pheasants. He was a good hunter. I wonder if Claude learned from him. They had a cabin where we had Japanese school. Mrs. Inouye taught us. Rev. Inouye was a notoriously reckless driver. We also went to the Takasumis for Japanese classes on weekdays and on Saturday we went to Parkdale on back of Takasumis truck for classes.
Rev. Inouye was a well-educated minister who went to Emory College in Georgia and also to Harvard. He was a Methodist Minister who was notorious for his lengthy sermons. He knew too much and wanted to tell everyone everything that he knew. His wife was a teacher who taught us minyo dances. They also gave us theatrical experiences. We visited them many years later in Denuba, Calif., with our children. They enjoyed them very much.
Many years later they stayed with us in Chicago when an ecumenical worldwide conference was held in Northwestern University. Many famous ministers from Japan attended with Dr. Rev Toyohiko Kagawa. There were no Japanese restaurants in Chicago at that time. Mrs. Inouye and I made onigiri and other Japanese food for them, which the ministers appreciated. We had a picnic in Dyches Stadium when Kevin was about 5 years old. We made a movie of that event which we gave to the Kagawa people when they had an anniversary. We have a photo of that gathering at Northwestern.
We visited Rev and Mrs. Inouye in Hama and learned his ancestors created some beautiful carvings, which he owned of museum quality.
Rev Inouye baptized me and I dont know who else.
Memories of working with our parents were pleasant experiences. Dad would narrate many stories of famous Japanese samurais and historical characters. He was a great storyteller. He mentioned the fact that his grandfather was also a good storyteller. In Japan the neighborhood people would gather at his house for bathing and listen to his stories.
Our mother enjoyed singing and teaching us Japanese children songs. Although we were poor, we always managed to have a few musical recordings around the house.
We had farm animals: a cow, chickens, rabbits, and pigs. We survived the depression raising vegetables and buying salmon from Indians who sold them illegally. We stored the salmon in the freezer lockers along with pork and other farm produce.
Dad became a smoker out of necessity. The apple trees had to be sprayed with nicotine to keep them worm free. He thought if he smoked he wouldnt get as sick as he did when he sprayed. Eventually he developed health problems, and we encouraged him to give up smoking.
Dad always managed to provide financial support to his grandparents and relatives in Japan no matter how difficult it was raising a big family.
Memories of Early Days