Letter from Lea Perry to Kazuo Ito and family. The original letters are housed with the Sonoma County Japanese American Citizens League (JACL), and were borrowed for digitization courtesy of the JACL, December 2014. Transcript: Dear Kazuo: With all I have to tell you I hate to have tow write at this time when I haven’t the time to go into detail, but there is something very important to decide within the very near future. The season is cleared up as far as harvesting is concerned and there are only the ends to tie up now. Due to the way labor conditions prevailed and then agony I went through trying to keep from taking too great a loss, I don’t feel at this time that I should attempt to run the place again next year. I haven’t seen Geary as yet because the returns are not all in as yet, - dried fruit is still in the air despite all rumors in the papers, etc. I really do not know just what the court feels is a fair compensation for the efforts put forth up there this summer. My understanding is that I can collect for actual hours put in there – that is, nor for the hours I put in, but, for instance, when Joe sprayed, cultivated, propped, etc. I have kept track of the actual hours I worked there and intend to show him. I was told when I first took over that the court allowed me a yearly sum for management and keeping accounts. So far I have no idea what that is …. I would rather forget that and get paid for the time I put in doing actual work. From the looks of the account up to now I believe your income tax will be awfully high and that is the only reason that I am going to bat for at least some compensation, instead of turning it all over to the tax collector. If you people got it, I’d say O.K. – you are entitled to it, but due to the fact that neither one of you kids can take much exemption I know that a big lump of this year’s income will fly away. Don’t you feel that under these circumstances I should show Geary the hours I have in my time book and ask him what can be done about it? Right here before I go any further I want to tell you that plenty gravensteins went to waste up there – in tons I can’t tell you, because I can’t judge, but I feel that more should have been saved. I didn’t have the help when I needed it, the packing houses couldn’t handle them when they were ready to come off, consequently they fell by the tons and just at the time when all the dryers were jammed. In the meantime I was going around like a madman trying to do something about it and getting nowhere. Well, how I felt, nobody will ever know. I will say this – I don’t want to live another summer like it for all the money in the world. That is neither her nor there, however. When I have more time I will write fully and by that time I hope to have figures for you. The main purpose of this letter is to find out what your ideas are about next year. I have had five different inquiries about the place up to now – none of them mentioning terms, but wondering what the terms would be, or course. As I told you before, I feel that Sam is the man to take care of the place as he knows exactly how it should be done and I am sure you folks would be more satisfied with the results. Last year was fortunate to get him to do the pruning all the way through, that is, with help that he got. The pruning is my first worry this year. Right now a number of growers are training the Mexicans – the whites are already getting $1.00 per hour and talking about more! In sight right now we have only 3 Mexicans and they have to be taught. If Sam teaches them they will prune the way you want it done, if he does not, then the method will be different. I have not talked with Sam about running the place since the early Summer, but he spoke to Joe about it some time ago and asked that I write you about terms. Joe asked him what terms he felt were fair and He said he would rather pay cash. When asked what he felt was a fair cash rental he wouldn’t say, but did say this – that your Grandpa had told him that if he pruned, sprayed, fertilized, and took care of the place just as you would yourselves, that would be enough. As you already know from last year’s deal, the court has the final say in the matter, but your wishes will be carried out as far as is humanly possible, because I will see to that. In other words, I want you to give me your opinion and what you think should be done, then when I face Geary and Comstock I can argue on the point and I believe convince them that it so the only way that it can be done. Last year when I showed Geary your letter in regards to the deal Winkler offered he immediately said that I should run it for you and unless somebody else mad a more liberal offer that was the way it should be. As a matter of fact, nobody else would make a more liberal offer and I know of many places that were handled on the 75-25% basis. I will say this for the outcome – that even if I get paid the going wage for all the hours I put in, the estate will be 100% better off by having done it that way. I will say this also, that if the labor situation looked a little better, and if I were sure that the coming year’s crop, both up there and here were not near as heavy, I would be willing to do it again, but things are too uncertain. I would not care to take the loss that we took here in our Gravs at the same time that your place was suffering for lack of help and facilities to take care of them. To be downright truthful about it – you folks could stand it a lot better than Joe and I right at this time. I do not mean that as anything other than the fact, that your place had such an immense crop and I knew would come out alright, whereas we had a less than normal crop and this caused a very widespread difference, as you can readily see. If for any reason, you doubt my work on any of these comments, I wish you would write Sam and ask him just what took place this summer. Any of you next door neighbors up there can vouch for the time I put in there every day all through the harvest and also for the tonnage that was lost despite all my efforts. I am rambling on at length, but just for the sake of argument I am going to give you some comparative figures to give you a pretty good idea of the situation. Last year’s packout 1979 boxes – this year 3158 boxes Last year lates 22 this year 87 “ “ driers 49861# “ “ 128309# “ “ pie culls 9398# “ “ 6881# “ “ lates 21733# “ “ 38118# “ “ juice 2592# lates “ “6265# lates “ “ “ none gravs “ “ 31193# gravs I think that you’ll find that these add up to quite a difference – also that the difference in the juice size for the two years is quite different. Last year Winkler did not pick up juice at all, neither in the gravs nor the lates, however, Hallberg found juice in the lates, anyway. This year we cleaned the ground each time and ran everything over the little belt we have here. The rots, of course, and there were plenty of them, went in with the peelings at $4.00, but anything that was solid brought $5.00, and as high as $10.00 towards the end of the season. I figured it was worth saving, and the main reason for doing this, especially in the gravs, was the fact that the only help I was able to get were the little grammar school kids from town and there was no use asking them to pick up a certain size. Nobody picked up the other way this season, that I know of, because all the dryers have these eliminators now. Anyway, in adding up the above pounds I find that last year the windfalls and cull of all varieties total 83,584# and this year they total 210,766#. I guess you can halfway imagine what I was up against. And on top of this, don’t forget that a lot of stuff went to waste during the grav harvest. Of the late stuff the only waste was on the Wageners and it was very slight. I just couldn’t get anyone to pick up during the week because the kids were in school and the sun got quite a lot of them before we could get to them – they went into the juice. They were so darned small they wouldn’t have probably gone through the belt anyway, but I do blame myself for not being to harvest them during the hot days. The whole trouble started when I couldn’t get thinners at the right time – those gravs should have all been thinned and then the packing house would have received a big share of the early green stuff, but as it was, they were not big enough to make it at the right time. That market lasts only a short time, and when the fruit was ready it had to wait for maturity before we could pick it. That is where I figure the greatest los came in in not being able to harvest it when there was amarket for that kind of stuff if it had been sized. I don’t know whether or not I have told you what I finally did in desperation during thinning season. Sam was supposed to do all the thinning with help that I figured he was going to get. Well first on thing happened and then another, and finally I wound up by having only Sam trying to do it all and getting nowhere fast with that kind of a crop. He started out by doing it absolutely as you had always done it, but when we saw how heopless it was he changed over and hit them the best way he could in order to get over all possible. Even then, he wasn’t getting anywhere. Every day I would go up to see if he had any more help and while there I would walk around and thin every branch within reaching distance. Well, you would be surprised how man I go over just that way. Finally I got wind of the fact that George Ross and some others were using high school boys, so I went to Overman to inquire. He couldn’t let me have one boy, because they were all taken, but he did tell me that a number of girls were trying it and doing fine. Well, I took the girls and went up with them each day after school – as a matter of fact, I got them at 2:30, and we worked until 5:00. The gang of us only go over about six long rows less than halfway through before they go so big it was too damaging to keep on. About this time, too, Sam was griping more and more and finally got tired of it and told him he might as well quit. From then on the only thinning done was the four men I hired from Silva after they finished the cherries – they thinned from the ground onl and only East of the dryer. We also thinned the Delicious and Romes during the grav picking, but despite this they were small and very wormy due to the fact that we couldn’t put that spray on when we were in the midst of the grav harvest. All these things just make me sick to think of them even now as I sit here and I have solemnly sworn to myself that I would never be caught in such a pickle again. On the other hand, my blood boils when I think of all the stinker that are just dying to lay their hands on the deal so they can take advantage of a situation you folks can’t help…. If you know what I mean! My sympathy is whole heartedly with you boys, regardless of who is to blame for this terrible mess, as as long as I have a breath left I will defend you and your property, believe me. I can’t say as well of a lot of people that I have come in contact with since I have taken this responsibility, among them, some who pretended to be your good friends. If I could just find somebody who would live up there and be trustworthy and honest my troubles would be ended and I would run it somehow or another. As it is, my hands are tied and I have to be at the mercy of Sam who seems to think that he can play as he wishes. I might as well give you the low-down while I am at it. Since I started this and intended to air-mail it this morning I have been interrupted so much that I am finally able to get at it again now at 5:30 while I get my supper ready. We didn’t run the dryer today, by the way, due to a shortage of fruit and we may not operate again until next Monday unless the weather clears up above. We are through with ours and they can’t pick up until the ground dries out some. The rain here today didn’t amount to anything, but Joe came from there last night and said it looked bad there. Silva took this load, but he decided to let us have the last three or four that are still coming down next week. Now I am going to tell you what has been on my chest ever since Sam asked Joe about the deal about ten days ago. The more I think of the way he acted this year the more I think he did it to make me so disgusted with the deal that I would do anything to get rid of it this year. He had many chances to help me out some if he really wanted to, but he always just grinned when feeling sorry for me and let it go at that. When it comes to wages, I just get madder all the time – he always angled to get more and always got it, because I was at his mercy, completely. If I had anyone else in the world that could do that pruning as you folks desire it, I would soon tell him where to go. As far as the rest of the work is concerned, I know damned well that we can handle it as well as he and his henchmen any time and from what I have seen of him around the machinery I am sure it would suffer less in our hands. I guess you can tell by now that my temperature is up a couple of points – how I wish I could see you and really go to the bottom of this. As it is, all I can do is get it off my chest this way, and you have to take it and make the best of it. Last year I wrote and told you what had taken place and then felt sorry that I told the truth about him for fear that he might get ahold of it and then leave me high and dry. This time I feel the same way about it to a certain extent, nevertheless, I hope you will weigh this over in your own mind, discuss it with Grandma, and make you decision. Please do not let your Dad in on it, if you can help it, as I worry he might write Sam and tell him what I have said. That would blow the cap completely and then I would be stuck. I would like to have him stay there under some arrangement and have him work for wages – that it all he is good for, anyway. After seeing how he acts with all the money he makes and how he lets all these devils drag him around by the nose, I dread the thought of having to be responsible for anything that he does up there if he gets ahold of things. I want it strictly understood, that if you do make him terms that he will take and that the court will approve, I do not wish to be held responsible for how the work is done, who he had doing it with him, nor how he manages his business. The first thing that burned me up was the fact that he felt that what your Grandad had told him should hold good in times like these, knowing full well just about what the ranch is going to net this year. He knows as well as I do and probably better, because those birds figure quickly, and if the dryer prices materialize according to figures. Without going into the figures right now, when I haven’t time and without knowing exactly whether the weights I gave you on dryers are correct (I haven’t had time to check any of my tags yet) I will say roughly that I believe the checking account will show around $8500.00. The dryers prices will determine whether it will be more or less, of course. Now, to get back on the track again. When he go through pruning here and up there we had plenty spraying, brush raking and odd jobs to do and he knew it. He helped with the spraying for a few days and then complained of his hand and quit. By the time we were nearly crazy for a man to help us out he had taken the hop job and to make matters worse, after he had promised me that he would live on the place and watch out for ting it I ran it, he moved to the hop field and left the place high and dry. He promised when he left that he would be back to thin and bring two other fellows. He didn’t come back until we made several trips over them to beg him and then came alone – the other fellows refused to help. If he wasn’t the type that can be led around, he would have made some arrangements with those fellows, but instead he just pegged along by himself and kicked about how much he was losing every day that I went there. I finally paid him a little more to shut him up and then when I got good and tired of it let him go back to the hops again. He told me when he left that time that he would like awful well to pick apples there at the price they were talking, which was 15¢ per box. I was tickled and asked him to try and get some other boys. When the time came around to start picking he was hanging around his cabin, but he never offered to do anything, despite the fact that he could see I wasn’t getting anywhere. During all these encounters with him over a period of months both Joe and I kept asking him to do something about getting a crew for that dryer up there. He insisted there wasn’t any use, as the boys were very few that cared to peel by hand when they could work in power dryers and that he would rather come down here and work here. Well, we put in power peelers for the simple reason that we knew we couldn’t get a full crew with the old type machinery – everybody else around us put in power peelers and we would be sitting out in the cold. He kept asking me to run the dryer up there, knowing full well all the time that I couldn’t handle the two places at all and that the only way Joe and I could come out was to run our own business here and try hard to rent that one out. Well, I did try, but couldn’t seem to get anyone interested until Henry Singmaster came along after I had given up all hope and asked if he could take it on a tonnage basis like Winkler had done the year before. A number of the neighbors there had asked me to try and have someone operate it and being he was the only bit, I let him have it. The minute Sam found this out he had a small fit – told me I should have run it myself, etc. Where would I have gotten the crew to run it, after he told me it was so hopeless? Well, Henry ran it during the gravensteins season and I haven’t seen him since to settle with him. Sam acted stinking about it all through the season – when Henry showed me the inside of the Sulphur box and asked me to buy him the lumber to replace the slides that were all worn out and loose from the sides, Sam had a fit about that. Said they didn’t need replacing. I looked them over carefully and the nails were burned to a crisp, the slides were so worn that it didn’t pay to try and renail them to the sides. I figured it would be good business to make the improvement and went ahead and furnished the lumber and Henry did the work. Then he go mad the second time when he went up there and found that I had given Henry a mess of trays that we had stored in the packing house as extras. Well, the others were shot considerably and he thought that if they had a big run he would need replacements and didn’t want to be caught short. I figured it would save me a trip up there to get them out when I was busier so took them out one day when I was there checking things over with him and putting the machines out for him. Sam told me that there were plenty trays there and that Henry had no business to have those out. Funny how much interest he took in the situation right away after declaring he couldn’t do a thing about getting help for it. Well, Henry got a couple of Filipino boys from down town there – the foreman was Julian (guess you know of him). He impressed me as being a pretty decent sort. I jumped on his neck a couple of times about some the Mexican help they had around there and he always was very nice about it. He never asked for a thing and treated everything very decently. He moved into Sam’s quarters and was still there the other day when I went up. I was glad to see him stick around – he keeps the tank full and sort of watches who goes in and out. He told me that two fellows drove in one day and walked around in the orchard and the dryer. Said he asked them what they wanted and they told him ‘nothing’. I know it was someone looking the place over with the idea of leasing or share basis. Julian worked the biggest part of the late apple time in the dryer down town. That outfit had 22 boys working together – ran a lot of orchards and I’ll bet will really clean up. Just from what I can gather I believe that is what Sam would like to do up there – run the dryer with a bunch of those hyenas. He told Joe also, that he would like the dryer thrown in on the deal, but I will see to that – the only way I will consider that dryer running is on the tonnage basis and with that gang I’d expect to see the weight tags, too! Next year will probably be a lean one and it they got the dryer thrown in they could really have a good thing. That gang sticks together like two pieces of fly paper and I wouldn’t put it past them to run the dryer to the ground as long as they had plenty help and everybody got his equal share out of it. Andy had a lot of ranches this year already and with the help situation getting worse he will get a lot more this coming year, that is the main reason that Sam wants that place, so they can have more dryer facilities and I am sure of that, because he had made remarks a couple of time this summer that he should have been on something like the boys had up there. If he had any guts about him he could have rented the dryer up there by the ton and then worked out something like that, but he just hasn’t the gumption. Somebody has talked to him and got him all peeped up now and he is willing to take the chance. He has openly said that he wouldn’t undertake the deal at all, but that he has a number of persons that would go in with him. The only one he has named is Covey’s son-in-law. He said that Smith told him he would go partners with him on the place f he can get it. I haven’t seen Smith, but if you wish you can write to him and inquire about it. I think that if Smith was really interested he would come and see me about it when he knows full well that a number of men have inquired about the place already. Well, I got off on the wrong tack again – I wanted to follow the year through with Sam and give you a complete picture of what has been going on. When he just hung around and made no effort to pick gravs or refused to offer any suggestions to help me out I gave up completely and ignored him. The four men that thinned a little for me came back and asked if they could pick. I had seen quite a bit of them and thought they were rather nice fellows – all of them around middle aged and seemed to be a pretty sober lot. They drove up the first couple of days from their camp near here and then when their gas gave out told me they would have to move up there or quit. I checked and found that they couldn’t get gas unless they absolutely had to live somewhere away from the job so there was nothing to do but let them move in. They drove their camp wagons up there and parked them in the barn yard and went to work. Sam still didn’t offer to do a thing, just visited them at night and I learned after a few days, helped one of them drink up a little hard liquor that he was fond of also. The other fellows told me this after this one left rather mysteriously after telling me that he had had a beef with one of the other. Well, to make a long story short, Sam moved down here about the 19th of July and we started the dryer on the 21st. He was supposed to have a full crew for us, but it turned out that they were 3 short and we had to furnish gas for one of the gang to go down below to round up 3 more. Sam didn’t do a thing about it and the other fellow told us that he was the one that got the crew, not Sam. Well, as usual, with those fellows, the wage question kept cropping up and going up as well. Sam started out at $10.00 as day dryer man and was supposed to take care of weighing in and incidentals. He did very little weighing in when I was around or anyone else that would handle it and we ended up by paying him $11.00 per day and straight time for anything over the 10 hours. To make me more miserable he drew all his money this morning and had the brass to ask us if he could have $1.10 per hour for all the apple packing he did. Said he felt he earned it as he took charge and kept the boys here on Sunday to do it. They did all our packing on Sunday morning this year – only once a week. I looked him right in the eye and told him that if he felt that he was worth that much more than the res I would pay it, but I think he knew what I meant. The rest of the fellows packed for the 85¢ per hour they got for the other work and the night man did it for 85¢. When any labor trouble occurred he never was in sight, always passed the buck same as last year and it was up to us to argue with the dirty devil. [end of letter]
The North Bay Ethnic Archive features material related to the forced relocation of northern San Francisco Bay Area residents to Incarceration Camp Granada (Amache), Colorado. It includes correspondence, photographs, and reports. Some of the original items are housed with the Sonoma County Japanese American Citizens League (JACL), and were borrowed for digitization courtesy of the JACL. The remainder are housed in Special Collections.