Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Ron Magden Interview
Narrator: Ron Magden
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: June 15, 2004
Densho ID: denshovh-mron-01-0026

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TI: So when you're at Tacoma Community College and you saw this group doing this project, and you would read the pages every once in a while, what, what did you think, or what did you tell the group in terms of what they had on their hands?

RM: Well, I remember particularly World War I. The Japanese farmers supplying vegetables and fruits to the fort, or at that time, Camp Lewis. And, and being there at 3 o'clock in the morning, this kind of thing. And their, the reaction to the Japanese volunteering to fight World War I. All of this unknown to me, and that they'd done that. In fact, Fukui is one of the volunteers. He goes to war in France. And so all of this comes as a big surprise. I'd read Tacoma history, but I'd never seen any mention of the Japanese Americans -- and to a large extent, here are the attitudes of the Japanese Americans towards the Caucasians, and those who were favorable and hostile, and how they understood and worked with them. And how Tacoma, or, for example, Pierce County had a prosecuting attorney who was open-minded, liberal. Refused to enforce the Asian -- or the alien land law, where in Pierce, in King County, the guy wants to make political capital out of it.

TI: So this was all captured in the...

RM: This is all captured in these documents, yes.

TI: So was the plan for this group to actually publish this work, or what were they thinking as they were translating all this, this work?

RM: Oh. In 19-, they were just translating it, and then in 1977 they had this giant reunion of all the people who had been in Tacoma before 1942. They came back, and when they got there, they were working on, these five people were translating at the time, and somebody got the idea and presented it that they have a book.

TI: Okay, let me back up a little bit. So these five hundred families in this big reunion, these were families, Japanese families that were in the Tacoma area before the war.

RM: That's right.

TI: When it was much larger...

RM: There were two thousand people, two thousand Japanese Americans in Tacoma and Pierce County at the war, as it began. There were approximately 150 that came back after the war. And in 1977, they decided to the, those who were still remaining in Tacoma, decided they would invite the people who didn't come back, to a reunion. And so the, it went out and over a thousand came back. It was a big reunion. And they voted at that reunion to have a book based upon the Fukui material. And Kosai asked me if I'd like to try my hand at it. I had finished the, oh, the Waterfront book, and I think I was working with Art on the, the grade school, one-room school. And so we did. We went together and, on that book, and then Art had a family, his son got killed, and he didn't want to go ahead. And so I went ahead with Furusato.

TI: So you had this, this really key document, but for the book Furusato, it was much more than just that document. You really incorporated others, or -- maybe the question I'm asking is, is what are the, sort of the, the deficiencies of just that document alone?

RM: Okay. It didn't have any flesh on it. It didn't, didn't tell about the people themselves, how they suffered and worked and solved problems like the flood in the valley destroying their crops, and how they got restarted again. It would just have the bare, simple facts. And so I, when Joe and I talked about doing the book for this committee, I, and I agreed to do it, I said, "I'd like to interview -- "

<End Segment 26> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.