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-06-0008

<Begin Segment 8>

TI: Let's now move on. You mentioned earlier Frank Chin and his, the importance of responding back to S. I. Hayakawa. But there was also another event that happened in the Seattle area, the Day of Remembrance at Puyallup. Can you tell us what happened and how that got started?

HM: Well, Frank Chin came up to Seattle because he thought this was a very interesting issue for Asian Americans in general, the fact that we were finally getting off our rear-ends and we were making redress a popular subject to be discussed. [Laughs] About that time -- this, this was early '78 when he came up here -- he started to do a couple of articles for The Seattle Weekly. And one of the articles he wrote was kind of trying to generate interest in the Seattle area about [Laughs] all the activities that were taking place without too much publicity. And so he made it a point to interview Shosuke, and Chuck, and myself, and Ken Nakano, and all the others that were involved with the redress process. And he wrote couple of very interesting articles. And Frank Chin's style of writing is not the same as mine. [Laughs] We come from total extremes of writing style. And he's a heck of a lot better writer than I am. But he wrote couple of articles that really piqued the interest of some of the people in Seattle. And about that point, I had so many other situations that I needed to focus in on that I really didn't pay proper attention to the redress issue. And he felt that, that we needed to get the community to support this issue, not just JACL and some of these churches. We needed the whole community to support. And it's gonna be an endeavor for the entire Puget Sound area of Japanese Americans and those interested in this kind of issue. Well, during that time period, of course, the congressional candidate program was going on, the primaries were going on. They were getting ready for the primaries, anyway. And he, he felt that it's a political issue as well as one for the Congress to act on. And he did a number of things. One was to try to get the commitment of different congressional candidates, publicly announced relative to their position on redress.

TI: Because what was happening was, this was just, the time period was just like months before the general election...

HM: Yeah.

TI: ...and in particular, there was a very close election, or campaign going on between Mike Lowry and Jack Cunningham for a congressional seat?

HM: Yes.

TI: And let's talk about that right now, because it plays right into Lowry's participation in this whole event.

HM: Okay. Jack Cunningham was the incumbent Republican congressman from the district that I was located in. And we presented a, the redress issue to him. And this was early on. This was prior to the, the primary election. And Mike Lowry was the Democratic candidate. And at the time of the start of the primary process, Jack Cunningham committed himself to supporting redress. And his legislative aide had given me a guarantee that if Jack got into office again, he'll support the issue. So I was fairly comfortable with that position. And about sixty days prior to the primaries being held, [Laughs] he reversed his position. He says, "Well, I'm not gonna make this a political issue. I'm gonna just, I don't think it has priority enough to make it a issue that we wanna develop into this campaign."

TI: Now, why would he do that? I mean, it would, I would think that, by doing so, would alienate you and others who were very supportive of the redress. Why...

HM: Okay.

TI: ...what was the other side? What...?

HM: They made a survey in the congressional area. And they made a random survey. It was something like 400 in count. And the count number, the question that related to would you be comfortable with redress for Japanese Americans, because they were in enforced incarceration during World War II -- ? And without developing any introductory information. And the response was, "No, I would not. And if a congressman supported that issue, I would vote against him." And so the response was negative in terms of what his payoff would be if he supported redress. And this came about as a matter of the, kind of the last-minute type survey that they developed.

So, anyway, just, well after the primaries had concluded -- and Cunningham was the Republican candidate and Mike Lowry was the Democratic one -- Peggy Maze used to be the campaign chairman for Mike Lowry in his first election process. And Peggy used to run the Neighbors in Need program in King County. And I was a volunteer for Neighbors in Need program. And I had a friend that was working at the Continental Bakery. And he was in charge of scheduling for a number of loaves of bread that were being baked for a given time period. And so, well, this was the time of the, of the Boeing employment difficulties. And a lot of people were being laid off. And we were making up these food packages at the local church. And this was the Neighbors in Need program. We used to make up all these different care packages for these people that were unemployed and they were having a tough time. So I used to talk to the guy at the Continental Bakery, and say, "How 'bout making an overrun on this stuff and then -- [Laughs] we'll buy it for you at the surplus price?" And that was what was agreed to. Anyway, I had a station wagon, nine-passenger station wagon, and I used to get the overrun bread, and I used to throw -- these were fresh bread that were baked. [Laughs] And I used to fill up the whole station wagon with this stuff because he was able to give it to me for twelve loaves for a dollar. I mean, [Laughs] we had to go through some accounting procedure. Anyway, I was providing couple of station loads of, station wagon loads of bread to the Neighbors in Need. And we had a surplus, so -- at our own area of collection. So we had to bring it to other collection points. And then they put it into the different bags for their distribution process. Well, Peggy Maze got wind of this thing. She called me up and says, "Where are you getting this bread? Who's paying for it?" [Laughs] So I said, "Well, we're all putting a few dollars..." and we're getting the thing, and we're getting a pretty good value for the money. So that was the first time I talked to Peggy Maze. But that was a coincidence because couple years later she becomes the campaign chairman for Mike Lowry. So I called her up, and I said, "This is what we want to do. Would the congressman, or potential congressman feel comfortable supporting this issue?" Anyway, that was when Peggy introduced the subject to him. So the feedback was, yeah, he was comfortable with it.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 1999 Densho. All Rights Reserved.