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Shinmoto Family - Part 3

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The Shinmoto family was back together again in the Los Angeles area by late 1946. Father and son, Tony, had set up a gardening route and we were put to work right away. No further schooling was possible when the family decided to purchase a three-bedroom Spanish-style house in Culver City for $25,000, with nearly 2 acres of land to raise nursery plants in the backyard, much like others did in the prewar Seinan homes.

Early in 1948, our family purchased 2½ commercial lots on Sepulveda Boulevard in Culver City, then a main state thoroughfare. Mr. Hal Thompson sold us the property across from celery farm fields over the discriminatory objection of the real estate owner. Airplanes flew overhead, landing in the Culver City Airport and the Howard Hughes Airstrip. And thus, Southern California Nursery was established.

Culver City Freeway Garden dedicated on November 14, 1989 in memory of Kiyoto “Herky” Shinmoto and installed by Southern California Nursery

Southern California Nursery started off slowly, especially with a rare winter frost during the first year, losing half of the nursery stock. However, the enthusiasm early on carried us through tough times, even wrangling over who would wait on the next customer. The plan and construction of the first store building, a 15’ x 30’ structure, was built by the Shinmoto brothers on the weekends and after gardening work. Working seven days a week for years was the norm in the Shinmoto family.

Our whole family pitched in to keep the business afloat. In the early 1950s, Sepulveda Boulevard was torn up and rebuilt over the course of two months. Neighboring businesses had predicted the inevitable demise of the Southern California Nursery. We remembered when Senshin’s Kuwahara Sensei sensed our family’s difficulties and called us (my brothers and I) to his home on Halldale Avenue. His memorable advice to us was to work together, “… like tying three arrows together instead of one, making it that much stronger!” This lesson held true for over forty years.

Eventually Tony, Herky, Mitsy and I started our own families. In order to have family get-togethers, we decided to close the nursery every Tuesday. By this time, the retail nursery business could not support income needed for five families. It expanded from gardening and nursery sales to landscaping with the help of hakujin (White) customers and building contractors.

Our first landscaping customer came from nearby Ladera Heights, an area considered, in those days, as the top-rated custom built residential homes in Southern California. However, our big break came when Armet and Davis, architects who built Wichstand Drive-In Restaurant in Windsor Hills and Pann’s Restaurant in Westchester, sought out the services of Southern California Nursery. It led to landscape requests as far south as Orange County. Many others were turned away due to the distance and lack of time. After all, this was Los Angeles before the freeways were built.

Another prestigious developer, Utah Construction Company, came into the picture with the El Segundo Industrial Tract. The General Manager, Mr. John Murphy, was transferred to Irvine Industrial Tract, and encouraged us to participate, but the potential of developing Orange County was too great to handle!

These projects led to the ten acre landscaping project for Capitol Records’ new headquarters in Newbury Park, Johnston Pumps in Azusa, and two 300-unit apartments in Woodland Hills and Tarzana.

Southern California Nursery, Inc. closed after 51 years on March 1, 1999. During those memorable years, some of the notable customers we encountered or served were, but not limited to: Julie Andrews, Mayor Tom Bradley and his wife Ethel, Beau and Lloyd Bridges, Franco Columbo, Ted Danson, Marv Fleming (5 time Super Bowl winner), Glenn Ford, Ben Gage, Christopher George, Hank Greenberg, Mickey Hagitay, Tom Harmon, Chick and Marge Hearn, Tab Hunter, Robert Ito, Fernando Lamas, Michele Lee, Karl Malden, Jayne Mansfield, Jane Meadows, Ken Norton, Norm Nixon, Margaret O’Brien, Frank and Barbara Robinson, Byron Scott, Mark Spitz, Anna and Lee Strasberg, Woody Strode, Ralph Story, Donna Summer, Robert Taylor, Daniel Travanti, Carl Weathers, Gene Wilder, Esther Williams, Maury Wills, and James and Angela Worthy.

Culver City Freeway Memorial Garden Dedication November 14, 1989. L to R – Min Shinmoto, Mitsy Matsuo, Dorothy Shinmoto, Betty and Tony Shinmoto, their grandson, Bryan Tsuneo Uyemura, Mayor Joselle Smith, Yoko and Kathy Shinmoto. Rear/Standing: Culver City and County of Los Angeles Officials

Tony (1923 – 1992) and Betty Chiyoko Seto were married at Senshin Buddhist Church on November 22, 1951. Daughter, Julie Akemi is married to Cary Uyemura. Both are Doctors of Pharmacy and currently work as administrators, living in Thousand Oaks. Their grandson, Bryan Tsuneo, received his undergraduate degree at UCLA and graduated with his J.D. degree from Loyola Law School.

Daughter, Lynn Asayo is currently married to Don Devirian. They reside in Los Angeles and are both practicing corporate law attorneys. Sons from her first marriage to Mark McDonald, Christopher Isao and Ryan Toshiro McDonald are students.

Mark Sukio Shinmoto, son of Tony and Betty, is also a Doctor of Pharmacy and works as a Pharmacy Administrator for PacifiCare. Mark is married to Sharlene Bungo and they have three daughters; twins, Brittany Yoshiko and Samantha Chiyoko, and Danielle Michiko. They currently live in Rancho Santa Margarita, California.

Herky (1924–1981) and Yoko Higashi were married in Hiroshima, Japan. They have one daughter, Kathy Yayoi. Kathy, a registered nurse, is currently married to Craig Bohannan. They live in Fullerton with their two daughters, Cailee Kiyoko and Aimee Kiyomi Bohannan.

Setsuko Dorothy Kido and I were married in Los Angeles Hongwanji Temple on November 20, 1954. We currently live in Torrance, California. Daughter, Tracy Ann Tomiko is currently married to Michael Wilson and resides in Rancho Cordova
(Sacramento), California. Tracy retired after working at El Camino Community College and Mike has worked in the construction/home building industry since 1972. Tracy’s children from her first marriage to Len Schneider, are Jason Hiroshi and Kristina Kimiko (Kimi) Schneider. Jason and girlfriend, Belia Salas, have a daughter named Alexis Brianna Schneider, born in 2000. Kimi received her bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Pepperdine University in 2004 and currently works for an estate planning law firm in Torrance.

Our son, Steve Hitoshi Shinmoto and wife, Susannah Brin (formerly of Oregon), currently live in Cathedral City, (Palm Springs) California. Steve is a self-employed Landscape and General contractor and Susannah is an author.

Our youngest son, Craig Satoshi Shinmoto (born in 1963) sadly and suddenly passed away in 2000. He had assisted the Shinmoto family with the nursery business.

Mitsy married George Ichiro Matsuo (1924–1974). They had two sons, Glenn Masaru and Jim Noboru Matsuo. Jim Matsuo is a self-employed landscape designer of Shadow Hills, California. Mitsy retired after the nursery’s closing in 1999.

* This article presents an excerpt from the book Seinan: Southwest Los Angeles, Stories and Experiences from Residents of Japanese Ancestry (2011) published by JA Living Legacy.

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SEINAN PANEL
Sunday, October 30, 2011 • 2pm
Japanese American National Museum

Come hear how Southwest Los Angeles was a thriving Nisei community that was almost wiped out with the forced removal and events of World War II.

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Presented in collaboration with JA Living Legacy and the Japanese American National Museum.

© 2011 Japanese American Living Legacy

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