Densho Digital Archive
Friends of Manzanar Collection
Title: Akira Kageyama Interview
Narrator: Akira Kageyama
Interviewer: Martha Nakagawa
Location: Lomita, California
Date: May 5, 2012
Densho ID: denshovh-kakira-01-0013

MN: Let me ask you, then, what was your responsibility on the guayule project?

AK: How to start it, germinate it, and grow it big, long enough so they could transplant it. And somebody else took charge of that, transplanting it out there, but my job was to start it. At first nobody could, they had a hard time germinating the seed. They tried and tried, and it won't sprout. Then, I don't know if Dr. Emerson told me or I read someplace, where you could soak it in Purex, so I just got the cheesecloth and put a bunch of seeds in there and soak it in for about four or five hours. Then when it was dry enough I'd plant it, and they all came up. So that's the only thing... something that you just can't start that thing any time. And I've heard later on that you have to, after you harvest the seed you have to wait about a month or so before you could plant it, 'cause it won't germinate. I didn't know that. Soon as I got the seed I started, and nothing happened.

MN: So you had this success rate with the seeds. How about like the cuttings?

AK: Yeah, cuttings was easy, but there wasn't enough plants to make a lot of cuttings.

MN: Now, once you planted it though, weren't you having problems with, like, the animals eating?

AK: Yeah, rabbits. We had, real close to the camp, and we complained, so our project head got a greyhound dog to chase the rabbits away. So then the rabbits just got, never came around anymore. That was a good thing. Otherwise, every time we planted the seed, it's a little stub, all the leaves are all gone, all eaten up.


MN: So if you found a plant that gave out a lot of rubber, what did you do with that plant?

AK: How we, how we what, watched the rubber, or just how, you mean how we produced the rubber out of it? We just grow so high and dig it up and cut the small leaf off -- there's no rubber in the small leaf -- there'd be rubber in the, size of a pencil, but it's, anything smaller than that, there's no rubber. So we just cut all the small ones off and then dried it, and then we ground it up, and that's how we used to get it. We had some pretty smart nurserymen there, and they knew what to do. I didn't know what to do. I just, all I knew is grow them. Then we were able to produce a lot of good rubber. We had tests, and the rubber produced, we, in Manzanar, was a lot better than the rubber, tree rubber.

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