Monday, February 27, 2012

Women in Wintersburg

Japanese women arriving at the "Ellis Island of the West," California's Angel Island Immigration Station.  By 1920, an estimated 6,000 to 19,000 Japanese "picture brides" were processed through Angel Island. (Photo,

   Yukiko Furuta was not a picture bride and she did not remember meeting any picture brides in the area.  Her marriage was arranged by family and friends.

  C.M. Furuta--who had been living in America since 1900--traveled to Japan to meet his prospective bride.  "...One day this lady asked her to go to a public bath house with her," explains the translator for Yukiko Furuta's 1982 oral history interview with CSU Fullerton history professor Arthur Hansen.

   "When they finished taking the bath, this lady told Mrs. Furuta, 'Go home before me and if some guests come to your house, please serve them an ashtray and a cigarette set.' She didn't realize anything, but she went home," Yukiko recalled through the translator, "And, as this lady suggested, two men guests came to her house. One of them was Mr. Furuta and the other one was a go-between...that was the first time she met Mr. Furuta."

   C.M. Furuta was 31 and Yukiko Yajima was 17.  Like Yukiko, C.M. Furuta was originally from Hiroshima.  Her family was Samurai, but like many Samurai in the late early 20th Century, post Meiji Restoration, their financial situation was diminished.  The prospect of going to America with a man of good reputation was an opportunity for her to have a better life.

   "She says she was told by the other people that Mr. Furuta was a very good man," relayed the translator, "So if she would follow him, there would be nothing to fear and nothing to worry about. So, she trusted him and just came to the United States without any fear at all."

   They married in a traditional country wedding in Japan and then made their way to C.M. Furuta's home in Wintersburg, first arriving in San Francisco. 

  Yukiko didn't remember the exact date, "but remembers that they celebrated Christmas on the boat. They stayed at Reverend Terasawa's house (an Episcopalian, he would later become a founding pastor for the Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Mission in 1904)... she came in a Japanese kimono.  Reverend Terasawa's wife took her to a Market Street store and bought her a Western dress to prepare her for the life here." 

   Yukiko recalls C.M. being very protective and riding her around perched on his bicycle, even though "it must have been very heavy for him."   She did not venture out on her own much, spending most of her time keeping house and later tending children at their home on Wintersburg Avenue.  The Furutas invited friends over on Sundays to play go.  Since C.M. did not drink sake with the men, they stayed in and played uta-garuta---a Japanese poetry game.  C.M. constructed a tennis court on their property, a sport Yukiko had enjoyed playing in Japan.  

The Furutas and friends playing tennis on their farm in Wintersburg, circa 1920. (Photo courtesy of the Furuta family)

   Later, C.M. and Yukiko became matchmakers.  C.M.'s good friend Henry Akiyama had seen a photograph of Yukiko's younger sister, Masuko, at the Furuta house.  Yukiko wrote to her parents, who gave their consent for her little sister to travel from Japan to San Francisco for the marriage. For a while, they all lived together in the same house in Wintersburg.  

   Both the Furutas and the Akiyamas later had successful gold fish hatchery businesses (see Goldfish on Wintersurg Avenue,

   About 60,000 Japanese--many picture brides--came through northern California's Angel Island Immigration Station.  Unlike C.M. Furuta, many Japanese men in America could not afford the trip to Japan to find a wife.  During the same time period, Greek laborers in Utah also began sending for picture brides.  For these men, sending a photograph and information about themselves to family or friends in the old country was the early 20th Century version of   They only knew each other through letters and photographs, before meeting face to face.

   By 1920, Japan stopped issuing passports to picture brides due to its negative perception in the U.S.  By then, young Japanese Americans were beginning to figure out the American dating game.  Once again, the Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Church was a focal point in this new social scene.   Congregant Clarence Nishizu recalled in his 1982 oral history interview that although "most of us were young and still in our shy stages," the Wintersburg youth group attended local dances and social functions together, and most of them had dates.  

The oral history interview with Yukiko Furuta was conducted on June 17 and July 6, 1982, in the Furuta family home in Wintersburg (Huntington Beach) and  with Clarence Nishizu on June 14, 1982 by Arthur A. Hansen for the Honorable Stephen K. Tamura Orange County Japanese American Oral History Project, jointly sponsored by the Japanese American Council of the Bowers Museum Foundation [Historical and Cultural Foundation of Orange County] and the Japanese American Project of the California State University, Fullerton, Oral History Program. Read the full interview for Yukiko Furuta at and the full interview for Clarence Nishizu at

All rights reserved.  No part of the Historic Wintersburg blog may be reproduced or duplicated without prior written permission from the author and publisher, M. Adams Urashima.  

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Wintersburg - early 1900s

A remnant of the Southern Pacific rail line extending to the celery fields and packing plants for Smeltzer and Wintersburg. (Photo, February 2012)

     Houses of worship and schools have always been an indicator that a dusty spot in the road is transforming into a community.  The arrival of trains means the community has a future.

   In December 1904, townspeople gathered to discuss holding regular Sunday school in Wintersburg.  The Japanese Presbyterian Mission had already declared itself (see The Wintersburg Mission, Feb. 20, 2012 post), but the growing community needed churches of different denominations.  The armory building on the northwest corner of Wintersburg (Warner) Avenue and Gothard---which had been moved to Wintersburg from Fountain Valley---was used for meetings until the community's churches were constructed.

   The present-day Community United Methodist Church recalled this history during their centennial in 2005, "Several families had been traveling – not by car; those were very rare yet in Orange County, but on foot and horseback and wagons – to churches at many miles distance."

   Local historian Jerry Person writes in his 2005 Huntington Beach Independent column, Centennial Call, that "at this first meeting, a group of 15 people of different religious denominations (Baptist, Presbyterian and Methodist) wanted to establish a community Sunday School...the little congregation of 15 grew to over 60 members in 1905."

   At that time, the Community United Methodist Church was known as the Wintersburg Methodist Evangelical Church.  One of the Wintersburg ME Church's early founders, Charles Applebury, recalled Sunday school students "met in the afternoon, in order to give the unheated building 'time to warm' from the afternoon sun."  According to Person, Sunday school seating was improvised from wooden planks placed on the inevitable celery crates and Wintersburg's "hearty pioneers used newspapers covered with clean packing paper for seat padding."  

   Wintersburg resident James Cain donated a house for the Wintersburg ME parsonage, which was moved to the northeast corner of Wintersburg and Gothard avenues.  Next, Henry Winters---for whom Wintersburg was named---donated the land for the Wintersburg ME Church, at the corner of Wintersburg and Gothard avenues.  

   The Wintersburg ME parcel also hosted a small one-room library for Wintersburg residents until the 1950s.  More than 100 years later, the iconic wooden church constructed on that site still stands.  It is now the Warner Avenue Baptist Church.

   Also in the early 1900s, "the school on wheels", Huntington Beach High School arrived in Wintersburg (before moving to its present-day location on Main Street in 1908).  Preceding this was Ocean View Grammar School, a wooden school house with bell tower, constructed in 1911 at the southwest corner of Stanton (now Beach) Boulevard and Wintersburg (now Warner) Avenue.  Demolished in the late 1960s, this is where the Comerica Bank building stands today. 

    Running down the middle of all this activity was the Southern Pacific Railroad line that served the Smeltzer and Wintersburg celery fields and packing stations.  It was a key factor in the birth of Wintersburg and the arrival of Japanese immigrants.

    U.S. Asians explains, "the development of irrigation in California opened the way  for intensive agriculture and a shift from grain to fruit and vegetable production.  Between 1879 and 1909, the value of crops from intensive agriculture skyrocketed from just 4 percent to 50 percent of all crops grown in California.  This transformation occurred under a market stimulus created by two key technological achievements of the period -- the completion of the national railroad lines and the invention of the refrigerated car.  Consequently, for the first time perishable fruit and vegetables from California could be sold almost anywhere in the United States."

   U.S. Asians continues, "As early as 1910, (Japanese farmers) produced 70 percent of California's strawberries, and by 1940 they grew 95 percent of fresh snap beans, 67 percent of fresh tomatoes, and 95 percent of the celery."

   As noted in The Wintersburg Mission, by 1905 twenty-five to thirty train cars left daily filled with Wintersburg celery.  Things were looking bright and people were putting down roots.

   Running parallel to Gothard Avenue, remnants of the rail line can still be found today in the railroad right-of-way.  While the "ghost line" ends abruptly, it's not hard to imagine the noise and commotion that accompanied the daily arrival of the train in Wintersburg.

Tracks to nowhere:  Looking north on the Southern Pacific Railroad line that led to Wintersburg in the railroad right-of-way off Smeltzer (now Edinger) Avenue. (Photo, February 2012)

All rights reserved.  No part of the Historic Wintersburg blog may be reproduced or duplicated without prior written permission from the author and publisher, M. Adams Urashima.  

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Seventy years ago

Fountain Valley resident Masuo "Mas" Masuda holds a photo of his brother, Kazuo "Kaz" Masuda.  Kaz Masuda was a member of the "Go For Broke" 442nd, killed in Italy during WWII.  Both Mas and Kaz attended Huntington Beach High School--both on the football team--and the Masuda family were congregants of the Wintersburg Mission.  Both were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.  The Masuda family was first confined in Rohwer, Arkansas, then later at Gila River in Arizona. (Photo courtesy of Orange County Register)

      This week marks the 70th anniversary of Executive Order 9066, which forcibly removed Japanese-Americans from the West Coast into confinement at ten major camps---Tule Lake, Minadoka, Heart Mountain, Grenada, Topaz, Rohwer, Jerome, Gila River, Poston, Manzanar---and a numerous small detention centers, military and immigration centers.  The majority---although not all---of the residents of Wintersburg Village, Huntington Beach, and Orange County were sent to the Colorado River Relocation Center at Poston, Arizona.

   Of Poston, Wintersburg-born Yoshiyuki Tashima recalls in his 1974 oral history interview with Pat Tashima for CSU Fullerton, "Well, if you like dust, it's a great place. If you like hot weather, it's a great place. If you like rattlesnakes, it's a great place."

   Tashima had attended Ocean View Grammer School and was a student at Huntington Beach High School when his family was forced to leave California for incarceration at Poston

   "...I wrote to the principal of Huntington Beach High School to inquire about my graduating with the class, and he wrote back saying all I had to do was complete one course, and that was civics, and they asked me to write a paper on the relocation camp," remembers Tashima.  "So I wrote that and turned it in and they gave me a passing grade. So I was able to get my diploma with my graduating class."  

   Tashima later served in the U.S. Army, "Well, I thought it was my duty; after all, I was born in this country and ninety percent of the other Japanese American kids felt the same way."

  On this Day of Remembrance anniversary of Executive Order 9066, we remember some of the alumni from Huntington Beach High School, all U.S.-born citizens, incarcerated during World War II due to their ancestry.

"Former (Wintersburg) resident, Takayuki Tashima, volunteered from the Poston Relocation Center and is topping beets in the fields near Milliken, Colorado." (UC Berkeley, Bancroft Library)

"Kiyoko Tatsukawa, former high school student from Huntington Beach, California, and a graduate of the spring 1943 class in Nurse's Aid at the Poston Hospital. Pretty Kiyoko is shown demonstrating her most charming bed-side manner, before administering medicine to the fortunate patient." (UC Berkeley, Bancroft Library)

"Harley Asari, left, relocatee from the Poston, Arizona Relocation Center, and Kenneth Jimbo, a voluntary evacuee from Huntington, California, shown at their work at the U.S. Foundry at Denver. They are among approximately 25 Japanese-Americans employed at the foundry, which applies strategic materials to war plants which are producing large quantities of materials for the armed forces. Asari is a former resident of Huntington Beach, California, where he ran a gold fish hatchery before evacuation. He was evacuated directly from Huntington Beach to Poston." (UC Berkeley, Bancroft Library)

The full interview with Yoshiyuki Tashima, conducted by Pat Tashima for California State University - Fullerton, can be viewed at;NAAN=13030&

All rights reserved.  No part of the Historic Wintersburg blog may be reproduced or duplicated without prior written permission from the author and publisher, M. Adams Urashima.  

At home in Wintersburg

One of the few remaining California cottages in the Wintersburg area of Huntington Beach.

   That Charles Mitsuji "C.M." Furuta was able to buy land and build a home in Wintersburg was against the odds.  He arrived in the United States in 1900 with little to his name, took on laborious work, and paid off debts left by others.  Furuta had intended to go to Hawaii to join his brother, but his ship was not allowed to disembark due to contagions among the Hawaiian population.  Instead, he landed in Washington State, working at a sawmill until moving to Orange County.

The celery fields of Smeltzer and Wintersburg
   "He heard about Smeltzer, the name of this area (Huntington Beach) at that time, as the place where celery was being raised and that there would be a lot of jobs here," recalled Yukiko Furuta in her 1981 oral history interview with Arthur Hansen, CSU Fullerton history professor.  "...He and four other men started their own farm ...(located along what is now Goldenwest Street, either in northern Huntington Beach or southern Westminster, below Bolsa Avenue)...They started to cultivate celery. However, they failed...They had a lot of debt and the other four men just ran away. So Mr. Furuta had the responsibility of assuming all the debt."

   Furuta worked for others--including the Cole family of Cole Ranch (see Cole Ranch and the Universe Effigy, Feb. 16, 2012 post)--until he paid off his debt and bought the five acres at Wintersburg (Warner) Avenue and Nichols Lane.  It was during this time Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Mission pastor, Reverend Terasawa, took him under his wing.  Rev. Terasawa was the first pastor at the Church--having helped open the Mission in 1904--and baptized Furuta.

   "He felt as if Reverend Terasawa was his father, and Reverend Terasawa treated him like his son, and his his grandchildren," relates Yukiko Furuta.  "Mr. Furuta learned English from Reverend Terasawa, commuting on his bicycle to church in the evenings."

  Rev. Terasawa counseled C.M. Furuta and other Japanese immigrants to improve their situation by buying land and putting down roots.  C.M Furuta listened.

   By 1909, he purchased the five-acre property at present-day Warner Avenue and Nichols Lane in Wintersburg, donating a portion of the land to the Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Mission.

Finding a wife
   Furuta went to Japan  in 1912 to meet his future wife, an arranged marriage.  After they were married, the Furutas lived in Los Angeles while the Wintersburg house (on the masthead of this blog) was constructed.   Furuta "commuted by streetcar to Huntington Beach, and he used a bicycle or buggy to get from Huntington Beach to (the Warner Avenue home). He asked the bank to lend him some money. So, he borrowed money from a bank (in Huntington Beach). Because he had land (as equity), they lent the money. Then he started to build a house."

The Furuta home, circa 1912-1914 (prior to garden and goldfish ponds). (Photo courtesy of Furuta family)

   The original house was a living room, a kitchen, two bedrooms, an outhouse, and no city utilities.  Yukiko Furuta remembers Wintersburg (Warner) Avenue being so muddy that when it rained she couldn't walk on it.  Nevertheless, the Furuta house made an impression in Wintersburg because it was new, solid construction, and because "only three Japanese families around here then (circa 1910) owned houses" (Furuta, Asari and Terada). 

   Clarence Nishizu remembered, "The houses that (most) Japanese farmers built were just improvised shacks...The farmers helped each other build houses. They had no building inspectors in those days, so the farmers built houses any way they wanted to, just so that the walls stood up..The wallpaper of the inside walls was newspaper in some of the rooms."

   Nishizu explained the reason behind the temporary nature of most of the Japanese community's housing, "Since the farmers leased land and were too poor to buy land, most of them built houses with the intention of moving again. Therefore, the floors were built in sections so that they could easily be dismantled and moved again."

   Temporary housing was not new to Huntington Beach and not restricted to the new Japanese community.  In 1917 through the early 1920s, the present day Triangle Park on Main Street was used as "a tent hotel complex for the accommodation of persons unable to find housing...On July 5, 1921, a lease contract was signed with R.E. Wright who constructed small beaverboard houses and rented them for $30 and $35 a month of which $8 a year went to the City.  Bungalet Court, more commonly known as 'Cardboard Alley' was located on the triangular piece of land where the Horseshoe Clubhouse was later built" (City of Huntington Beach, Historical Notes, 1975).

   By 1913, the California Alien Land Law prohibited the Japanese and other Asian immigrants from owning land or property.

   Nishizu recalls, "Most of the Issei homes had running cold water, but none had hot running water perhaps until the late thirties. In many of the homes the source of water was a cistern about twenty to thirty feet deep and about five to six feet square. Water was carried up from the cistern. We had to tie the rope to the handle of the bucket and flip it back and forth so as to catch the water in the bucket."

   "...The wooden shacks we lived in were very cold in wintertime, since all of the walls outside and inside partitions were not built with two-by-four studding with wall boards on both sides. Therefore, the walls did not have any insulation whatsoever," Nishizu, a congregant of the Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Church, recollects.  "We had to use lots of futon (comforters) during wintertime and we couldn't wait to get near the stove to dress on cold mornings."

 The Furuta home, circa 2007, boarded up.  A hint of the old garden remains.

    After time, a beautifully manicured yard and garden surrounded the Furuta home, including gum trees, gold fish ponds, a kitchen garden and tennis courts.  It became a local landmark (now noted as a Historic Landmark for the City of Huntington Beach) and part of the Wintersburg community's social gatherings.  Yukiko Furuta remembers cooking all-day Sunday dinners for friends, after attending services at the Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Church.  

   "On Sunday afternoons all the children went in and out, so it was noisy. But they had a good time, and had a dinner together," recalled Yukiko Furuta "That was what they did on Sundays..." at home, in Wintersburg.

The oral history interview with Yukiko Furuta was conducted on June 17 and July 6, 1982, in the Furuta family home in Wintersburg (Huntington Beach) and  with Clarence Nishizu on June 14, 1982 by Arthur A. Hansen for the Honorable Stephen K. Tamura Orange County Japanese American Oral History Project, jointly sponsored by the Japanese American Council of the Bowers Museum Foundation [Historical and Cultural Foundation of Orange County] and the Japanese American Project of the California State University, Fullerton, Oral History Program. Read the full interview for Yukiko Furuta at and the full interview for Clarence Nishizu at

All rights reserved.  No part of the Historic Wintersburg blog may be reproduced or duplicated without prior written permission from the author and publisher, M. Adams Urashima.  

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Wintersburg Mission

ABOVE: The Japanese Presbyterian Mission and manse on Wintersburg Avenue (now Warner Avenue), circa 1910. Courtesy of the Wintersburg Church. © ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

   "This Mission was opened on the Christmas season of 1904 by the members of the Westminster Presbyterian Church and Rev. Terazawa was the first Japanese pastor," according to a typewritten 1930 history of the Japanese Presbyterian Church of Wintersburg.  

   When the Church's historical summary was written--over eight decades ago--it already was described as "one of the oldest Japanese churches in Southern California." 

   Ten Japanese pastors had served the Mission by 1930, which was known to be the "only center of the Japanese community in this vicinity."  In Orange County, the Anaheim Japanese M.E. Church had served a smaller population of Japanese immigrants, about a fifth of the size of Wintersburg.

The beginnings of Wintersburg
  At the time the Wintersburg Mission was organized in 1904, the official census of Orange County still had not included a population count for Huntington Beach.  It wasn't until the 1910 census that Huntington Beach reached a notable 815 population (after officially incorporating in 1909).

   The Japanese Americans settling in North Orange County had, for the most part, migrated here for agricultural work, helping the "peatlands" of Wintersburg become one of the celery capitals of America.  Some had left Japan to avoid being drafted into the Imperial Army, others simply to find a better life.  Some were Christian of various denominations and some were Buddhist.

The celery trains
   The Los Angeles Herald reported on January 18, 1905, that the Southern Pacific Railroad was "running special trains loaded with celery and bound for eastern markets."  The Herald noted 25 to 30 car loads left daily on the rail line running down to the Wintersburg celery fields and Smeltzer packing station in present-day north Huntington Beach.

   This also was the time of St. Louis' Louisiana Purchase Exposition, a World's Fair at which California again made a big impression on winter-fatigued easterners.  In the same 1905 Los Angeles Herald edition, Charles L. Wilson, California's superintendent of the installation of exhibits at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, was quoted "everywhere I heard people talking about California."

   "When I left St. Louis, it was eight degrees below zero.  It was fifteen below at Kansas City, and colder as we came through Kansas, with snow and sleet all the way to Needles, 300 miles east of Los Angeles," continued Wilson.   Wilson's train arrived in San Bernardino at sunrise to clear, sunny skies.  "People on the train who had never before gazed upon California scenery, and were a little doubtful of the truth of some of the glowing stories they had heard of the glorious southland, when they looked out of the car windows this morning were in ecstasies of delight..."

   The Herald also reported tourist travel to Southern California was growing, packing the Southern Pacific and Santa Fe railroads "to their fullest capacity.  The larger hotels are rapidly filling up"  and the Santa Fe "Pullman accommodations for lower berths on their limited out of Chicago have been exhausted..."

Reverend Kenji Kikuchi
   By 1930, when the Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Mission began contemplating their 1934 church building effort, the population of Orange County's Japanese Americans had grown.  The Rev. Kenji Kikuchi, M.Th., became the pastor in1926, having completed seminary in Japan and theology studies at Princeton.  His report noted the "situation of the Japanese people in Orange County" as having a population of 2,000, "most of them farmers...about 350 families."

   Rev. Kikuchi's historical summary noted there were about 150 families in the immediate vicinity of Wintersburg.  "... Most of them are dry chili pepper farmers-they raise half million dollars a year production from peppers.  Also there are three bid (sic) gold fish farms owned by our church members."  These would have been the gold fish farms of C.M. Furuta--who donated the land for the Mission--and the Asari and Akiyama families of Wintersburg.

   In his 1981 oral history interview with Arthur Hansen, history professor with CSU Fullerton, Rev. Kikuchi remembers learning about Wintersburg, "After coming to California, I found a Japanese community I never knew existed and which very strongly needed a leader and pastor. I felt very deeply about such a mission.

Rev. Kikuchi recalls "the Japanese people or community wanted to bring in a minister who spoke English, who knew the United States. So we started. The community relation was very close, more familylike, and I had to help out the children, calling for a doctor or taking a patient to the hospital. Nobody could help but the minister, and he was in the best position to help out."

   "So many young people came to this small Wintersburg church in Orange County," continues Rev. Kikuchi, 83 years old at the time of his interview.  "It was the building behind the current (1934) building, very old. It was built in 1910, and my predecessor as pastor was Reverend Junzo Nakamura.  He was a very good leader, and it was kind of a painstaking job for a minister because it was not a formally organized church. We had to start from nothing and we had to teach many things."

   When Rev. Kikuchi arrived, Rev. Nakamura had already left for a ministry in San Diego and it was clear the Wintersburg Mission needed him, "...the corner lot where the church was located was overgrown with dry weeds. Then about a hundred Japanese people, Issei and Nisei, came to the area so I was deeply determined to take care of them."

   About two years after Rev. Kikuchi arrived at the Mission, it organized as a church, the Japanese Presbyterian Church of Wintersburg.

   "We planned a new building because the number of Sunday school children increased, and we used to go around the Talbert area to get the children in my Model-T Ford (laughter)--about nineteen children in an open car, and I drove around the surrounding farm land to get the Sunday school children here," continued Rev. Kikuchi.

Building a new Church during the Depression years
   The funds for the 1934 church building were raised--and almost lost--by Wintersburg's Japanese American community during the Great Depression.

   "We collected donations little by little. First, we deposited the money in the Huntington Beach Bank, a state bank. But in the prime of the Depression, the deposits were frozen," remembers Rev. Kikuchi.  "Charlie's (Ishii) father and I ran to the Huntington Beach Bank but the bank was closed. We almost felt like crying. But, later, when we fixed pews in the church, we could draw our deposit from the bank after the arrangement by the government. In this way, we collected small amounts of money little by little."

   Rev. Kikuchi stayed on as pastor at the Japanese Presbyterian Church until 1936, after the construction of the 1934 church building (in front of the 1910 building) on present-day Warner Avenue at Nichols Lane.  In 1942, he and his wife, Yoshi, were evacuated to the Poston, Arizona Relocation Center.  Interviewer Arthur Hansen recalls Rev. Kikuchi's discussion about the Japanese American experience in Orange County by noting that "Reverend Kikuchi radiated a warmth and good cheer rarely seen by me in any other people I have known..."

   "So for ten years I never got tired, never became disappointed, and thoroughly enjoyed myself," Rev. Kikuchi recalls of his time at the Japanese Presbyterian Church in Wintersburg, "most of the people enjoyed our lives with us like we were a family.

The oral history interview with Reverend Kenji Kikuchi, M. TH. was conducted on August 26, 1981, in Rev. Kikuchi's Huntington Beach home by Arthur A. Hansen for the Honorable Stephen K. Tamura Orange County Japanese American Oral History Project, jointly sponsored by the Japanese American Council of the Bowers Museum Foundation [Historical and Cultural Foundation of Orange County] and the Japanese American Project of the California State University, Fullerton, Oral History Program. Read the full interview at;NAAN=13030&

All rights reserved.  No part of the Historic Wintersburg blog may be reproduced or duplicated without prior written permission from the author and publisher, M. Adams Urashima. 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Cole Ranch and the Universe Effigy

*Updated June 2017* 

   Wintersburg Village, it seems, has always been a place where people gather, share their lives, and practice their faith.  In addition to the mission and churches that date back to the early 1900s, there is evidence of spiritual practices dating back thousands of years.  Wintersburg Village was the land of the Tongva (aka Gabrielino).

   In Chinigchinich, Friar Geronimo Boscana (Fred Robinson translation, 1846) writes his observations of the life and practices of the first Southern Californians.  It is a decidedly ethnocentric view---Boscana was not an objective party---but a few insights can be gleaned.

   Boscana reports the belief that when the body died, the heart remained "to dwell among the stars, and like them throw its light upon the earth. For this reason, they said that the planets, and most luminous bodies, were their hearts, or in other words, they were themselves, in reality."  

   When they looked into the night sky, they saw themselves.  They were part of the universe.

Wintersburg's Cole family
   In 1898, the Cole family moved to California, eventually buying land in Wintersburg.  Samuel Armor writes in A History of Orange County (1921), that Myrtle Cecillian Cole was a New York lawyer who "took up agriculture and horticulture, farming twenty acres at Wintersburg...improved this place and afterward sold it, and then purchased the sixty-acre Ross ranch near Wintersburg."

   In Pioneer Memories of the Santa Ana Valley (Vol. III, 1983), a Ross family descendant recalls that when her family arrived in 1868, the native Californians "had campsites, in Newport Beach area and on the Costa Mesa bluffs, Huntington Beach Palisades and in the Wintersburg District."

   Of M.C. Cole's four children, it is later noted in oral histories that Homer Cole eventually joined his father in working the former Ross farm, continuing after M.C. Cole's death in 1916.

   Sometime between 1902 and 1910, Homer Cole brought home to his wife, Jesse Hoffman Cole, a stone object found by a plowman working on the Cole Ranch.  It was a perfect circle of chlorite schist with an indent and notches incised in what looks like a butterfly pattern at the top.  To the Cole family, it was probably an interesting curiosity.

   To the Tongva, it was the universe.

Revisiting the Universe Effigy
   The "Universe Effigy" quietly resided at the Cole Ranch for over twenty-five years before being loaned to the Bowers Museum in 1936, catalog number 2878.  Scholars recently took another look.  In their 2009 paper for the Pacific Coast Archaeological Society Quarterly (PCAS), Henry Koerper and Paul Chace write, "the Universe Effigy is arguably the most esthetically spectacular of all California magico-religious artifacts" and that the Cole Ranch discovery was "the first Universe Effigy to come to modern attention.

LEFT: A sketch of the Universe Effigy, found on the Cole Ranch in Wintersburg Village on land that is now Ocean View High School. (Pacific Coast Archaeological Society Quarterly, Vol. 41, 2009)

   Other Universe Effigies have turned up along the coast, in San Mateo Canyon and in Riverside County.  Koerper and Chace note "nearly all of the effigies were fashioned from chlorite schist, perhaps mined on Catalina Island."

   Koerper and Chace consider a correlation between the effigies and ground paintings that conceptualize the universe, and that the effigies were Chinigchinich objects used for female rights of passage.  The universe representations include concentric rings indicating the Milky Way and the human spirit.  Another scholarly view noted by Koerper and Chace posits the effigies may represent the "oval sacred enclosure, the wamkish, a ritual place for, among other things, initiations and ground paintings.  The wamkish...stood as a microcosm of the earth and universe."

   At some point, the lives of Wintersburg Village's first residents and its later pioneers connect.  Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Mission congregants C.M. Furuta and Henry Kiyomi Akiyama lived at the Cole family house on Gothard Street and worked on the ranch with M.C. and Homer Cole where the Universe Effigy was found.  Furuta--known to be a fine horseman--worked the horses and Akiyama worked the land.  Whether or not the timelines match up and Akiyama was the plowman who found the effigy is unknown.

   Koerper and Chase refer to the Effigy as a "portable cosmos" whose "morphology and design elements suggest a rich complexity of symbolic communications.

   Charles Irwin, in his paper, A Material Representation of a Sacred Tradition, for the Journal of California Anthropology (1978) writes about the Universe Effigy that, "every human society has a world view that includes the structure of the universe and earth, the origin and history of the society and its aspirations...our species has expressed sacred concepts in material symbolizations for millenia."

   In simpler terms, perhaps the Universe Effigy is a reminder that---after 9,000 years---there is a little more to Historic Wintersburg than meets the eye.

Editor's note: Readers may wish to view the Universe Effigy at Cole Ranch and the Universe Effigy: Part Two at

© All rights reserved.  No part of the Historic Wintersburg blog may be reproduced or duplicated without prior written permission from the author and publisher, M. Adams Urashima.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Remembering Ma Shep

~Updated March 3 2021~

   On the first floor of the Fullerton College Library is a collection of Japanese dolls donated by Anita Shepardson, a math teacher at Fullerton Union High School and Fullerton College from 1916 to 1945.  

   The dolls are part of the Japanese tradition dating back to circa 1625 of Hinamatsuri, a Girls' Day festival celebrated each March 3.  Fullerton College notes the Anita Shepardson hina (doll) collection is "in remembrance of an instructor who dedicated her life to her students and worked to promote understanding between two cultures."

LEFT: One of the many events Shepardson hosted in her Fullerton home, a March 1937 tea for Hinamatsuri. (Santa Ana Register, March 1, 1937)

   To many, Anita Shepardson was known as Ma Shep.

   Clarence Iwao Nishizu, a congregant of Wintersburg Japanese Church, says Shepardson was called Ma Shep "because she had the charm and love of a mother to all of us."  When the Santa Ana River flooded in 1938 and many of the Japanese families lost their homes, Nishizu says Ma Shep opened her home to them.  Shepardson became a good friend to the Nishizu family.

Going above and beyond for her students
   Shepardson started the Japanese Club for her Nisei students at Fullerton High School and Fullerton College, encouraging traditional Japanese arts and culture.  She took her students on field trips to places like the Sierra Madre Flower Garden and Huntington Library.  She helped them with the customs and manners that would help them succeed.  Ma Shep also provided her personal spiritual opinions, prompting students to attend church.

   Shepardson wrote a play for her students, The Emperor's Doll, and invited the Los Angeles Times and other local media to attend their performance.  In turn, the her students presented Fullerton College with cherry trees and a Japanese garden.

RIGHT: Shepardson chaired a Fullerton International Relations council meeting in 1935, focused on commercial and cultural exchanges between California and Japan. Students from the Japanese Club that Shepardson initiated at Fullerton College helped host the dinner, wearing traditional Japanese attire and hand-painting place cards.  In addition to the Consul General of Japan Tomokazu Hori (who had been feted at a banquet in Huntington Beach in April 1935), and president of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce Gongora Nakamura, Seattle-born Kay Sugahara was a featured guest speaker. Sugahara was a 1932 UCLA graduate, organizer of the Nisei Festival in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles, had helped establish the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) in Orange County, and, in 1935, was president of the JACL in Los Angeles. He and his family were confined at Amache (Colorado) during WWII.  He later built Fairfield-Maxwell Ltd., a worldwide ship-owning business. His obituary in 1988 noted he continued to work on international relationships between the U.S. and Asia, something he held in common with Shepardson. (Santa Ana Register, December 4, 1935)

   Shepardson had to have been aware of those in Orange County who held anti-Japanese sentiment.  She probably heard reports about families who had night visits from Orange County's Ku Klux Klan.  It would have been hard to ignore Sacramento Bee publisher V.S. McClatchy's testimony, On the Japanese Problem, before the House Committee on Immigration and Naturalization during its hearings in California in July 1920.  

   Ma Shep never wavered.

LEFT: Shepardson was invited to speak to community organizations--such as the Santa Ana Y.W.C.A.meeting in September, 1938--after her "friendship tour" of Japan, as an invited guest of the Consulate of Japan. Japanese Americans in Orange County paid for her trip. (Santa Ana Register, September 28, 1938)

An invitation to tour Japan
   Reaching beyond her students, Shepardson was active with Fullerton's International Relations Club and the Japan America Society of Los Angeles.  In addition to her Hina doll collection, Shepardson collected Japanese fine art and woodblock prints.  Nishizu remembers, "often she served tea to guests at her home and had the Nisei students interpret classic dancing and perform other cultural arts and traditions like the tea ceremony."

    Fullerton College Library reports her interest and involvement with Southern California's Japanese Americans led to an invitation by the Japanese Consulate to tour Japan in 1938.  Orange County's Japanese American community paid her way. 
ABOVE: The United States sent to Japan 13,000 dolls in 1927 as a gesture of friendship to celebrate Hinamatsuri. Six million school children in Japan returned the favor in 1928, sending elaborate dolls for every U.S. state. The Santa Ana Register noted, "it was reported that the cost of each doll and her possessions was in the neighborhood of $200, all contributed by children of the empire." Two of the dolls were displayed in Orange County at the Congregational church in 1928 and Southern California embraced local celebrations of Hinamatsuri through the 1930s. A feature in the Los Angeles Times Sunday Magazine reported on the girls' day festivities in the Japanese American fishing village at Terminal Island near San Pedro. The "Ma Shep" for the East San Pedro School was Mildred J. O'Barr Walizer, "whose death in 1933 was mourned by the entire island community." Like Ma Shep who traveled to Japan as a guest of the Consulate of Japan, Walizer was gifted a trip to Japan by supporters from the fishing village at Terminal Island as a cultural exchange. (Los Angeles Times Sunday Magazine, March 3 1935)

December 1941
   On December 7, 1941--the day Japan bombed Pearl Harbor--Nishizu was delivering vegetables in Los Angeles. On his way back to Orange County, he was stopped by the police. 

   "I was really scared," recalls Nishizu, "Other Nisei shared my fear and accompanying depression. The general public viewed us with suspicion as if we had committed something wrong. Even the attitude of our next door Caucasian neighbor suddenly changed. We were disheartened as to our future. We were in a quandary."

   When a community meeting was called at the Farm Bureau in Santa Ana, Shepardson was there.  It was the last time Nishizu saw her.  He would be confined at Heart Mountain in Wyoming

   Shepardson traveled to the Poston, the Colorado River Relocation Center, numerous times to see her students and their families.  During his 1982 oral history interview, Nishizu worried that "as a lover of Japanese people, she must have suffered due to the prevailing anti-Japanese atmosphere in the country during the war years."

Her lamp was always lighted
   In the February 5, 2005, Los Angeles Times article, A Lifelong Lesson in Justice,, Teresa Watanabe writes, "For more than 60 years, the students have not forgotten their group of people in particular gave them hope: the teachers, most of them white, who volunteered to join them."

   The Japanese American National Museum honored in 2005 more than 200 educators who braved the tumultuous times and prison camp conditions.  Unfortunately, Shepardson was not there to re-connect with her students.  Ma Shep died in 1945.

   Nishizu  wished, "she could have lived just long enough to have welcomed all of her Japanese friends back from the camps at the end of the war and to have joined them in reminiscing..."

   Nishizu recited an excerpt from a Robert Browning poem in memory of Shepardson during his 1982 oral history, "God gives each man one light, like a lamp, then gives that lamp due measure of oil. Lamp lighted--hold high, wave wide its comforts for others to share." 

   "Anita Shepardson had a goodly portion of oil," remembers Nishizu, "Her lamp was always lighted. She held it high. She waved it wide. She shared its light."

RIGHT: A Japanese lantern and stones in front of Huntington Beach City Hall, a gift from Huntington Beach's Sister City Anjo, Japan. (Photo, M. Urashima, 2013) © ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

The interview with Mr. Clarence Iwao Nishizu was conducted by CSU Fullerton history professor Arthur A. Hansen for the Honorable Stephen K. Tamura Orange County Japanese American Oral History Project, jointly sponsored by the Japanese American Council of the Bowers Museum Foundation and the Japanese American Project of the California State University, Fullerton, Oral History Program.  Read the entire interview at;NAAN=13030&doc.view=frames&

A Lifelong Lesson in Justice, Los Angeles Times, Feb. 5, 2005, can be viewed at

©  All rights reserved.  No part of the Historic Wintersburg blog may be reproduced or duplicated without prior written permission from the author and publisher, M. Adams Urashima.  

Monday, February 13, 2012

No Mello Roose

The "residence blueprint" for the Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Mission residence on Wintersburg (Warner) Avenue. 

   If you build a house in Orange County today, come armed with a big pile of cash, a real estate broker, an architect, a contractor, and maybe an interior designer and a landscaper.  At least.  Don't forget to visit the local planning department to determine if your land is in an assessment district or if there are easement restrictions, and prepare for city building inspectors and a half dozen other official rights of passage before move in day.

   When the Japanese Mission Building Committee built the residence for the Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Mission in 1910, they sketched out a design (above) and prepared a reasonable two-page, handwritten contractual agreement and two-page handwritten building description for the builder. The builder, J. Hori, would receive a total of $425.00.  No extras, no change orders.

   The building description specifies four rooms and a front porch of redwood construction, five windows, "good quality" doors, and that the front two rooms be "covered with a lining of cloth and well tacked when stretched tight and covered with paper."  The residence colors would be selected by the Building Committee, which specified "two coats of mixed paint."  The Committee concluded the building description by advising J. Hori to perform all work "in a Good Work Man Like Manner."

   J. Hori fulfilled his contractual obligations.  More than one hundred years later, the residence still stands.

All rights reserved.  No part of the Historic Wintersburg blog may be reproduced or duplicated without prior written permission from the author and publisher, M. Adams Urashima.