Wisteria restaurant


The restaurant I’m writing about this week was in Jonesboro, but I know many Fayette Countians will remember it. They will also remember those Japanese-Americans who were interred during World War II in fenced in camps around the western half of the United States.

Executive order 9066 launched the exile of about 120,000 Japanese-Americans in 1942. Oddly enough, those Japanese-Americans with sons old enough to join the United States Army were free to do so, but mom and dad and little sister had to be behind barbed wire fences.

One Japanese-American at that time, Mr. Yoshinuma, owned several restaurants in Atlanta. He held degrees from Oglethorpe here in Georgia and the University of Tokyo. He had married one of his employees, Grace, who was not Japanese, and when he was interred she went with him.

They were interred in a dry, dusty camp in the west, perhaps Arizona. From inside the camp they could see mountains and greenery on the other side of the fence. Grace enjoyed painting and took lessons from one of the Japanese also interred in the camp who happened to teach the subject. She created two 4 x 8 paintings of this mountain scene, which you may recall hung in The Wisteria. A nephew of Grace here in the county is honored to have one of them.

As had happened to so many Japanese-American business owners, their businesses had been placed in the trusteeship of attorneys and other business owners, many of whom ended up selling the business. When Mr. Yoshinuma returned to Atlanta, he had to start from scratch. He opened The Wisteria in Jonesboro and my husband and son enjoyed eating there.

My son was about two years old at the time and sat in a high chair. Remember back then when you ordered cream for your coffee, it came in a miniature glass bottle hardly two inches high.

Mr. Yoshinuma would come by, place one of these on the high chair and scoot off. David would delightfully slurp it down, only to have it replaced in a few minutes with another one by the restaurant owner.

I read an article recently relating the memories of two sisters who were small children when interred and, of course, are the only ones still living from that experience.

One of them related that she sees the same distrust of some foreigners that her family experienced so many decades ago. She felt it troubling to her to hear politicians whipping up that fear by demonizing certain minorities in the United States today.

I have no idea now what is in that building where this delightful restaurant stood but a lot of fond memories are tucked up in my head.