The House that Harry and Shigeko Built
My father, mother and 2 older sisters, American Citizens, were incarcerated in 1942 in the concentration camps in the United States of America during WWII . They had to leave land and all belongings except for what they could stuff into an issued duffel bag.They were sent to desolate, remote camps, enduring inclement weather and subjected to little privacy and an American diet in Rohrer, Arkansas, Crystal City Texas and then Tule Lake, CA. They were released in 1946 on the East Coast with $20 and expected to find their way back to Concord and Stockton, CA, respectively. After working at Bird's Eye Foods in New Jersey, they were able to get back to Concord where my father started landscaping.
My parents first rented and shared housing with 3 men and then moved to Walnut Creek still renting. One of his landscaping clients was Mrs. Bernice Ellis who helped with a loan to buy the property near the Park Hotel on the East End of Mt. Diablo Blvd. By 1950 Harry and Shigeko had 4 daughters and started Harry's Nursery working 7 days a week and long hours. We were basically the only family of color in town. My older sisters faced some discriminatory remarks at school but we had to be model kids and students since everyone recognized us as "Harry's daughter". The house was a square military plan, 800 square feet and housed 6 of us with one bathroom and 3 small bedrooms.
In 1954 due to the stress of the long hours and raising 4 children, my dad came down with acute bronchitis which put him in a sanitorium for 6 months leaving my mother to run the nursery and to raise the kids. Mr. Jack Marchant and Mr. Russell Bruzzone visited my father when he came back home, bedridden, and told him he did not have to worry and that they would ensure he would not lose the nursery. He was forever grateful to hear that.
My father then bought 9 acres in Oakley, CA to start a wholesale nursery. Twice the employees didn't show up so the stock died and he couldn't be in two places at once. He was trying to run the nursery too, that was doing well so he ended up letting that business die.
In 1960, our family was able to move up the hill to a new home built by Johnson Clark.
The Lafayette nursery property has been in the family for 71 years. My parents were well respected in the community and were the first Chamber of Commerce members. The four of us girls went to Lafayette and Springhill Elementary, M. H. Stanley and Acalanes High and all of us graduated from college and have been productive members of our communities.
Having gone all the way through Lafayette schools, I met my husband at M. H. Stanley when we were 12. Patrick Eames's family moved to Lafayette in 1950 as well. When I went off to college I rented with roommates. After graduation I still rented with a roommate to save money and got a job with the State of California for 13 1/2 years. I was then able to buy a house in Carmichael, CA with a small loan from my parents.
Patrick opened his own ACE Hardware store in Richmond, CA with his older brother. He lived at home until he married and rented apartments with his first wife. After the store was doing better and after long hours and working 7 days a week he bought a house in Hercules, CA. After his divorce, we got married in 1986 and moved to Moraga where we have raised 2 kids over the last 35 years.
I did not assume I could buy a home where I grew up. I am fortunate I live in Moraga and inherited property in Lafayette, but it was not by wishing it. Immigrants come to this country for the American Dream, but they start out living together and working hard. They are not assuming that they can buy a home in any neighborhood they want to. It is not a right, but the opportunity is there for anyone who wants to sacrifice and work hard.