Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Henry Miyatake Interview VI
Narrator: Henry Miyatake
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: October 28, 1999
Densho ID: denshovh-mhenry-06-0011

<Begin Segment 11>

HM: So I think Frank came on in a time period where it was critical -- maybe the issue of Japanese American redress for the Seattle area might have died away. But because of this article that he was, articles that he was writing for The Seattle Weekly, and other events that were taking place, he felt, "Well, we got to get the community to support this thing, and let's try to have a big meeting and get-together for the community." And he felt very strongly about this. So he brought people like Frank Abe and Karen Seriguchi, and all the people that he was very comfortable working with, and he brought them in, up as a team. Kathy Wong was one of the members of the team. And this was a theatrical group that they have in San Francisco. And they had an act that they put together down there. And these were the principal actors, and actresses and writers. And they were very, very diligent in their work. They're all volunteers. They weren't getting paid for this thing. You know, like Karen and Frank and Kathy, they would work twelve, fourteen hours a day working on this thing. So I felt kind of uncomfortable not putting in my efforts. So it was, it was a good feeling for me to try to do something and have these younger kids really working all out on this thing. Like another proposal effort, these are gung-ho people, but they weren't getting paid at all. They were just trying to survive. And here they're trying to make the news releases, and they're making announcements over the radio and trying to get radio spots for coverage of this event. I mean, they did a horrendous job. I don't think any four individuals or five individuals that I know of could do the same comparable effort in such a short period of time.

TI: And when you say "horrendous," meaning it was a huge task?

HM: Oh, it was a huge task.

TI: Okay.

HM: They were making press releases, and writing up articles, sending all this stuff around the place, and getting radio spots over different radio stations. They were getting publicity -- we were making placards for all the stores to show. And we were calling up people to help support the event.

TI: Now, I'm curious. A key component of the Day of Remembrance was to do this at Puyallup. How did you get the permission of the Puyallup Fairgrounds board to go along with this?

HM: Well, Emi Somekawa used to work at the Puyallup Fair. And she had been working there for about four or five years. She knew the director of the Puyallup Fair. And the Puyallup Fair, by the way, is not a Washington state sanctioned organization. It is a private organization. And they're self-supporting. They're a money-making organization. But anyways, Emi was familiar with these people. And one of her friends was a person named (Dwight) Paulhamus. And he was a member of the board of the, the Puyallup Fair. So, I asked Emi to approach Paulhamus and the director of Puyallup Fair, and ask them if they would entertain the idea of having a Day of Remembrance out there. And the idea wasn't too [Laughs] keen to these people. And Paulhamus, fortunately for us, was a very strong advocate of Japanese American history and the events that took place in Puyallup. He was very aware of this. And so I had a meeting with him, Emi, Paulhamus, myself, and -- let's see, who else was there? Oh, wait -- oh, Shosuke was there. Anyway, we talked to 'em about whether or not they would entertain an idea of this kind of event. So he brought it up at the next monthly meeting at the Puyallup Fair board. And they said, "Well, they would like to hear us make a presentation of what we intend to do there." What are the events, and what number of people are you planning to have here? All this kind of stuff.

Anyway, this became a subject of the Seattle JACL board meeting. And Ben Nakagawa says, [Laughs] "Hell, I'm gonna go down there and raise hell with these people." Well, we didn't want any raising hell type of issue, you know, really. We wanted them to just say we could be allowed to have this event there. But anyway, that was Ben's attitude. [Laughs] And once Ben gets going, it's pretty hard to stop the guy. But we said, "Hey, we want to do this on a relatively even-keel basis." And so we had two meetings with the Puyallup Fair board. And in one meeting, Ben gets up and he says if he's not, if they're not allowed to have this thing at the Puyallup Fairgrounds, he's gonna take legal matters [Laughs] into his own hands. Well, that didn't convey the right feeling, I don't think. But anyway, Bob Carlson, who's the head of the, he's the director of the fair organization, he said, "Well, we got a problem with this board. We've got seven-man board. We got three guys that are in favor of what you guys are trying to do. We got three guys that really don't care for it. And then we got one guy that's undecided." And he was very frank with me. And he says, "Well you got to do something to convey an opinion that this other guy should vote for having the event." So, I got together with Paulhamus, and then we discussed this issue. So the next meeting, Shosuke, and myself, and Tom Koizumi went down there. And we thought, well, we'll use the nicey-nicey technique, not the hammer-over-the-head-type situation. So we made a very interesting presentation about the constitutionality of what the government did to us, and the fact that we're trying to bind the community together. And this was a very difficult time period for a lot of us. And that this would be a kind of a catharsis to get us off of this psychological trap. And we did make the presentation. And Tom did a fairly interesting take on the thing. And in fact, they voted unanimously for us having the thing.

And they normally charge anywhere from $500 to $1,500 for an event like this, for the number of people we're talking about. And we didn't have any idea whether it's gonna be 500 people or 3,000 people or -- you know we didn't have any idea what -- and maybe there wouldn't even be 500. We were kind of concerned about this. But Paulhamus takes a position that since they got, they voted for it unanimously he should make it so that we could do it for free. [Laughs] And he was able to do that. And so they voted that they would do it on a complimentary basis, but they would provide security people, they would provide, you know all this ground support, the janitorial services after the fact. They wanted to know what facilities we wanted to use. So, well, Frank Chin's idea was that we should have a potluck dinner, and everybody would bring their own stuff and have this dinner. And then they had a area where they had, in the new building, they had all the food service center area, so we'd use those tables for the potluck. So Aki Kurose was the Seattle potluck chairman, and Emi Somekawa was the one for the southern end of Puget Sound. And that was one of the things that Frank Chin insisted upon, that this would be a community participation type effort. And we got to get everybody together and feel that they're a part of the process.

TI: What was your immediate reaction after that, the Puyallup Fair board meeting, where they voted unanimously to do this and waive the fee? It must have been, yeah, how did you feel?

HM: Well, when Shosuke and I came back to town -- well, we ran into Frank Chin down at, in front of the Silver, what is that restaurant that closed up?

TI: Silver Dragon?

HM: Yeah. Silver Dragon, yeah. Anyway, I guess I must have been pretty elated because Frank Chin describes me as jumping up and down. I don't think I was doing that, but nonetheless that's what he said in one of his articles. But the fact that we're not having to pay a fee for it, and the fact that they allowed us to use the facility, I thought that was, you know, a fairly interesting occasion. But Frank felt that it was all coming together in a way. Frank is like a screenwriter. He wants to write a script, and he wants everybody to follow the script. And here he's doing the direction of this whole process. And he liked the way it was coming together because -- well, he had lot of people coming up from L.A. area, Pat Morita, George Takei. Let's see, who else did he have? Oh, he had, Edison Uno's sister coming up here. He had a number of people coming up here.

TI: How difficult was it for Frank to convince all these people to come to Seattle or Puyallup?

HM: [Laughs] Well, he must have done a pretty good job of talking 'em into it. But he was relating to the historical content of it and what it means to the Japanese Americans. And Frank has a better sense of Japanese American history than most, almost all Japanese Americans. [Laughs] He knows a lot more than people give him credit for. And he's acting in the behalf of Asian Americans in totality. But lot of people get offended by the way he writes his articles, and how he writes his articles, and who he pinpoints, and the labeling of different individuals. They get really offended. And in one of the articles that Frank wrote, he called Shosuke Sasaki "Tweety Bird." [Laughs] And, I forgot what he called me. He said, oh, he said that I was a "refugee from the Salvation Army clothing department" or something like that. [Laughs] But anyway, he writes in a very funny sort of way at times, and people really get turned off with that. But his, he's a very interesting, intelligent, and well-read person. And he knows a lot about these events. And he felt we had to do this kind of event.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 1999 Densho. All Rights Reserved.