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-01-0030

<Begin Segment 30>

TI: So about what year was this, that he was talking about?

RM: I think the trouble with the Japanese started in the '30s, and became white-hot after World War II. He said that he told the Japanese, "I don't care whether you bring the vegetables over or not," he said, "so long as it's a union truck driver bringing those vegetables." And, and he stopped them on top of the pass, and turned them around, sent them back.

TI: So these were, like, truck farmers in Eastern Washington...

RM: Yeah. Yakima valley.

TI: Yakima, they would, they would get their crops, and then they would try to drive them over to Seattle.

RM: That's right.

TI: Across Snoqualmie Pass, which is kind of the only way to really get across the pass.

RM: That's right, that's right. Well, they could have come White Pass, but very curvy and, no, they wanted to come -- they came by...

TI: And so how would Dave Beck or the teamsters turn back the Japanese?

RM: Oh, they'd figure out, they would form a picket line at the top of the, the pass, they would have people who were spotting the Japanese coming, and turned them back.

TI: It sounds like a pretty involved process, because you'd have to be up there almost twenty-four hours of the day.

RM: Yeah, it was. It was an involved process, but he was determined to stop the Japanese truck farmers.

TI: And in particular, the Japanese, because they were non-union, or because of racial issues? What do you think was...

RM: You know, I never could segregate that. He had... Dave Beck, it was all or nothing. You either were with him, with total loyalty, or you were an enemy. He, he had no people in-between. An interesting person. He didn't drink, he didn't smoke, he didn't swear. It was, I think, a daily communicate to mass, or daily, almost as he could, but he was, kept that whole life separate. And when he was the union man, he, it was a total commitment to unionism in his, the way he defined unionism. An interesting person. He didn't see ethics ever entering into this, he didn't, he, what he truly felt about Japanese or Chinese people, he never said. He would classify them as "people of no account." To him, it was building a union and controlling the, the people he got in the union, and that's... and he framed those ideas starting in 1919, I'm sure.

TI: Did you ever get, or talk to anyone else that could collaborate sort of...

RM: Oh, yes.

TI: ...what happened to the Japanese?

RM: Yes. I talked to people who were involved in different episodes in his life. Union organizers, particularly a man named Clyde Black, who was one of the major organizers for him. Whitey Dallager, there were, there were, I didn't interview Whitey Dallager, but I read a lot of his materials. He was the number one union, teamster in Tacoma. And there were other people involved in this that I interviewed who, who would collaborate with Beck, or they would simply say, "Well, he's exaggerating," so I, I got a fairly clear picture of it. If you were, Clyde Black was totally loyal to Beck because his whole career, let's say, depended on it. There was a fierce loyalty -- when Dave Beck came to Tacoma in about 1990 for a meeting, the longshoremen invited him, and the teamsters were there. They all stood and cheered. He was, he was a hero. He had solved the mess of the general strike. It was still remembered that way.

TI: This was seventy years after that?

RM: This, seventy years after. And he was a demagogue as a speaker, and, but they, there was this terrible, this fierce loyalty. It was sort of incredible. Nothing like that in the longshore union, or in any other union movement that I have been connected with. He had the supporters, and he never forgot a person, a name, or anybody else. He had a tremendous ability to recall. And, but I never got the impression if, if the Japanese would have cooperated with him, fine, he wouldn't have -- by cooperation, it meant 100 percent submission.

TI: Now, people like, you mentioned like Clyde Black, did, did he participate like at Snoqualmie Pass...

RM: Yeah. He participated not only in Snoqualmie Pass, but in Aberdeen where there were minority groups that had to be "brought into line," the, the teamster line.

<End Segment 30> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.