The Ohmura Letter

This is the letter that was in the same box with the Ohmura bowl. It was written from Cleveland, where the Ohmuras had been relocated in 1944. They both found work there, but never at the same level of prosperity that they had had in Chico with the Home Grown Vegetable Market. Mr. Ohmura found a job selling vacuum cleaners and  Mrs. Ohmura took on work as a domestic. Archie McDonald quotes their daughter May as saying, ” They didn’t have the energy to start a business again.”  (The Japanese Experience in Butte County, p. 135)

Mr. Ohmura did his best to put a good face on things for his letter to Robert and Mary Grace DeBeque. (I have retained the original spelling and grammar.)


1911 E. 89th Cleveland 6 Ohio    Jan 21 1945

Dear Mr. and Mrs. DeBeque:

I beg you will excuse my neglect.

Thank you ever so much Mr. and Mrs. DeBeque for the greeting card, thoughtful letters, mental equivalent scrap paper and couple of lovely books which you sent through the unity school of Christianity, Kansas City Mo.

We don’t know how to express our appliciation [appreciation] and delight for your kindness and thoughtfulness. How wonderful you are! We feel very proud to have such a friend. We have a lot of friends in Chico but real friend are not many, even among Japanese people. It seems to be good in personally but when they get together to do something come to different. It was in Feb. of 1943 at Tule Lake Center, W.R.A. [War Relocation Authority] required us registration to find out loyal or disloyal to united states. That time I was put in a hot water. People in the camp were very excited to discuss this registration problem and held mass meeting all over the camp. When they ask me opinion, I express my attitude as an American citizen and maintained what we should do then. Majority express my opinion. One day I received a treating [threatening] poster from these people. Finally one night our apartment was attacked by armed group of people and our windows and door were broken by them. I did not meet these people and did not open the door. Fortunately, policemen came around as soon as hear the noise, and my family was safe. W.R.A. put a few watchmen after this happened and protected us. It was an awful thing. I din’t have any fear of them but felt so sorry for them instead. I know most of them for good many years and I have been good to them and they are good to me in personally and yet when they get together turned out disposition by the few of agitators. Well, that time I found only one real friend and he was willing to fight to death for us. I really felt wonderful of him.

For good many years, most Japanese people who lived in West Coast, especially farmers, make a Japanese colony and din’t get associated with Caucasian much. In other words they lived in Japanese way and get by without speak English. For this reason they did not study English much. In fact they din’t have any chance to get acquaintance each other with white people. I believe this was whole trouble. However, all Japanese love to live in U.S.A., love freedom, liberty, and justice as well as American. Their sons (second generation) are fighting in France, Italy, and south Pacific for their country U.S.A. now. Sacrifices will prove it and will grow.

I am very glad to read such a publication which you send to us. As you know, I live in Chico more than twenty years. During that time I never had a bad feeling yet and I love Chico people. They were very good to us. Now I come Cleveland and living almost one year. I din’t have any friend, every one were stranger to us. Certainly felt lonesome for a while but Cleveland people are different. They are warm hearted especially church groups. For year time I made a lot of friends here and they are awfully nice to all relocated Japanese people.

About 1700 Japanese American ancestry relocated here to Cleveland now, and most every one busy on jobs. Seems to be everybody getting along fine and well satisfied here.

Many times I asked their boys & girls about returning to west coast when I find a chance, but answer was “no.” They are living scatter all over the city, so they have more chance to know each other understanding and own development.

I have not made any decision yet to stay here or go back to Chico.

Cleveland met a bitter winter this year. People who live here last thirty years says din’t need this weather as yet. Snow fall started last Dec. Ever  since see ground covered with snow, and stop snowing day or two repeat again. Mercury went down to 3 below zero too. Snow view is certainly beautiful but hard on communication.

May was home for a month from Nov. 27th to Dec. 26th and Paul was Dec. 19th to Jan. 3rd for their vacation. We all reunion and enjoy holiday season.

Please excuse my poor writing.

Thanks again for your kindness and a lot things you have done for us.

Hope you are well this weather.

DSCF6611Sincerely yours,

Shigeto Tom Ohmura

Chiyo Ohmura


About nancyleek

Nancy is a retired librarian who lives in Chico, California. She is the author of John Bidwell: The Adventurous Life of a California Pioneer.
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