HORSE’S MOUTH: The Pioneer Issei

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By GEORGE YOSHINAGA

If we had more entertainers like Poncie Ponce, I might be a little more well-known.

That’s because every time the popular Poncie is on stage performing and sees me in the audience, he points me out to the audience.

Why? Well, when I first wrote about the talented Filipino performer from Maui, I misspelled his first name. Since I only heard his name and never saw it in print, I called him “Ponce Ponce.”

When I did finally meet him in person, the first thing he said was, “Hey, my name is Poncie Ponce, not Ponce Ponce as you wrote.”

Since that time, whenever I attend one of his performances, he tells the audience about my error in pronouncing his name.

So that was the case this past Saturday when a group of his fans put on a “Poncie Ponce Day” at Bob’s Hawaiian Restaurant in Gardena.

I was invited to attend and when he saw me in the audience, he laughed and said, “Hey, if you write anything about today, spell my name right.”

Of course, most of those in the audience don’t know that I am a writer until Poncie points out the error in my reporting.

Naturally, the first question most people ask me is, “Whom do you write for?”

Enuff said.

Since my father came to the U.S. as a laborer to work on the railroad in places like Idaho and Montana before settling down as a farmer in California, a story sent to me by a reader was of interest.

I thought I would use a few paragraphs from an article published by Densho because I am sure a lot of Nisei had parents who went through the same experience as I did watching my Issei father operating a farm. The article read, in part:

“Farming was the main occupation for early immigrant Japanese. Many did farm labor that paid by the piece, where they could earn more by working faster, harder, longer. They accepted lower wages than those paid to white workers because low pay in the United States was still higher than the wages many earned in Japan.

“By 1920, the Japanese farmed more than 458,000 acres in California, either as owners, leasees or contractors. These farms produced $67 million worth of crops or more than 10 percent of the California total value. In 1940, Japanese Americans in Oregon raised $2.7 million worth of produce, while those in Washington raised more than $4 million.

“Japanese farmers were pioneers in West Coast agriculture, clearing land unwanted by whites and introducing labor-intensive techniques that yielded abundant harvests from small plots of land.”

Having lived under these conditions on farms developed by my Issei father, I can appreciate what he had to do to survive in the U.S.

He spoke no English, and in addition to battling racial prejudice, he raised a family that included, besides me, another son and four daughters.

And we moved constantly because as a Japanese citizen, he couldn’t own the land he farmed on. So when he developed the farmland, the owners would not renew the lease and he had to move on to find another property on which he developed another farm.

In those days I guess I really didn’t appreciate what my Issei father had to go through, but reading Densho article made me realize what hardship he faced as a “Jap” because of “blatant racism.”

Opening today’s column, I chatted about Poncie Ponce, who in addition to his musical talent, is also a comedian.

When I listen to him entertain both as a musician and comedian, I am reminded that those folks from the Island State have a great sense of humor, delivered in pidgin English.

An example?

Keoki opened the morning newspaper and was dumbfounded to read in the obituary column that he had died.

He quickly phoned his best friend, Keoni. “Did you see da peppa?” asked Keoki. “Dey say I wen die!”

“Yeah, I wen see um,” replied Keoni. “Whea you calling from?”

Not laughing? Try this one:

Walking into the bar, Keoki said to Keoni, the bartender, “Pour me one stiff one, bruddah, just had annuda fight with the wahine.”

“Oh yeah?” Keoni said. “And how did this one end?”

“When it was ovah,” Keoki replied, “she wen come to me on her hands and knees.”

“Really?” said Keoni. “Now dat’s a switch. What she wen say then?”

She said, “Come out from undah the bed, you little chicken.”

Island humor…

My computer began to malfunction when I began this segment of my column.

It made me realize how little I know about operating a computer. For the most part, I know only how to set my column. Sort of use my computer like an old typewriter.

Fortunately for me, one of my sons dropped in about the time I was cussing and swearing at my lack of knowledge on how to operate the computer.

I am constantly amazed how easily those who know all about computers can push a couple of buttons and everything is back to normal.

Okay, so now I can continue … hopefully.

I was saddened to read in the Saturday Rafu about the passing of Yutaka Shimizu, whom everyone called “Tabo.”

It was during the days when I was involved in NAU basketball that I got to know Tabo.

He went on to gain fame as a coach at the prep and college level.

Another sad note this week was the news of the passing of Jon Nakanishi, who passed away after a tragic boating accident in Northern California.

Jon was the son of Alan Nakanishi, former California state assemblyman and mayor of the City of Lodi.

I met Alan when he was an assemblyman. When he became mayor of Lodi, I felt a little closer to him since I once ran a pro baseball team from the Northern California city.

My deepest condolences to Alan.

Since I use my cell phone much more than I do my home phone, I decided to get one of those earphones since it makes answering my calls so much easier, especially when I’m driving my car.

I know it’s against the law to use cell phones while driving, but having the earphone makes it so much easier.

One thing I can’t get used to is that when I use my earphone to converse with the calling party, people give me a strange look because I appear to be talking to myself.

Before I got my earphone and I used to see people “talking to themselves” because they were using earphones. I can understand why people now look at me the same way.

So, unless the calls are important, I answer just long enough to tell the calling party that I will call them back in a short time.

Ah, modern electrical devices in this day and age.

Speaking of electrical devices, one of the most helpful ones, as far as I am concerned, is the remote control device for my television set.

I watch a lot of TV and one thing I can’t stand are the commercials, so the remote control is my savior.

Whatever TV program I am watching, especially Dodgers baseball, I can hit the remote and cut off the commercials.

During the break in the Dodgers games on TV, the commercials last about two minutes. So I time the break on my wristwatch and when the two minutes are up, I hit the remote and see only the game action. What a relief not having to suffer through the commercials.

Oh well, I guess TV is all about money, so what else can we expect?

Chuckle time:

Before Obama was elected president, he went to visit Bill and Hillary for some campaign advice at their spacious home. After drinking several glasses of ice tea, he asked Mr. Clinton if he could use his bathroom.

When he entered Clinton’s private toilet, he was astonished to see that Clinton had a solid gold urinal.

That afternoon, Obama told Michelle about the urinal. “Just think,” he said, “when I’m president, I, too, could have a gold urinal. But I wouldn’t have something so self-indulgent.”

Later, when Michelle had lunch with Hillary, she told her how impressed Obama had been at his discovery of the fact that, in his private bathroom, Bill had a gold urinal.

That evening when Bill and Hillary were getting ready for bed, Hillary smiled and said to Bill, “I found out who peed in your saxophone.”

Try these:

1st Degree: A married couple were asleep when the phone rang at 2 in the morning. The very blonde wife picked up the phone, listened for a moment, said, “How should I know? That’s 200 miles from here,” and hung up.

The husband said, “Who was that?”

The wife answered, “I don’t know, some woman wanting to know if the coast is clear.”

2nd Degree: Two blondes are walking down the street. One notices a compact on the sidewalk and leans down to pick it up. She opens it, looks in the mirror and says, “Hmmm … this person looks familiar.

The second blonde says, “Here, let me see.”

So the first blonde hands her the compact.

The second blonde looks in the mirror and says, “You dummy. It’s me.”

3rd Degree: A blonde suspects her boyfriend is cheating on her, so she goes out and buys a gun. She goes to his apartment unexpectedly and when she opens the door she finds him in the arms of a redhead.

Well, the blonde is really angry. She opens her purse and takes out the gun and as she does so, she is overcome with grief. She takes the gun and puts it to her head. The boyfriend yells, “No, Honey, don’t do it!”

The blonde replies, “Shut up, you’re next.”

4th Degree: A friend says, “Okay, what’s the capital of Wisconsin?”

The blonde replies, “Oh, that’s easy. It’s W.”

5th Degree: What did the blonde ask her doctor when he told her she was pregnant?

“Is it mine?”

6th Degree: Bambi, a blonde in her fourth year as a UCLA freshman, sat in her U.S. government class. The professor asked Bambi if she knew what Roe vs. Wade was about.

Bambi pondered the question, then finally said, “That was the decision George Washington had to make before he crossed the Delaware.”

7th Degree: Returning home from work, a blonde was shocked to find her home ransacked and burglarized. She phoned the police at once and reported the crime. The police dispatcher broadcast the call on the radio and a K-9 unit patrolling nearby was the first to respond.

As the K-9 officer approached the house with his dog on a leash, the blonde ran out on the porch, shuddered at the sight of the cop and his dog, then sat down on the steps.

Putting her face in her hands, she moaned, “I come home, find all my possessions stolen. I call the police for help and what do they do? They send me a blind policeman with a seeing-eye dog.”

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

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