Much has been written about the Portuguese people of the early years of the Riverside-Pocket area in this publication. But it should be recognized that Japanese also have a rich history in that area.
By the 1920s, the Riverside-Pocket area consisted of about two-thirds Portuguese people and about one-third Japanese people.
Certainly, one person who knows a considerable amount about that area’s early Japanese history is 91-year-old Riverside area native Shigeko “Rose” (Ishimoto) Takata.
During an interview with this publication last week, Takata recalled some of her early memories of that area.
“I still remember quite a bit of what went on when I was young,” said Takata, who was one of the six children of Sehei and Chiyo Ishimoto. “I went to school there (in the Riverside area) in the 1930s. I went to Sutter School (in a building that now houses Cabrillo Civic Club #5 at 4605 Karbet Way).”
In regard to some of the Japanese families of that area, Takata said, “One was named Kanaka, and mine was Ishimoto, of course, and we both had chickens and then we also grew vegetables. But it was mostly chicken. We were a chicken ranch. And there was (the) Kawai (family). They were just strictly (a vegetable farming family). I don’t know what kind of (vegetable) farming it was, but (it was vegetable) farming. (The Kanakas) and us, we were mainly chicken farmers. These three Japanese families lived on (the same) property (near Sutter School).
“There were other (Japanese families) right around the Sutter School there. A bunch of them had poultry farms. We kind of centered right around the school where I lived. There was one other (Japanese family) that was fairly far (away). Most of us residents had farms. You know where The Trap is? The Trap (which did not yet have that name) was there at the time we were there, too. It was owned by the Pimentels. That’s an old bar that’s been there for years and years and years. But anyway, around The Trap (at 6125 Riverside Blvd.), around that area, that Greenhaven area, there were a lot of farmers, truck farms. And then further up by (today’s) Pocket Road and so forth, around there were (several) Japanese farms. (The farms) went from Pocket Road to the river (levee).”
In response to the inquiry of when her family began residing in the Riverside area, Tanaka said, “I can’t say, but my oldest brother (Yoshio) was born in 1914, and they were already here (in the Riverside area). We lived by where the Sutter School was (located) on (the old) Riverside Road. I remember our rural route box number (at that time) was 123. We moved later just before the war (to) Sutterville Heights, which is near William Land Park, in that area.
The San Francisco Call, in its Wednesday, Aug. 20, 1913 edition, recognizes that Sehei and Chiyo were married during the previous day.
Included under a heading, which reads, “SAN FRANCISCO – The following marriage licenses were issued Wednesday (sic), August 19, 1913,” are the words: “ISHIMOTO-IWATSUBO – Sehei Ishimoto, 32, and Chiyo Iwatsubo, 20, both of Sacramento.”
The 1920 Census notes that Chiyo emigrated from Japan in 1913 and was then residing with her husband and three children on Riverside Road in the Riverside area of Sacramento County.
In recalling her school days, Takata said, “We were in the Sutter School District. There were people who lived beyond (today’s) The Trap (bar, at the present address of 6125 Riverside Blvd., and attended the Lisbon schools). (That) was another area that had Japanese.”
After departing from Sutter School each day, Takata would attend classes at a Japanese school.
In recalling that school, Takata said, “I did go to a Japanese school. Just about everybody did (attend that school). They had classes from first grade to eighth grade, and then on Saturdays they had what they called middle school. There must have been at least 100 kids (who attended the Japanese school). I would think, but I really have no idea. The classes were divided. There were two rooms. From Sutter School where we went, (the Japanese) school was, oh, I would say only about maybe four or five blocks (away). My teacher (at the Japanese school) was Matsumura. I think at one time I knew (her first name).”
Takata also recalled several of her classmates, including Ruth Imoto, Noboru Oto and her best friend, Yaeko Muramoto.
After school, Takata would complete chores on her family’s farm.
Takata later attended California Junior High School at 2991 Land Park Dr. and graduated from C.K. McClatchy High School in June 1941.
After being asked to summarize her life growing up during the Depression, Rose Takata said, “I tell people, we were poor, but we didn’t know it. I grew up in the 1930s. We always had food, we always had clothing, and we had a (Japanese) baseball team, you know, we had different things.”