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Fukuyama, Walter & Mume

by Ethel (Fukuyama) Terashita

Our father, Walter Hikohachi Fukuyama, worked for an English tea company in Yokohama, Japan. He wanted to be able to speak, read, and write the English language; therefore his employer suggested that he travel to Canada to learn. Once there, through a relative who was living in Alaska, he was persuaded to go to Juneau.

Dad found employment at the Treadwell Mines in Douglas and ultimately became a houseboy in Judge Gunnison’s home. Here he learned to cook American dishes and also to read and write the English language. Mrs. Gunnison was a wonderful, patient teacher and cook. One day in the spring, Judge and Mrs. Gunnison searched the house, especially the pantry, for some flower bulbs. They finally decided to ask dad, describing to him what they were looking for. Dad said that he saw them in the pantry and believed they were another vegetable. He told them he cut them up and added them into the stew during the winter. He thought they were another form of onions. Anyway, they all had a good laugh and apparently no one had become ill after eating them. Mrs. Gunnison also taught dad how to make the most luscious biscuits from scratch, which we used to enjoy. The biscuits would stretch through the middle and more than double their height while baking. Dad would serve them hot out of the oven and the butter just melted even on to our fingers. Oooh, so good!

The Juneau Laundry, owned by three other Japanese nationals, needed help and asked dad to join them. During the winter months dad had dogs and a sleigh to deliver the laundry, and in the summer a horse and wagon. Eventually they bought a panel truck. His problem then was he couldn’t drive up Starr Hill when it was snowy and icy; therefore, left the truck at the foot of the hill and walked up and down to deliver and pick up the laundry. We can remember when dad told us that he bought the laundry business from the others and became the sole proprietor. Through the assistance of Mr. Reck, President of the First National Bank, he was able to buy property and to build the Juneau Laundry building which was completed in 1930. The Alaska Electric Power Company then built their building to the north of the laundry building and subsequently the Baranof Hotel came into being across the street. Thus, Franklin Street became a busy thoroughfare.

Mother, Mrs. Mume Iida Fukuyama, joined dad in 1920. He went to Seattle to meet her upon arrival from Japan. Mary Sumiko was born in 1921, Ethel in 1922, Walter Tsuneo in 1925, and Thomas Tomio in 1927.

Mama was a busy, busy mother. She was up at the crack of dawn to make breakfast for dad and herself as well as make oatmeal, leaving it in a double boiler for our breakfast as we were growing up. Before the new laundry building came into existence, she not only helped with the ironing during the day, but also mended all the customer’s ‘holey’ socks after putting us children to bed. There were many, many nights she would not get to bed until midnight, 1 a.m., or later. In spite of her busy day schedules, she always had time for us children. During the winter months, we roasted chestnuts on our pot belly stove or added orange peels on the stove for fragrance. Mama either read or told us Japanese children’s stories, oftentimes drawing pictures as she told the stories.

Mary graduated from Juneau High School in 1939. And because the folks wanted one of their children to be able to read and write Japanese, she was the one elected to go. While Mary was attending school in Japan, World War II broke out so she was forced to stay there longer than planned. Upon returning to the United States she was employed by the Federal Government in Washington, D.C. and in Seattle. She retired from the National Marine Fisheries Service as Technical Publications Editor in 1989.

Upon graduation from J High in 1940, Ethel went to Seattle to attend business school, returning after one year of studies. She worked for various offices in Juneau and ultimately with the Office of Indian Affairs until they evacuated all of the Japanese due to the outbreak of World War II. While interned at Minidoka Relocation Center, Hunt, Idaho, she held various jobs in the administrative offices. Once dad was released from the Prisoners of War Camp and joined the family at the Minidoka Relocation Center, Tom and Ethel went to Washington, D.C. She had employment and Tom was to complete his senior year of high school. She remained in D.C. until August, 1956, and then went to live with our parents in Seattle. Once the folks were allowed to leave Minidoka, they decided they were too old to start another business in Juneau, therefore, settled in Seattle. Ethel ultimately retired from the Federal Government as an Administrative Officer in 1986.

As for the personal part of my life, I (Ethel) am married to a solid guy named Toshio, retired and have two children. Our son Stuart is an Engineer (UW grad) at Boeing and our daughter Stacy is married and is employed at the University of Washington. She decided after all these years to go for her Master’s Degree and hopefully will receive it in June 2001.

Due to the outbreak of war, Walter completed his last year of high school at the Minidoka Relocation Center. Walter was in the military service, arriving in Japan as the war ended. Upon his return to Seattle he attended and graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in Economics and then went to Seattle University where he received his Engineering Degree. He worked at Boeing becoming a Principal Engineer and retired after 33 years. Currently, Walter is active at Faith Bible Church, assisting the pastor. He is married to a lovely Japanese Christian woman, Emiko, and has two daughters, Nancy and Joy. The daughters are both UW graduates, married and have a total of five children.

Tom had just completed his eighth grade in Juneau when we were evacuated, had three years of high school at the Minidoka Relocation Center and his fourth year at a high school in Washington, D.C. It was a difficult fourth year for him. The superintendent of the school called me in to inform me that Tom was too far behind in his schooling, but if he could stay after school they would try to help him. He didn’t make the honor roll the first quarter but he made the rest. Tom received his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees at the University of Washington then went on to the University of Pennsylvania for his doctorate in Microbiology. From there he went on to Harvard for his post-doctoral fellowship and then to work at the University of Southern California. After a lengthy illness, he passed away in 1993. His wife Janet died the year before. Tom left three children (David, Keith, and Kris), who are all university grads, all married with a total of seven children.

Since the folks owned the laundry business, there were always last minute things to handle before they could relax. When we were youngsters and it was baseball season, with Dolly Grey as umpire, the folks always hurriedly got through their work, gathered us four kids and walked down via Willoughby Avenue to watch the game. This was during the summer months, but during the winters after we were older it was basketball at J High.

As we grew older there were many outings with the workers joining us. Mama would make sure there was enough food for all to enjoy. The Takisaki family lived at Tee Harbor. Mr. Takisaki was a commercial isherman and had many rowboats for his friends to use while fishing at Tee Harbor. He would call dad when the salmon were running. Dad would go off by himself to try his luck in catching salmon and as for the rest of us Mr. Takisaki would gather us children and mama and anyone else who wanted to fish and row us out to his fishing boat. From there he supplied us with fishing lines and bait. We always had fun catching whatever we caught. If the catch was edible we were able to keep it; otherwise he tossed the fish back into the water. Believe it or not, I did catch a halibut. Mr. Takisaki helped me to bring it in. It was not a tremendous halibut, but it was a beauty (that is, in the eyes of the beholder).

Another reason for going to Tee Harbor was for the blueberries. The woods across the highway were filled with blueberry bushes. When they were ripe it didn’t take hardly any time for us to gather all that dad wanted. He canned some for blueberry pies, which he made throughout the year. Otherwise they could be used for muffins or pancakes. You just can’t beat the wild blueberry flavor. We had to watch for the bears as they too enjoyed the berries.

There is another incident that comes to mind when I hear ‘Tee Harbor.’ This happened a few days after the Fourth of July, and we were still in grammar school. In those days, sales of firecrackers were not restricted. We had a few left and took them with us as we went out for a Sunday afternoon ride. For some unknown reason, we were on the road above Tee Harbor lighting and throwing our firecrackers about. One inadvertently was thrown a bit too far and before we knew it there was smoke. We tried to smother it, but like all forest fires, it went underground and came up in another spot. Our driver decided we should contact the Forest Rangers. He went to notify them of our predicament. They took care of the fire and we received a lecture which each one of us to this day remembers-no firecrackers in the woods.

The other day my husband and I were over in Ballard and went by a fish market. WOW! Halibut cheeks were $6.95 a pound. This brought back a flood of memories. Someone from the cold storage would call dad and tell him “halibut are in.” This meant that Mary and I would take a bucket down to the cold storage and they would fill it full of halibut cheeks. We had a time walking home-complaining the bucket was full and heavy; no added water in the bucket, but the cheeks were wet and splattered about; and et cetera. But after mama cleaned and washed them, dipped them in the egg wash, floured them and fried them, we couldn’t complain. The halibut cheeks were out of this world and they were ‘FREE.’

There are many more memories, such as sledding on Gold Hill during the winter. The motor vehicles could only cross the street after carefully making sure that no one was sledding down the hill at the time. The fun times ice skating in front of the glacier. The girls didn’t get to go skiing, but Walter and Tom enjoyed the sport. Hiking out the highway to Salmon Creek. Participating in the Saturday afternoon talent show at the movie theater. Attending birthday parties. Being a Boy Scout and Girl Scouts. Being told by Sheriff Getchel, “No more roller skating down Franklin Street sidewalk by the Triangle Building.” (Apparently all of the children in the neighborhood roller skating at the same time were too noisy for the dentist in the building, and the customers at the drug store just around the bend at the bottom of the hill were always in our way.) Etc., etc.

We were naive as youngsters, but the experiences and memories are diamonds.

(L to R): Ethel, Walter H., Thomas T., Mume, Walter T. and Mary S., 1938.

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