Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: John Kanda Interview
Narrator: John Kanda
Interviewer: Ronald Magden
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: May 12, 2000
Densho ID: denshovh-kjohn-01-0011

<Begin Segment 11>

RM: You became involved with the JACL, Puyallup Valley JACL about, maybe when you got, moved to Sumner.

JK: You know, I, in St. Louis, there's no social life for us Japanese Americans in the sense of other town. But the JACL always had its meeting, and sometime get-together, and so I used to go to those. And I met my wife-to-be there, but not, we didn't get married for a number of years until I got back to the West Coast, and I was finishing my residency program. But that was, so we got to know, I got introduced to JACL at that time mainly. And so I came back to Sumner, and this is a crazy story, but one of the insurance -- Tom Takamura -- [laughs] -- is a well-known Puyallup person -- invited me to come visit the JACL, come to the JACL meeting. And so he had told me the time and place and all that, and he told me he'll meet me there. So I went to this meeting, and the first preview that, Puyallup Valley JACL Chapter that I went to, I ended up being the only guy there. And the program from Seattle, which was a Japan Airlines -- I still remember the man's name. He had two stewardess with him, he had a motion, I mean a movie on Japan travel. And they come in and they're looking for... and I know nothing about JACL, their facilities there at the Buddhist church. And so, but I heard some noises upstairs, I went up, and this is a Issei group of women that were socializing, their club. So I invited them down, said, "This is gonna be a movie on the Japanese travel." And I got to, into JACL that way.

And then about a year or so later -- and this was not very far after that -- I went, I started going to the meeting, and after Grace and I got married, we started going to the meeting. And one meeting there is gonna be a election meeting, okay? And somebody put my name in, you know. I almost knew nobody out there because I was not a Tacoma Buddhist Church or, I'm a Methodist, we belong to the Sumner Methodist Church and whatnot. And so, so the election is going on and it was a ballot election, it was a mail ballot election. If you hadn't voted, somebody comes in the door, says, "Have you voted yet?" And you say, "No," they give 'em a ballot and say, "Vote," type of thing. And, and one day this, toward the end, it was, turned out to be a tie, see. And, and I had no idea why they were voting for me, other than having taken care of that first program. [Laughs] But so, the other fellow that's well-known person, we were tied, I was tied with him. And then a fellow walks in that I never knew. I got to know him better later on, but I didn't know who he was or anything, and soon as he came in, they asked him if he had voted, and he said, "No." So, so my so-called opponent gets up and takes him outside in the hallway, and pretty soon he comes in and it's my name. [Laughs] That's how I got involved in JACL. And I went to a number of their national conventions. Thirteen in a row before -- that's twenty-six years before I stopped going to them. I, we're going to the San Jose this year, because my brother-in-law lives down there. And I got very much involved at district-wise and also nationally, I was national vice-president at one time.

RM: This is the era of the repeal of the alien land law, when you were president.

JK: Yes, uh-huh.

RM: That must have been an ordeal.

JK: Yeah that was a big load. You know, they may say, "What are you doing that for?" They could buy land now, type of thing. I mean, well, not easily. Now they could buy land. They had to become American citizen. But they could become American citizen now.

RM: Yeah, since the McCarran Act.

JK: Yeah. So, you had to have your first papers is what it amounted to. But, it was a stigma that I think needed to be wiped out of the state constitution. And so I co-chaired the local group that really worked hard. I mean, we worked hard and raised money hard and gave a lot of talks, and even went door knocking with my daughter -- older daughter, trailing along with me in Buckley -- because three years in a row, three elections in a row, I think they were by two years, it was knocked down badly by the people in Buckley. Well, maybe in the Tacoma area, you know, it might have passed barely, type of thing. And so I worked very hard on that...

RM: It was Tom Takemura's life goal, wasn't it?

JK: Yeah, Tom, Tom, Tom and I were co-chair, and we were, both worked hard.

RM: He was a very fine man.

JK: Yeah.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2000 Densho. All Rights Reserved.