California Bookstore Day & Dad

Tomorrow, May 3, 2014, is California Bookstore Day, a state-wide celebration of independent bookstores. Okay, we are not a brick & mortar, but we are an independent.

Coincidentally and poignantly, tomorrow also marks twenty years since the passing of my dear father. Born in Lomita, California, in 1925, Dad was of the Nisei generation. His gentle character and solid work ethic were undoubtedly learned from his Issei parents who, along with their six children, did wonders to produce prized strawberries in southern California before WWII. With Roosevelt's Executive Order 9066, the family spent a few months living in a horse stall at the Santa Anita Race Track "assembly center" before moving inland to Mud Lake, Idaho, to pick sugar beets. After graduating high school there, he volunteered for the U.S. Army and trained at Camp Shelby in Mississippi. He was sent to Europe on the Queen Mary after the war ended. It is said he wrote home about witnessing the release of Nazi concentration camp survivors. After his discharge, his family returned to California and settled in the San Fernando Valley. He married and supported his family as a gardener, learning the trade from his brother-in-law. His knack for tending and beautifying the yards under his care did not go unnoticed by neighbors and friends of many of his long-time customers. As I recall, it was not unusual for Dad to receive phone inquiries -- maybe 2-3 times per week -- from individuals hoping he would be able to take on the care of their yard on his gardening route. Since he chose to work alone rather than risk compromising control and quality, he always had to decline. Dad was a gardener through and through. His love of landscaping and plants was reflected not only in his own yard, but of yards of family members and relatives. He generously shared his expertise and time. One Saturday morning, as we walked from the parking lot to the entrance of our local Carrow's Restaurant to eat breakfast, I recall being alarmed as I caught him pulling a few weeds in the brick-lined landscaped area of the restaurant. He couldn't help himself! No, he wasn't "just" a gardener; he was an honest to goodness gardener through and through, even without his pith helmet on. A few months after Dad passed away, a good neighbor whose yard Dad had taken care of, had by then hired a new gardener. It was reported that their daughter said, "Our yard just doesn't look the same." And her mother responded, "No, dear -- and it never will."

This month, maybe not so coincidentally, Heritage Source is observing twenty years of being in business. Yes, I must admit, starting Heritage Source was a very conscious effort to try to hang on to and preserve not just a part of Dad, but a part of the Issei and Nisei generations, and all of their "awesomeness." I hope future generations can catch a glimpse.

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Dad and Marisa at San Fernando Obon (1993)