Telling Our Stories

A primary goal of the Empty Chair Project is to establish an educational component to permanently record the stories of individuals who were evacuated from Juneau during World War II. These stories will be archived in the Alaska Historical Library, the Alaska State Library, the Alaska State Museum, the Juneau-Douglas City Museum and will also be available as part of a Juneau historical curriculum within the Juneau-Douglas School District.

A dream interview team consisting of Joe and Mary Abo, Ron Inouye, Greg Chaney and Alice Hikido spent four days in the Seattle area recently capturing on audio tape and digital film the stories of six internees who witnessed or were connected with the Juneau evacuation during World War II: Haruo (Ham) Kumasaka, Walter Fukuyama, Alice (Tanaka) Hikido, Rose (Komatsubara) Wayne, Jeanne Tanaka and Koji Tada.

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Haruo (Ham) Kumasaka remembering the past.

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Walter Fukuyama being interviewed by Alice Tanaka Hikido.

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John Tanaka’s wife, Jeanne, and their children, Eddie and Cathy.

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Yohko and Koji Tada recalling difficult times.

Ron Inouye will transcribe the interviews recorded on audio tape with the purpose of gleaning new material from each person’s memories and then writing narratives from a historical perspective. He thought the Gastineau Channel Historical Society’s stories written in the Gastineau Memories series by the Taguchi, Komatsubara, Fukuyama and Tanaka family members were also excellent sources as essential parts of the project. “The interviews started conversations in all the families. Everyone was so endearing and didn’t know why they were important,” Mary said.

While Ron interviewed, Greg videotaped. Mary reported,”Greg spent hours behind the camera and in front of his computer to record all these stories for a DVD whose purpose will be to show the deep connection between the evacuees and the Juneau community. Alice was a steadying presence for coaxing those memories out of our interviewees. I acted the role of keeper of schedules and Joe offered invaluable chauffeuring services.”

These historical artifacts will also be entrusted to the Empty Chair Project as the keeper of memories.

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