The humble work truck or van may not seem as glamorous as a sports coupe or luxury sedan but as utility vehicles, they have served Japanese Americans in Los Angeles for over 100 years. Established by Fred J. Fujioka in the mid-1910s, the Japanese Auto Club of Southern California had over 850 members of Japanese descent listed in their member guide. Many members had registered their trucks, presumably used for delivering goods throughout the Southland.
Farmers, gardeners, shop owners, and other working class Nikkei couldn’t ply their trades without access to work vehicles. As prosaic as they looked, the ways in which owners adapted them to their needs made them as unique as any custom car. This was especially true for gardeners, once the economic lifeblood of the Southern California’s Japanese American community, for whom the pickup truck became an iconic sight for several generations.
As part of our forthcoming exhibition on Nikkei car culture in Southern California, we are looking for images of local Japanese Americans with their work trucks, vans, and cars. Many people may have posed in front of their family cars but we know there are also photos of people with their utility vehicles too. We want to make sure these—and the people behind them—are properly represented in our exhibition.
Right now, we prefer to look at digital scans (if possible). Please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org by July 31, 2023.
Photo: Buntaro Tabuchi from Amache with his gardening tools and truck, loading up for the day’s work in Los Angeles, June 25, 1945, Online Archive of California. Photo by Charles E. Mace.
One thought to “Got a Work Truck Story? We Want to Hear It!”
this is such a cool event. I hope you get many images of work trucks from this era. I do have a funny work truck story to share though. I was an arborist working in Canada and we had an old van for doing tree service Victoria BC but all our tools couldn’t fit in it. We mainly used this van for smaller jobs like hedge trimming. But when it came to big jobs like tree removal we got an old truck from the 1980s that rumbled like an avalanche. It got the job done though, and made me fall in love with older work trucks. They’re history in replacing horses over the 19th and 20th centuries is truly fascinating.