Oral history by: Brett Jackson
Date submitted: December, 2011
While I was growing up my grandfather seemed to be a quiet, funny, hardworking man. As it came to be, he lived a very stressful life that was rich in experience, and discrimination, that helped make him the man he is today. Throughout the struggles he endured, he was still able to nurture the loving family he has now and still works hard every day.
Born on July 15th, 1925, in the beautiful town of Redwood City in California, he was the youngest of a family of six children. He was a normal boy with normal clothes, just jeans, a t-shirt, and a pair of old shoes. At two years of age, my grandfather moved with his family to a little old wooden house in San Martin (which still exists on the Harvey Bear Historical site), with future prospects to sharecrop strawberries. Sharecropping is a technique used by farmers to successfully control a farm, by sharing the profit of a farm between the owner and a partner. San Martin is located between the low foothills of the valley, north of Gilroy. His mother did most of the cooking , while his father and mother worked hard every day on the farm. The children also helped work on the farm while they were not at school. They ate an assortment of stir fries with meat and many vegetables. He attended San Martin School, which was the local one room grammar school, located just down the street. The school still exists. No uniform was needed. The children brought their own lunches and attended class. He ate a jam sandwich just about every day during the week. The jam was homemade by his mother. The children looked forward to recess, where they were able to go out and play sports. In my grandfather’s case, he loved playing catch and tossing the pigskin around with his friends. There were many other Japanese children who attended the school, but that didn’t stop the other children from treating them differently. My grandfather encountered some discrimination during his first years of school. For example, children of other backgrounds would make fun of his Japanese accent. As time went on, about two years later, the ridicule had stopped. He had made many friends and other children began to treat him and other Japanese children with the same respect as the white children. Outside of school Ted did nothing but work, as he helped with the sharecropping business that was run on the farm he lived on. He worked hard everyday on the farm where they grew vegetables such as squash and broccoli; still, their main crop was strawberries. At the age of ten, Ted lost his father to cancer. Times were especially hard once his father was gone and could not support the family. With money made from the children working they were able to stay out of poverty.
After grammar school he attended Live Oak High School. During his junior year, World War Two interupted his studies. The U.S declared war on Japan, the day after the attacks on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. Then, February 19th, 1942, President Franklin Roosevelt issued the Executive Order 9066, which declared the exclusion of people of Japanese ancestry, from the west coast into internment camps. My grandfather and his family chose to move to Sanger, a nonrestricted area, located in the central valley of California. While in Sanger, my grandfather worked, helping maintain the vineyards, orchards, and fruit farm that was on a site that grew crops for the local farmers market. After two months at Sanger, he was sent to a relocation camp located in Arizona, near the Gila River, named Gila River Relocation Camp. At the camp they slept in barrack-like rooms and ate stew made from outside products such as different types of meat and vegetables, raised or grown elsewhere. He met many new friends. It was very hot in Arizona. While in Gila, he was required to answer a questionaire asking about his loyalty to the United States or Japan.The results of his answer sent him to another relocation camp, Tule Lake, California, away from his family. In Tule Lake, the internees were segregated into a special camp and considered potential enemies of this country. The name given them was the “No-No Boys”. The “No-No Boys”, answered no and no, to two specific questions about their loyalty to the United States. In result being forced to relocate to Tule Lake. The remainder of his family stayed in Gila, Arizona.
In a Supreme Court case in December 1944, the court decided that the exclusion order was unconstitutional. Just prior to the decisions, The War Relocation Authority had decided to begin closing camps, a process that lasted until 1946, after World War II had ended. At the end of his stay at Tule Lake, he decided to go to Japan. At the time, he had not realized that his mother in Gila asked him not to leave in a letter. Her letter was censored and parts marked out in black when he recieved it, so he had no idea what the letter really said. After the war my grandfather went to Japan to work. When he arrived in Japan, he went to the countryside where his relatives lived. Life was very hard for the people of Japan after the war. With limited food and lack of jobs in the country, he moved to the city to find work. Later he found work on an U.S Air Force base in Yokohama, Japan. He worked as a supervisor over the Japanese workers who cleaned and maintained the base. He worked as a supervisor because he was fluent in both Japanese and English. At this base is where he met my grandmother’s sister who later took him to her home to meet my grandmother. Ted married Tamako Suzuki in March 25, 1946. Tamako was a Japanese woman from Yokohama, Japan. In 1947, they had their first child and another soon after in 1950. In 1953, they moved back to California with their two children, to his mother and brother’s house in Reedley, to start farming once again. Once they moved back, they quickly settled and began farming again. Agriculture hadn’t changed much since he was gone, so he remembered many techniques for growing a variety of plants. He had to acquire new farming machines because their family was forced to sell their old machines when they were relocated. After living in Reedley for two years, Ted and Tamako decided to move to San Martin, to sharecrop with an Italian farmer, in the area now known as Tennant Station. The landowner was in charge of paying for maintenance, such as fixing the machinery and stocking supplies they needed. My grandfather was in charge of the labor force. Two years later in 1955, they had another child and in 1956 another one. In 1960 my grandmother and grandfather had their youngest of their five children.
After six years of sharecropping, my grandfather decided to go to the bank and get a loan so he could purchase his own land in San Martin, off Llagas Avenue. With his new land, that he now owned, he planned to row crop; vegetables, strawberries, and peppers were the crop of choice. Ted and his family maintained the rowcrops when the kids were not at school. He also had a side job every fall and winter at the Valley View dried fruit processing plant, in San Jose. He would work the night shift, when it was too dark to work on the farm to make extra money for his family. In 1977, his first son Ted Jr, convinced him that the flower buisness would provide him year round crops, and would make more profit. Sharecropping had its good and bad years, which sometimes left them in the red. Soon after, he decided to open a wholesale flower business named TK Farms. The business was quite successful until the rise of growing cost and competition around the world. After about fifteen years in the business, my grandparents decided to retire.
My grandfather still works in his own garden that provides food for his home. He continues to grow an assortment of row crops and fruit trees, which only takes up about a tenth of the land that he farmed years before. The land now consists of many greenhouses and fields, which he leases out to a local flower grower. My grandfather now has ten grandchildren and seven great grandchildren to fill his life with joy and excitement. It is always my grandparents’ house, where we meet and have family get-togethers. My family strives to maintain tradition my grandfather all taught us.
The main challenge my grandfather faced was the fact that he had to endure internment due to racial prejudice. 110,000 Japanese-Americans had been in internment. These people were betrayed upon by their own country. Just, because you are of Japanese descent doesn’t mean you should be discriminated against in a way that took hundreds of lives from starvation or sicknesses. Ted realized, even at a young age that his Japanese ancestry made him standout from the kids of other descent. At a young age, in grammar school, he had been harassed because of his Japanese accent. Even as he grew older he had to face being discriminated against. Most of the difficulties he had been through in his life was due to racial prejudice. A big portion of his life he was in relocation camps when he could have been doing successful work elsewhere. One terror, he didn’t have to endure was the bombing by the United States Air Force on Japanese towns unlike his wife. The United States air raided towns throughout the war in the Pacific, including Yokohama, where his wife was raised. Despite all the struggles he went through, he still raised a family of many successes.
During the time I spent with my grandfather I learned how my family had struggled and survived through the betrayal by their own people. If my Grandfather had not worked hard and stayed committed to his family through these hard times, I wouldn’t be here now. I feel stronger now as a person knowing that I’m related to him. He is the reason I work hard every day to help my family and friends. I am very glad I did a report on my grandfather. It has taught me how strong my family is and what they went through to get here today.