Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Robert Mizukami Interview
Narrator: Robert Mizukami
Interviewer: Ronald Magden
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: April 11, 2000
Densho ID: denshovh-mrobert-01-0015

<Begin Segment 15>

REM: And you get involved in the restarting of the Puyallup Valley Japanese American Citizens League. Could you explain how this starts again?

RTM: Well, it's, I can't remember what year that was -- 1947 probably or somewhere in that area. 1947, '48. Anyway, we reactivated the Puyallup Valley Chapter of JACL. As I mentioned earlier, there was a Tacoma chapter and a Valley chapter, and so there was not enough people that came back to Tacoma to form a JACL chapter, so we decided that we'd combine the two and call it the Puyallup Valley Chapter. And so members of that lived in Tacoma also joined that group. And Kaz Yamane, who was one of the leading Niseis of that time, was the president, I think, that year. And so we reactivated Puyallup Valley Chapter.

REM: Of the 177 families who were in the Puyallup Valley at the time of internment, what would you guess how many of those families came back, like the Mizukami, after the war? How many were there approximately? You think two dozen or three dozen?

RTM: Probably in that neighborhood, yeah. I don't recall what number would be.

REM: Out of the 177, maybe three dozen came back?

RTM: Uh-huh.

REM: Were they all on that 20th Street East?

RTM: Pretty much, yeah. 'Cause if you go further towards the hill, the Yoshiokas, the Fujitas, and Sugiokas and so on are all in that area there. So 20th Street was kind of the main thoroughfare for a number of years.

REM: It goes back to the very beginning of Japanese Americans, that street, in 1897.

RTM: Well, I couldn't tell you...

REM: Yeah. But I, the reason I... yeah.

RTM: was before my time. [Laughs]

REM: But going back into that -- JACL, is there a difference between what it was before the war, a social organization, and after the war, with the, the -- were the goals different, prewar and postwar, in the Puyallup Valley?

RTM: I think so. The emphasis of the, purpose of JACL was probably changed after the war because of the experience of the war. So it became more of a civil rights group than we were before. I think, like I said previous, prior to the war, it was more of a social group that did all these other activities. So since the war, I mean, its purpose has changed a little.

REM: You also joined the Nisei war veterans, didn't you?

RTM: Yeah. I was a member of the Nisei Vets here in Seattle.

REM: And they were also deeply involved in civil rights, weren't they? They, the work they did in Olympia on equal employment. In this early period, in the late '40s, there was a concentrated effort to, to obtain rights by Japanese Americans.

RTM: Well, I think, like I said earlier, that the experience of the war changed a lot of attitudes about what our purpose might be. So, 'course, civil rights being what it is, that was one of the main purposes, I think.

REM: And you were successful. Can you tell us, for example, equal rights to employment, equal housing, these come along. Do you know why you were successful in the postwar period where you were unsuccessful in the prewar period?

RTM: Well, I think after the war, we had more professional people in our communities than we did before. A lot of this civil rights movements were done through the Sansei lawyers and so on. And at the time the war broke out, there were very few professional people in our community.

REM: Ah. That's a good point.

RTM: So Sanseis can't understand why we didn't do certain things before the war. Well, it just wasn't there at that time.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2000 Densho. All Rights Reserved.