By Clifford Hayashi—It seems like everyone knew Raymond Muramoto, or knew someone who knew Raymond Muramoto, or at least knew someone who knew someone who knew Raymond Muramoto. Everyone included scientists, entertainers, financiers, professional athletes and at least six presidents, four of which knew Nelson Rockefeller who knew Jeanette Edris who knew Raymond Muramoto.
On February 11, 1900, in Kanazawa, the capital of Ishikawa Ken, Kichitaro Muramoto and Hatsu Muramoto (nee Hayashi) named their newborn son, Tokutaro.
Tokutaro completed grammar school and high school in Kanazawa before attending business school. Influenced by letters from his older brother who voyaged to America to study, Tokutaro decided that it was time to make his fortune in America.
On February 20, 1920, nine days after his 20th birthday, Tokutaro was engaged as a fireman (the type that stokes a fire by shoveling coal) aboard the Eastern Planet. The Eastern Planet departed from Kobe and docked in Seattle on March 12, 1920.
Once in America, Tokutaro consented to any job anywhere. He toiled in canneries, sawmills and mines as far away as Alaska. In between seasonal work, Tokutaro continually improved his grasp of the English language, starting in September 1920 at a private school taught by Miss Knowlton in Seattle. In 1923, he enrolled at Broadway High School, Seattle’s first building constructed specifically as a high school.
By the time he ventured East, Tokutaro acquired his English name, Raymond, which is derived from Germanic words meaning “protection” and “counsel”. You will discover that he possesses the perfect name for a man who will play the confidant of a crime fighter. Somewhere along the line, Raymond also acquired driving skills, probably while working as a mechanic.
DETROIT: THOMAS EDISON et al
In 1929, Raymond Muramoto began chauffeuring John Vincent Miller (1873-1940). John’s sister, Mina Miller (1865-1947), was the second wife of Thomas Alva Edison (February 11, 1847-October 18, 1931). [Raymond and Thomas celebrated their birthdays on the same day.]
Another of John’s sisters, Jane Eliza Miller (1855-1898), was the wife of Richard Pratt Marvin, Jr. (1848-1906) whose sister, Mary Elizabeth Marvin (1841-deceased), married Benjamin Franklin Goodrich (1841-1888). Yes, John was also related to the B.F. Goodrich of tire fame. Thus, B.F. knew John Vincent who knew Raymond.
Since John was Edison’s personal business secretary, he tasked Raymond to drive the renowned inventor during the celebration for the 50th anniversary of Edison’s invention of electric light. On Monday, Oct. 21, 1929, Henry Ford hosted Edison in a celebration known as Light’s Golden Jubilee in Dearborn, Michigan. In attendance were President Herbert Hoover, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., J.P. Morgan, Marie Curie, Orville Wright, Will Rogers and George Eastman.
Three days later, Black Thursday signaled the onset of the Great Depression. Perhaps, due to Edison’s letter of recommendation, Raymond was still able to maintain an elite clientele. From 1929 to 1932, he chauffeured Prewitt Semmes (1895-1981), attorney for General Motors, for a salary of $30 per week.
From his “Individual Record” from Tule Lake dated August 5, 1943, Raymond wrote that from 1932 to 1935, he worked as the catering manager for the Parkstone Hotel restaurant located at 1415 Parker Street in Detroit for $50 a week.
Raymond’s daughter, Florence Reiko Terami, states her father had told her that members of the Detroit Tigers frequented his restaurant. Led by the G-Men (future Hall-of-Famers Charlie Gehringer, Goose Goslin and Hank Greenberg), the 1934 Tigers lost to the St. Louis Cardinals’ Gashouse Gang in the seventh game of the World Series. The following year, Detroit won its first World Series championship by besting the Chicago Cubs in six games.
DETROIT: STATION WXYZ
Another customer was James Jewell (1906-1975), the dramatic director for Station WXYZ located in the Maccabees Building at 5057 Woodward Avenue. He asked Raymond to audition for a part in a new radio drama. Raymond obliged and was selected by George W. Trendle (1884-1972), WXYZ’s station manager and co-owner. Raymond was paid $60 per week. Perhaps the fact that Raymond was a real-life chauffeur helped him land the role.
On January 31, 1936, WXYZ began broadcasting “The Adventures of the Hornet.” A newspaper advertisement for the third episode states, ‘Tonight! A $5,000,000 Dollar Raid for Gold Thwarted by “The Hornet.”’ The advertisement describes Kato of Japan as “A native Japanese who plays the part of a butler and confidant of the hero. Kato’s real name is Tokutaro Hayashi.” Obviously, the writers consulted Raymond; they used his given Japanese name and mother’s maiden name for Kato’s “real name.” Since Kato is Japanese, the first syllable should be pronounced “kaw.”
On the fourth episode, the program was re-titled “The Green Hornet.” Yes, Raymond Muramoto was the first person to play Kato in “The Green Hornet” before recording artist Jay Chou (born:1979) in the 2011 film, before martial artist Bruce Lee (1940-1973) in the 1966-7 TV series, and even before Keye Luke (1904-1991), relative of Seattle’s Wing Luke, in the 1940 Universal serial. Raymond Muramoto, who stood only one or two inches taller than 5 feet and weighed in at 100 plus or minus five pounds, would not have made a formidable presence on the screen.
After being replaced on “The Green Hornet,” Raymond began creating sound effects on WXYZ’s “The Lone Ranger” which began in 1933. Although it is uncertain whether Fran Striker or George W. Trendle created “The Lone Ranger,” both are credited with creating “The Green Hornet.”
Fran Striker also handled the scripts for both shows along with James Jewell, so it is no surprise that similarities between the two masked characters abound. In comic-book lore, the Green Hornet’s alter ego, Britt Reid, is the great nephew of John Reid, the Lone Ranger’s true identity. The Lone Ranger also has a minority sidekick; he is a Native American named Tonto. The Lone Ranger rides a horse named Silver while the Green Hornet rides the Black Beauty. However, unlike Anna Sewell’s stallion, the Green Hornet’s Black Beauty is a car. The Lone Ranger’s gun fired a silver bullet whereas the Green Hornet gun’s special ammo is a gas pellet.
SEATTLE: EDRIS, SKINNER AND ROCKEFELLER FAMILY CONNECTION
In 1941, Raymond Muramoto returned to Seattle and became the butler for attorney William Edris (1893-1969) at a salary of $125 per month. Perhaps the fact that Raymond played a butler helped him land the position.
William’s wife was Frances Louise Skinner (1894-1922) whose father was David Edward “Ned” Skinner (1867-1933). In January 1916, David Edward Skinner and John W. Eddy founded the Skinner & Eddy Corporation to build ships. As “luck” would have it, the U.S. declared war on Germany on April 6, 1917, providing the young shipyard with the opportunity to build numerous cargo ships for the war effort. Needless to say, the duo became two of the wealthiest men in Seattle.
In July 1917, William Edris announced his engagement to Frances Skinner. On July 13, 1918, William and Frances Edris had a daughter named Jeanette Edris (1918-1997). In 1922, Frances Edris passed away 24 hours after giving birth to another daughter.
Jeanette Edris would marry four times. Her first husband would be Nathan Robert Barragar (1907-1985). In 1928, Nathan was a member of USC’s national championship football team. In 1929, he was selected as an All-American center. He went on to become an All-Pro for the Green Bay Packers during the 1931, 1932, 1934 and 1935 seasons. On November 29, 1935, at the age of 17, Jeanette Edris married Nathan Barragar and left him less than three months later.
On January 15, 1944, Nathan Barragar enlisted in the U.S. Army and rose to the rank of sergeant. In 1949, he was assistant director for “Sands of Iwo Jima” starring John Wayne (who left the USC football team one year before Nathan arrived). Like Raymond Muramoto, Nathan worked with comic-book heroes and cowboys, but for a new media called television. In 1952 and 1953, Nathan was assistant director for 15 episodes of the “Adventures of Superman”. From 1951 to 1965, he was the assistant director for multiple episodes of “Bonanza,” “The Gene Autry Show,” “Gunsmoke,” “Have Gun-Will Travel,” “The Rifleman,” “The Roy Rogers Show,” and “Wanted: Dead or Alive.”
Jeanette Edris’ second husband was Ed(i?)son Bruce Bartley (1907-1970). They had a son, Bruce, and a daughter, Anne. Ed Bruce was instrumental in reuniting his father-in-law with Raymond Muramoto after World War II.
Jeanette Edris’ third husband was Donald N. McDonnell or McDonald. They divorced in 1951.
Jeanette Edris’ last husband, Winthrop Rockefeller (1912-1973), is undoubtedly her most famous. They married on June 11, 1956 and divorced in 1971. Winthrop was one of 6 children (5 sons) of John Davison Rockefeller, Jr. (1874-1960), the only son of John Davison Rockefeller (1839-1937), the richest man in the world through his ownership of Standard Oil Company. Raymond Muramoto’s daughter remembers when William Edris’ daughter married a Rockefeller.
On January 22, 1941, Winthrop enlisted in the U.S. Army and rose to the rank of colonel. He was awarded the Bronze Star for his action aboard the USS Henrico following a kamikaze attack during the invasion of Okinawa. Winthrop became governor of Arkansas (January 10, 1967-January 12, 1971) while his brother, Nelson Rockefeller, was concurrently the governor of New York (January 1, 1959 to December 18, 1973). Nelson had served under the Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower administrations and would become vice-president under Gerald Ford.
Winthrop and Jeanette divorced in the same year that Winthrop left office. They conceived no children together. When Jeanette passed away in 1997, President Clinton praised her for taking the “New South” to Arkansas and leading women into the mainstream of political and public life.
Jeanette’s cousin, David E. “Ned” Skinner II (1920-1988) was also a grandchild of the original “Ned” Skinner. During World War II, Ned No. II served in the Pacific as a naval officer aboard a destroyer. He was an investor of the Space Needle that became the symbol of the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair for which he raised $5 million. Ned became one of the original owners of the Seattle Seahawks.
Since Raymond lived at 1522 Yesler Way with his wife, Tsuruko (nee Kuranishi) (1914-2009), and his daughter, Reiko, the Muramoto family fell under the purview of Civilian Exclusion Order No. 57. On Monday, May 11, 1942, Raymond registered his family (No. 16612) with Emily E. Curry. At 11 A.M. on Wednesday, he returned with his family for their medical “inspection.”
At 7:30 A.M. on the morning of Friday, May 15, 1942, they traveled four and a half blocks to 17th & Alder where they boarded Bus No. 3 to the Puyallup Assembly Center nicknamed Camp Harmony. They resided in Area D, Section 5, Apartment 111.
The Muramotos stayed at Puyallup until 3:30 P.M. on Monday, May 26, 1942 when Transfer Order No. 1 initiated the first “Transfer of Japanese Evacuees from Wartime Civil Control Administration Assembly Centers to War Relocation Authority Relocation Centers”. A day later, the three-member family arrived at Tule Lake and set up residence in Block 6, Barrack 18, Apartment B.
Raymond’s first job at Tule Lake was as a Community Activities (CA) recreation leader from May 28, 1942 until August 18, 1942 for $16 per month. Yes, you read that right, a whopping $16 per month and his wage beat the minimum camp pay of $12 per month! His new pay was eight times less than what William Edris was paying him.
Raymond along with Harry Mayeda headed the program committee for Tule Lake’s first Fourth of July celebration in 1942. Yes, Independence Day was celebrated at Tule Lake!
The program included comedy skits by Roy Nikaido’s troupe, accordion duet of Iwaso and Furuta, violin solo by William Osuga, the Royal Hawaiian string ensemble and top-notch Japanese dancers Sachiko Hori (stage name of Bando Misa), Haruna Abe, Mitsuko Suyekawa and Lillian Fukunaga.
No wonder when the Issei recreation staff was reorganized to “better serve the elder residents of the colony” per The Tulean Dispatch issue of Wednesday, July 15, 1942, Ray Muramoto was put in charge of entertainment.
His first production, a two-night (7:30 P.M. to 10 P.M.) Bon Odori festival, commenced three days later. He urged the fun-loving populace, young and old, to participate in this massive traditional event.
On September 8, 1942, Raymond decided to try being a headwaiter, another job that he was familiar with. He quickly became dissatisfied and transferred to the construction division on October 7, 1942. He progressed from junior clerk to foreman to earn the top pay of $19 per month.
Raymond eventually returned to CA on October 11, 1944. By popular demand, the new Radio Drama Division was soon created under Ray’s directorship. He instructed classes in radio drama and sound effects.
Ray continued to produce entertainment programs. Prior to an event on Friday, March 2, 1945, Ray resigned as Engei Kyokai’s head, a position that he held since May 1944. He wanted to consolidate his efforts with CA Productions.
Ray was the emcee of the March 2nd 7 P.M. production and the repeat performance the following night. The headliner was the Yamato Engei Kenkyudan enacting “Kudan no Haha.” Another featured attraction was the Tule Lake Orchestra conducted by Akira Umemoto. For the first time, the orchestra incorporated the shakuhachi (Japanese flute) and koto (Japanese stringed instrument). Other numbers included Japanese and English vocal solos, Japanese dances, a mandolin band, an acrobatic act, a septet, a toe dance, a tap dance and baton twirling.
The person to Ray’s right is holding a shakuhachi. The person to his left is conductor Akira Umemoto. On the bass fiddle is George Goto who would become the first minority athlete to play on a Stanford varsity team, but that’s a future story. [Author’s request: Please inform me if you can identify anybody in the photo as I am trying to identify everyone in all pictures from Tule Lake.]
At 4:10 P.M. on Monday, October 1, 1945, Raymond and Tsuruko Muramoto boarded an O.C.&N. Stages bus to Klamath Falls. From Klamath Falls, they took a Southern Pacific train to Portland and then a Union Pacific train to Seattle. On Monday, December 3, 1945, Reiko departed Tule Lake with her grandparents, Masaichi and Tsuruno Kuranishi.
With Bruce Bartley’s aid, Raymond was rehired by William Edris to work in his penthouse at the Roosevelt Hotel at Seventh and Pine. Besides the Roosevelt Hotel, Edris owned the Olympic Hotel in Seattle and the Davenport Hotel in Spokane. His Pioneer Security Company operated the Liberty and Venetian Theatres in Seattle and the Roxy Theatre in Tacoma. William Edris also co-founded Longacres Racetrack (1933-1992) with Joe Gottstein.
Raymond left Edris’ employ and parlayed his chauffer experience into a truck-driving career. He joined the union and began driving for Western Drug Supply at 601 Mercer Street. On Columbus Day 1955, Raymond Muramoto became a naturalized citizen. His Western Drug co-workers threw him a party. It was one of the happiest occasions in his life. Raymond eventually retired from Western Drug.
When Raymond became a septuagenarian, he decided it was time to philosophize about life. Under the penname of Hemlock (pronounced “hemroku”), Raymond wrote for the Hokubei Hochi (North American Post) in Seattle.
Raymond passed away on Tuesday, July 26, 1988.
All photos courtest of Raymond Muramoto’s daughter.