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Nakayama, Toshi

About | Abstract


The Yabumotos were immigrants to the Mesilla Valley, purchasing a small farm near Chamberino in 1915. It was essentially a subsistence farm, although cotton was grown as a cash crop. Mr. Yabumoto died in 1929, leaving Koharu Yabumoto to farm and raise the children. Discussion of the farming community of Chamberino and family traditions. Toshi Yabumoto married Carl Nakayama, from a farming family near Doña Ana. The Nakayamas farmed on a large scale. She discusses some of the impact of WWII on their families.

Interviewee Toshi Nakayama, female, born in 1920
Date Range 1905-1997
Date & Location March 14 and 27, 1997, Nakayama Home, north of Las Cruces, N.M.
Project Farm and Ranch Folks
Region Southwest New Mexico
Number of Tapes 5
Transcribed February 23, 1998
Download Abstract


Tape 1, Side A

Her parent's upbringing in Japan, and their immigration to the United States. Parents lived in California until 1915, when they immigrated to the Mesilla Valley. Names, places of birth, and birth dates of the Yabumoto children. Bought a twenty-five acre farm in Chamberino before the Japanese Exclusion Act. Conditions of the housing, her mother's efforts to adjust. Her father's death in 1929, and her sister's travel to El Paso every day on the milk truck in order that she could attend business college.

Tape 1, Side B

Her sister had typhoid fever and their milk cows were quarantined. Neighbors helped by milking their cows and selling the milk for them. Her father's illness was misdiagnosed as cancer of the throat, but it was tuberculosis. He was hospitalized in a sanitarium in El Paso. Toshi Nakayama's education, she was "skipped ahead" a grade, which she feels was a mistake.

Discusses farming cotton, her mother's work with the workers from Old Chamberino. Her oldest sister continued to help the family after her graduation from business college. During the Depression years of the 1930s, Ms. Yabumoto had to let some of the workers go. They were being paid $0.75 per day.

Tape 2, Side A

Discusses cotton harvest. They used bracero labor, she believes the bracero contracts were handled by the Farm Bureau. During WWII they also used both Italian and German prisoners of war (this was on the Nakayama farm). Discusses some of the ways they interacted with the POWs.

Returns to the chronological discussion of the Yabumoto farm. Family finances, her mother refused to buy on credit. Her mother raised some vegetables and fruit. Would make clothing for the children, but her oldest sister also purchased clothing for the younger children.

Discusses her parents-in-law, the Nakayamas, entering the Mesilla Valley in 1918. They were unable to purchase land because of the restrictive policies against Japanese Americans at that time. Toshi's brother-in-law, who served in the U.S. Army in WWI, was actively involved in trying to overturn some of the restrictions placed on Japanese and other immigrants from Asia. He along with his wife (Toshi's sister, Ayako) were interned at the beginning of WWII in Manzanar (they were living in California when war was declared). The US government soon called upon him to serve with the Office of Strategic Services. Ayako and the children were released from the camp and lived the remainder of the war in Anthony, New Mexico. Her sister was embittered by this experience.

Tape 2, Side B

The Yabumoto farm, which was enlarged by her brothers, is still in the family, although it is being leased to another farmer.

Discusses in more detail the adobe farmhouse that was on the Yabumoto farm when they purchased it. They got electricity on the farm in 1936. They did not have indoor plumbing.

Discusses whether the family was any better or worse off financially than other families in the area. She states that the Hispanic children brought tortillas to school for lunch, but ate away from the other children, and seemed to be embarrassed by their lunches.

Tape 3, Side A

Describes typical meals, and that neighbor women helped her mother learn to prepare tortillas and cook with the staples available in the valley.

Describes some of the special foods her parents would order from California. New Year's Day was a special celebration for the family, her mother would prepare "oshusi," discusses ingredients.

She remembers the Emperor's Birthday being celebrated by Japanese American families in the valley once or twice.

At the start of WWII the FBI searched her mother's and her parents-in-law's homes. They were searched for weapons, Japanese language textbooks, and pictures of the Emperor.

Tape 3, Side B

There was an attempt to have a Japanese language school, however, it was too difficult to sustain with the small population of Japanese Americans and the great distances.

Her mother told her that during WWI there was talk that German American families in the area would blow up Elephant Butte Dam; the families were picked up and moved to Fort Bliss for their safety.

Toshi did not attend college when she completed high school in 1936, but stayed home to help her mother who was ill at the time.

Her mother advised her to marry someone of her own "race." She and her husband advised theirdaughters to do the same; however, it as not successful because the Japanese Americans they met in California were much different culturally than her own daughters (who had not been raised in a Japanese American community).

Toshi became a Methodist because she attended church with neighbors in Chamberino who were of that denomination. Her brothers became Baptist because they attended church with other neighbors who were Baptist. Her parents did not try to sway the children one way or another. A neighbor family also introduced her husband to Christianity.

Her mother, who never learned to speak English, subscribed to a Japanese language newspaper. Her mother stated that what was reported in this paper was different than what the children read in the local newspapers.

Tape 4, Side A

Sam Donaldson and his mother were neighbors of the Yabumotos in Chamberino. Discusses several families in Chamberino (Ansley, Marston) who were very kind to her mother, for example, they sat with her mother when Ayako had typhoid fever. Her mother would lend small amounts of money to neighbors in need, and they would repay when they sold cotton or another crop.

Her mother's sister immigrated to Canada. The Japanese Canadians were badly treated at the time WWII was declared. Her mother visited Japan after WWII, became quite ill while there and died shortly after returning home. There were many shortages in Japan during her visit. The family celebrated the American holiday, 4th of July, and Christmas.

Tape 4, Side B

She states that her mother never had to discipline the children, or raise her voice to them. She can not explain this, but stated that she did not have to discipline her two older daughters, but her youngest daughter was different.

She met her future husband, Carl Nakayama, at a part for the Japanese Ambassador in El Paso. They married in 1940. They moved into the adobe house that Carl built, and Mrs. Nakayama is still living in.

She describes the work on the Nakayama farm. They were primarily vegetable farmers, and marketed their products in at least three states. They didn't start growing a great deal of cotton until the "'50s or '60s."

She was busy doing the bookkeeping for the farm and taking care of the couples' three daughters. They started planting chile in the 1970s, and would need fifty to seventy-five laborers to harvest chile. Describes the work attendant to growing vegetables, using cabbage as an example.

Tape 5, Side A

Discusses her husband's siblings, one of whom was Roy Nakayama. He did a great deal of research on chile at New Mexico State University.

Before WWII was declared (summer of 1941) the Nakayama's business assets were frozen. It didn't seem like very long until they were able to have access to their accounts again.

During the war some people wanted to boycott the Nakayamas and rumors were circulated about them. The Nakayamas supplied vegetables to the US Army.

She discusses some of the farm help that the Nakayamas have had since the 1960s. However, since 1994 the farmland has been leased to other farmers (Carl Nakayama is deceased).

She discusses changes she has witnessed in agriculture.