CELEBRATING CULTURE & COMMUNITY'S HISTORY PROJECT: The Adachis
Celebrating Culture & Community's El Cerrito History Project
Celebrating Culture & Community is putting together interviews
of 25 El Cerrito residents, a project aimed at showing the diverse communities
that have contributed to the city's history.
The interviews have been made possible largely through support from
the California Council for the Humanities, a state affiliate of the National
Endowment for the Humanities.
For more information about Celebrating Culture & Community , contact
Eve Ma at 236-3255 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Following is one of the interviews:
INTERVIEW with Tosh (uncle) and Ken (nephew) Adachi
11/29/99 (Eve A. Ma—Dr. L. Eve Armentrout Ma--interviewer)
--the father, and grandfather, respectively, of
these two Adachis founded the first
Japanese American nursery in El Cerrito
--except as otherwise noted, the material came
from Ken Adachi
The 1906 earthquake shook the water tank so much that
water spilled out. That story is how Ken knows the nursery was founded
(Tosh) The nursery was founded in 1905 by Tosh’s father
(Ken’s grandfather), whose name was Isaburo Adachi.
Ken thinks they originally grew some cut flowers other
than roses, but soon turned to hothouse roses (in greenhouses). (Tosh)
They grew roses (and apparently, not anything else before that).
They would market the roses on the wholesale flower
market in San Francisco. They got paid in $20 gold pieces. They would
take the ferry from the Berkeley pier to get across the Bay. [This was
before the Bay Bridge was built.]
All that they grew, they grew in greenhouses; nothing
outdoors. The nursery was located where Home Depot is now [on San Pablo
Ave.’s west side, near where BART crosses over San Pablo Ave., a little
south of MacDonald Ave.].
The other Japanese American nursery family had a nursery
called "Ooks." Ken doesn’t know the family’s name. Their land
was located where the abandoned Food Bowl building is now, near the corner
of Cutting Blvd. and San Pablo Ave.. That family also grew roses.
(Tosh) Tosh’s parents were both from Japan. His mother
was educated in Tokyo, but probably came from somewhere else. They were
not the first Japanese Americans in this area. Others who came either
around the same time or somewhat earlier were the Nabeta and the Fuji
family, who also grew roses. Ken remarked that actually, they were in
Richmond, near Potrero Ave., and Tosh agreed.
Both Tosh and Ken lived in El Cerrito all their lives
[except during World War II, when the family was sent to internment camps].
The Adachi nursery in El Cerrito [which closed down
within the last 5 years] had one part of its land in El Cerrito and one
part in Richmond. The city lines ran right through the nursery.
When Ken was a kid, he remembers that San Pablo Ave.
used to be very low near the nursery, maybe 10 feet lower than what it
is now. There was a depression there. It did not flood when there were
heavy rains because there was a creek, or drainage canal, near [behind?]
After the war, the family returned to the nursery.
They had to start all over again. The roses were dead, the greenhouse
panes were broken, they had to rebuild it all. By the [early?] 1950s,
they had started the retail business instead of the wholesale roses. They
opened the El Sobrante store in 1967. [That store is also primarily retail.]
El Cerrito now, as opposed to "then" [when
Ken was growing up]" There was lots more open space behind San Pablo
Ave.. He remembers his father saying that there used to be sheep grazing
there. His father went to Richmond High School, because there was no El
Cerrito High then. He took the electric train that ran from Oakland to
get to Richmond High. Ken also remembers an archway over MacDonald Ave.
which said something like "Welcome to Richmond." This was before
the freeway was built, and San Pablo was the main highway to get to Oakland,
San Francisco, etc.. On weekends, it was full of traffic; they could barely
pull out of their driveway.
Ken doesn’t know much about El Cerrito’s Japanese
American community as such. His family is Buddhist; the Christians did
more socializing with each other, not the Buddhists. He goes to the [Japanese
Buddhist] temple in Oakland now, but before, he [they?] went to the one
in Berkeley on Channing.
Before the 1950s, the Japanese American community
in El Cerrito was small. There was a larger one in Berkeley and in San
His (Ken’s) mother was born in Nevada. The Adachi
business was started by his paternal grandfather.
They do their business all over; they buy from wholesale
houses in Southern California, Oregon, Washington, and gift items from
around the world. For social life, one thing they do is go to restaurants.
They don’t go to any in El Cerrito really. They go to ones in San Francisco,
in Oakland, and in San Pablo (La Strada). He lives in El Cerrito still,
with his elderly parents, and helps care for them.
[question—any parts of this area where you don’t feel
comfortable going]—yes, certain parts of Richmond, below 23rd
[question—how comfortable is it here for Japanese
Americans]—His (Ken’s) father told him that when they were first here
in El Cerrito, some neighbors were not too friendly, Now, that’s more
or less a thing of the past [but maybe not entirely],
[question—what he likes best about El Cerrito, what
he likes least, and what he would do to the city if he had a magic wand]—best=no
answer. What he likes least is the loss of the small town feeling, and
the loss of open space. The open space isn’t really accessible to most
people because it’s mainly in the hills. He wishes there were more in
the areas lower down. If he had a magic wand, he’d have more greenbelt
in the city, and more bike paths, not just under the BART tracks. As it
is, the city is almost wall to wall houses.
He also remembers with fondness that there used to
be a Scout parade from El Cerrito Plaza down San Pablo Ave. to El Cerrito
High School. He misses that kind of friendly community feeling, and the
Ken says the family is trying to help his grandmother
find photos of the early days of the Adachi nursery, but they haven’t
found them yet. He does think he can locate one photo of his three sisters
in front of the greenhouses, and will get in touch with me about it.
CELEBRATNG CULTURE & COMMUNITY
1900 International MarketPlace,
San Pablo, CA., 94806
(510) 236-3255; fax (510) 233-3068
Run dates: 2000-01-01 - 2000-02-01