Home Community Age 15, Business Consultant

Age 15, Business Consultant

By Shokichi Tokita, For The North American Post

As I mentioned before, my father died when I was 14, leaving my mother, Haruko Ann Tokita, age 41, a widow with eight children, ages two to 14. I was the 14-year-old and soon assumed the role as top male in the family. We had moved from the Japanese Language School the year before to the New Lucky Hotel, in the heart of Chinatown; this was where my father and mother determined that a hotel business would bring in additional income to supplement my father’s income from working as a sign painter at St. Vincent De Paul. 

When we moved to the New Lucky Hotel, one of the projects I inherited was to clean the halls, bathrooms, lobby, and numerous other janitorial services that my mother was unable to perform. Of course, you can imagine a 13-year-old’s consternation at being blessed with all these unheralded responsibilities. Moreover, after Papa died, Mom started consulting with me about various business matters. In most cases, I responded without much thought, as I suppose most 13- or 14-year-olds would, and I never paid much attention to whether Mom took my advice or not.

One day about a year after Papa died, Mom told me that she had a chance to purchase another hotel about a block away. It was located where the present Uwajimaya parking lot attendant’s hutch is located, with the front facing Sixth Avenue, between Dearborn and Lane Streets. It was a 50-unit small hotel, almost empty, and could be purchased along with the corner lot at Sixth and Lane. 

When I heard about it, I went into a mad, emotional frenzy, expressing my objections with a loud, “NO, NO, NO, NO… NOT ANOTHER HOTEL LIKE THIS ONE!!” 

As you might have guessed, I envisioned another hotel requiring janitorial services by me; so I wanted her to know that I did not, in the least bit, agree with what she was contemplating. 

About a month later, having forgotten the question about the purchase of the second hotel, Mom quietly informed me that she had purchased it. You might have guessed my reaction: utter and complete disbelief!! She had not listened to my recommendation at all!

Well… Mom eventually went on to purchase a third 14-unit hotel at the foot of Yesler Way, and later on, an apartment located at 22nd Avenue and Main St. So, that’s how Mom raised eight kids without welfare, on her own, and, without regard to number one son’s business consulting advice.

By the way, as a matter of passing interest, she purchased that second hotel for $13,000 which provided additional income for her for a number of years. She eventually sold it to GMC for over $75,000!

Editor’s notes. The New Lucky Hotel was at the southwest corner of Weller and Maynard, at the present location of Luke’s Pharmacy. Shokichi’s father was the fine-arts painter Kamekichi Tokita.