Sunday, October 13, 2013

"Our American Family" features the Furuta family of Historic Wintersburg (VIDEO)

AMERICAN HISTORY: The Tennessee-based film crew for the Our American Family public television series, Michael Nolan (front left) and Bradford Van Demark (front right) join the Furuta family of Historic Wintersburg: (center, seated) Martha Furuta, (back row, left to right), Norman, Ken and Dave Furuta.

   Discussions began in January 2013 with the remarkable new public television series, Our American Family, about the history of the Furuta family of Historic Wintersburg.  The program producers were looking for a family whose story is iconic for Japanese Americans, from their earliest arrival in America through their path to the present day.

The Furuta family in 1922, (standing) Toshiko, Nobuko, Raymond, and Kazuko, (seated) Yukiko, baby Etsuko, and Charles. (Photo courtesy of the Furuta family) All rights reserved. ©

   The mission of Our American Family is "to document our American family heritage, one family at a time, and inspire viewers to capture their own family stories - before those voices are gone."  The producers talked about their own families and the lessons we can learn from those who came before: "Every day that passes is another day closer to a day when we will no longer be able to hear first-hand what it meant to be a family during this simpler time, before the world changed.  To hear first-hand what lessons were learned that we can apply today..."

Left: The Our American Family film crew near the Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Mission and Church buildings on the Furuta farm. (Photo, September 27, 2013)
   In September 2013,  filming began to capture the story of Charles Mitsuji and Yukiko Yajima Furuta, and their descendants.  With the recorded oral history of the Issei-generation Yukiko Furuta---conducted thirty-one years ago in 1982---the stories and memories of five generations of the Furuta family will be heard.  

   The Nisei generation interviews include 91-year-old Etsuko Furuta, the daughter of Charles and Yukiko, born on the Furuta farm in Wintersburg Village, and Martha Furuta, wife of Charles and Yukiko's son, Raymond

Right: The century-old camera used by Charles Mitsuji Furuta to take many of the images shared on Historic Wintersburg.

The Sansei generation interviews include Norman, Dave and Ken Furuta, sons of Raymond and Martha, and the grandsons of Charles and Yukiko Furuta.  The Yonsei generation is represented by Michael Furuta, the great grandson of Charles and Yukiko.  The oral history interviews will include historic photographs and present-day images filmed on the Furuta farm.

    Historic Wintersburg is honored to be part of this effort, which shares more of the history of the Furuta family and their life in early Orange County.  Their story is iconic of Japanese American settlement in the American West.

FIRST CHANCE AT CITIZENSHIP - The document certifying Charles Mitsuji Furuta had passed his citizenship class, taken at Huntington Beach High School between mid 1952 to early 1953.  Congress passed the Immigration and Nationality Act in June 1952, making it possible for the first time for Japanese immigrants to become U.S. citizens.  Charles Furuta passed away in October 1953, before he could realize his dream to become a naturalized citizen. (Photo, September 27, 2013)

   Our American Family featuring the Furuta family will be aired in 2014 (date to be announced) on public television around the country.   For readers of Historic Wintersburg, a special preview from the program's producers.


Note: This excerpt starts in 1912, the year Charles Furuta married Yukiko Yajima.  Charles had lived in the United States for 12 years---arriving in 1900---and, had saved enough money to buy land and build a home in Wintersburg Village. He was the first Japanese baptized into Christianity in Orange County and donated land on his farm for the Wintersburg Mission.

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The Historic Wintersburg blog focuses on an overlooked history in Huntington Beach, Orange County, California, in the interest of saving a historic property from demolition. The author and publisher reserves the right not to publish comments. Please no promotional or political commentary. Zero tolerance for hate rhetoric. Comments with embedded commercial / advertising links or promoting other projects, books, or publications may not be published. If you have an interesting anecdote, question or comment about one of our features, it will be published.