The North American Post
Takami Page 5
[Editor’s Note]: All names are rendered in the English First, Middle, Last name order.
Working at the Japanese Newspaper as a Married Couple
The average Japanese man in the Meiji and Taishō periods did what he pleased without taking his family into account. Aside from their main jobs as newspaper reporters, Takami Hibiya and Terumitsu Kanō were leading a movement advocating for Nisei. However, they were barely making ends meet. When they were just starting out as reporters, it was a difficult time for young Nisei trying to get by due to the onslaught of the Great Depression that began on Wall Street in New York. Particularly lonely Nisei dropped by the impoverished apartment Mr. Hibiya had set up as a place to sleep, or headed toward the Japanese-managed gambling den, the Tōyō Club. It wasn’t really to gamble. The Japanese and Chinese gambling den served udon noodles and rice porridge. Because they were poor, the food was free and they could eat as much as they liked.
Another place to find free food was the Alaska salmon cannery contractor’s boarding house. In order to guarantee laborers when the season ended, the contractor’s boss provided food and lodging to the so-called “cannery boys” in the boarding house. He took a little for room and board, but the fee was same for five or six people, so hungry Nisei showed up to get something to eat.
I asked the Missus Hibiya and Kanō, Yoshi Hibiya and Masu Kanō, about their days living in poverty.
“I heard that Mr. Hibiya’s salary was $40 at the time you were married…”
“Yes, it was. We were married in 1935, still in the midst of the Depression. It was impossible to live on only $40 a month, so my husband became a teacher at the Seattle Japanese Language School. He made about $20 a month doing that. All together it came to $60 a month, and this was just enough to live on. In the end, I started sewing leather gloves on the side at home to make up for the lack of family finances. Even after the war, newspaper reporters didn’t have enough to live on. After the war, even though I joined The North American Post (Hokubei Hōchi), the $200 I made at first still wasn’t enough. With the assistance of an acquaintance, Yoshio Furukawa, I went to work as an accountant in in the office of the Main Fish Company managed by Tsunematsu Kihara. I worked hard to make even more than my husband’s monthly salary.”
In short, to be an adequate wife of a Japanese-language newspaper reporter, a dual income was a requirement of marriage. Continuing on to Mrs. Kanō…
“Could you please tell me a little about what it was like right after you were married?”
“It was June 10, 1939 (Shōwa 14) when I married Terumitsu. His monthly salary was $60. After we married he was paid another $5 on top of that as a ‘marriage allowance.’ We rented two rooms at Eleanor Apartments near The North American Times (Hokubei Jiji). I gave one of the rooms to my brother Nobi, but the rent was still $30 a month. That left us with only $30. It was impossible to live on only a dollar a day, so I started working distribution with my husband for The North American Times.”
“Your monthly salary was low, wasn’t it?”
“Yes, it was only $20, so after paying the rent, we lived on $50 every month. It was just enough to live on, but my newspaper reporter husband didn’t mind the low income.”
around every corner
on the road to your dreams