HORSE’S MOUTH: The Changes in Hourly Wages

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YOSHINAGA-GEORGEBy GEORGE YOSHINAGA

(Published June 7, 2014)

When I saw the story on my computer the other day that the minimum wage for workers may hit $15 an hour, as an old-timer, I was kind of amazed. That’s because the first job I received back in the early ’40s paid about 20 cents an hour. That’s right. Twenty cents an hour.

Of course, by the time evacuation took us to relocation centers, that figure went up to 75 cents per hour. That’s what we were paid when we signed up to work outside of camp as farm laborers. So, for ten hours of work, we received $7.50, half of the hour pay now being pushed.

For those who worked in camp, the average wage was $16 a month. That’s what I received as a columnist for The Heart Mountain Sentinel, the camp newspaper. But, hey, I felt rich with 16 bucks.

Well, I guess talking about the past and how much workers were paid probably isn’t of any interest to today’s generation, but for those of us who lived during that period, it’s something that strikes me.

Of course, in the past, 20 cents might have been equivalent to today’s $15.

Take the price of gas, for example. In those days, a gallon of gas was about 15 cents, so a full tank (about 10 gallons) cost $1.50.

We all know what gas costs today. As of Wednesday, at the Shell station where I fill up, it was $4.12 per gallon.

One doesn’t have to be a math whiz to figure out the difference between years ago and 2014.

Will gas prices ever go down?

Some of the experts say that if it remains at today’s high cost, motorists will begin looking for ways to get by without putting gas in the tank, and if someone accomplishes this, the price of gas won’t mean anything to auto owners.

Oh well, dream on.

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 As I began pounding out today’s column about 12 noon, my wife said, “You’d better finish right away because we have to go to our granddaughter’s graduation service.”

My first thought: Oh, my gosh. Finish my column in the early afternoon? No way.

I figured we could jump in the car and head home right after the graduation rites were over. When I saw that over 300 were in the graduating class, I figured it would be late when we got back. I was right. Just introducing them one-by-one consumed over 45 minutes.

When it was all over I looked at my watch and was stunned at how late it was. I sped a lot faster than I normally do because I figured every minute saved is a minute gained.

Hopefully, I can fill the space allotted to me by Gwen and her staff.

My wife said, “Hey, if you don’t write anything, what will they do?”

Heh, heh. That’s her.

I told her they might call me a few names and “Horse” won’t be one of them.

So bear with me if I sound a bit crazier today than I normally do. Normally, I find writing my Saturday column on Wednesday is a bit easier than the one I pound out on Sunday.

That’s because my mind is more relaxed on Sunday than on Wednesday, which makes me do a lot more thinking before pounding on the keyboard. Well, you know what I mean.

I depend a lot on my computer as far as getting column material is concerned, and there are two great stories I can use, but for one reason or another, my PC has decided to call it a day. That is, I can’t get it to find what I’m looking for.

One is a letter from a reader that I thought other readers would find interesting.

Until my son comes over and see what’s wrong with my PC, I guess I’ll just have to look for other sources for today’s column.

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Gosh, I just glanced at my watch and the hands say it’s 8:30 p.m. I guess I’ll be up real late tonight filling my column space.

To try to stir up my mind, I glanced through Wednesday’s Rafu and checked out the column, including the one by fellow writer Wimp Hiroto.

A lot of times, I get some idea about what to write by reading Wimp’s writing because he touches on a variety of topics.

Of course, Wimp might say, “Hey, Horse, think up something by yourself.”

Well, I guess if I had Wimp’s talent, that would be easy to do.

Oh well.

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No, in response to couple of readers who asked me if I have a Vegas trip set. From the looks of things, it might be early August. That’s because my in-laws from Maui are planning an August visit to Vegas. They said they’d like to spend a few days with me during their visit.

Sounds like a good reason for me to jump in my car and head for Vegas.

As I frequently mention about my neighborhood, four houses across the street from my place are rented and it’s not just a single family that moved in. A bunch of single guys rent two of the four houses and they all own more than one car, which means they take up all the parking spaces.

I told a couple of the guys that my friends and relatives can’t visit me nowadays because there is no place for them to park their cars.

The guys just laughed and responded, “Too bad, but it’s a public street and we can park wherever we want.”

Ah, what happened to the good old Gardena that I knew when I bought my house about 60 years ago?

Maybe I’ll talk to the homeowners and ask them to talk to their rental clients, or maybe I can go out at night and take the air out of the tires of their cars.

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Reader Mas Onoda wrote me a letter to tell me he was raised in the city of Okayama in central Japan and he read my column in which I said I was stationed there when I was with the U.S. Occupation Forces.

He said he would like me to write about my experiences when I was in Okayama.

Well, Mas, that was almost 70 years ago, so I have pretty much forgotten about the years I spent in Okayama.

If something interesting pops into mind, maybe I’ll toss in a few paragraphs.

One thing I can say is that I enjoyed serving in the city because the people there seemed to like the U.S. military forces who were stationed there.

During that period I did live in a number of Japanese cities and did find the folks in Okayama to be a lot nicer than those in other cities.

This might make some of you chuckle, but one of the elderly men I met in Okayama wanted me to take his daughter as my wife. He wanted her to get away from the post-war atmosphere in Japan and thought having his daughter taken to America would be a great thing for her.

Yeah, all I could say was “Heh, heh.”

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From inscription on back of photo: Back row, from left — Geo. Nakamura, Willie Kai, Mitchio Minemura, unknown, Babe Nomura, Tas Yamada, George (Horse) Yoshinaga, Shiro Nagata, Kei Bessho, Tets Bessho, Frank Kawakami, Yuki. Front row — Chicken, Junior, Ikeda, Johnny Nishimura, Yukio Kimura, Eddie Yamaoka, Chi-Bone Akizuki, George Mori, Keiichi Ikeda, unknown.

From inscription on back of photo: Back row, from left — Geo. Nakamura, Willie Kai, Mitchio Minemura, unknown, Babe Nomura, Tas Yamada, George (Horse) Yoshinaga, Shiro Nagata, Kei Bessho, Tets Bessho, Frank Kawakami, Yuki. Front row — Chicken, Junior, Ikeda, Johnny Nishimura, Yukio Kimura, Eddie Yamaoka, Chi-Bone Akizuki, George Mori, Keiichi Ikeda, unknown.

Did I mention this in a previous column? I looked through my stack of old Rafu newspapers and couldn’t find it, so I thought I would use it here.

It’s another old photo. I say “old” because it was taken while we were interned at the Heart Mountain Relocation Center.

It was a bunch of guys who thought it would make a nice reminder of our days in camp. We found a photographer and got together at a building that had a “Heart Mountain” sign on the roof.

It’s probably the only camp photo taken of internees from Los Angeles, San Jose and Seattle posing together.

That’s me, seventh from the left in the back row.

When I saw the photo, I didn’t realize I was one of the tallest guys in camp, since I stood a head above all the others.

Today, if I posed for a photo with the Sansei and Yonsei guys, I’d probably be one of the shorter ones.

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I don’t usually answer my phone when I’m writing my column, but the dang thing kept ringing and ringing, so I finally took it off the hook and said, “Moshi moshi.”

I figured that the caller would think he got the wrong number and hang up.

No such luck. The voice on the other end returned my “Moshi moshi” with a “Moshi moshi” of his own.

So I hung up. Yeah, the minute after I hung up, the dang phone began ringing again. I concluded it was the same guy, so I just let it ring.

Needless to day, my wife said, “How come you aren’t answering the call?”

I remained silent and she let it go at that.

I know I’m a bit short today but I just looked at the time on my PC and it read 10:43 p.m. That’s about two hours more than I usually take when pounding out my column.

A bit short today but those who have read this column to this point will figure out I’m ready to toss in the towel for the day.

So, until next time, “Domo, domo.”

George Yoshinaga writes from Gardena and may be reached via email at [email protected] Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily be those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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