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Tacoma Community History Projects: 2014

A guide to oral history projects compiled by students in Professor Mike Honey's "Doing Community History" course. Projects date from 1991.

Project Descriptions

The "Average" Airman: Stories of U.S.A.F. Aircraft Maintainters - Call # CHP 2014#10

There are very few histories written about enlisted members of the Air Force, those who hold the rank of Airmen 1st Class (E-1) up until Chief Master Sergeant (E-8). Most narrative is reserved for officers, or those who have served in direct combat. This oral history aims to tell the story of three "average" airmen, who enlisted as young and made a 20+ year career out of the Air Force, performing their assigned duties day in and day out, with no promise of recognition or admiration. They are asked to change duty stations constantly, work long shifts when ordered (often 12 hours in length), and always be ready for the chance that they could be sent into armed conflict, while being husbands and fathers at the same time. This history aims to dispel the belief that there is such a thing as an "average" airman. - Jessica Warner

Father Bill Bichsel and Disarm Now Plowshares - Call # CHP 2014#03

This paper chronicles the major events in the life of Father Bill Bischel, a Jesuit priest and activist who lives in Tacoma, Washington. Father Bichsel’s grew up in Tacoma and  received his Jesuit education in western U.S. and Germany. He became politicized during his employment in Spokane, WA and graduate education in Boston, MA in the ’60. Upon his return to Tacoma he initiated many social justice organizations, including the Tacoma Catholic Worker. He also became involved in peace protests, particularly against nuclear weapons and the Bangor nuclear submarine base near Bremerton, WA. He joined a tradition of radical Catholic non-violent activism that passive resistance with symbolic acts of property destruction based in Catholic imagery. In November, 2009, at age 82, he was arrested as part of the Disarm Now Plowshares action, in which he and four others, all in their 60s and 80s, broke into the Bangor base and attempted to symbolically disarm nuclear weapons stored there. The action and his ensuing trial and incarceration brought media and community attention to the dangers of the nuclear weapons stored at the Bangor base. Father Bichsel continues to perform resistive activism, for which he risks arrest and imprisonment. This paper incorporates data from four interviews with Father Bichsel conducted between 1992 and 2014. - Lucas Dambergs

The Greek Community in Tacoma, Washington - Call # CHP 2014#07

This project focuses on the Greek community in Tacoma, Washington. I interviewed JoAnn Tryfon and she provided valuable information and insight into the Greek community as well as the Greek Orthodox Church. JoAnn shared the story of her Greek father’s immigration to the United States as well as her Greek, Romanian, and Russian mother’s upbringing in Idaho. John Tryfon, JoAnn’s father, owned and operated a hat shop called ‘Tryfon the Hatter’ on the floor level of the Pantages building in downtown Tacoma for over 50 years. This is JoAnn’s story of her upbringing, community involvement, the family and community’s relationship with the Greek Orthodox Church on Yakima St., and her feelings about being Greek-American. - Mark Kilner

An Interview with Dr. Maxine Mimms Ph.d.: Building a Learning Community in Tacoma’s Hilltop Neighborhood - Call # CHP 2014#04

This project discusses some of the issues in Tacoma’s history that have hindered the opportunity for educational development of the African-American community in the Hilltop area of Tacoma. Highlights of some of the innovative programs that have been created and implemented to address these issues will be presented and their impact on the community will be discussed. Influential community member and educational leader Maxine Mimms was interviewed as a part of this project and her contributions to the community and her opinions will be discussed. Maxine Mimms is the founder of the Tacoma branch of the Evergreen State College and other educationally focused outreach programs such as the Maxine Mimms Academy. Maxine Mimms is a life-long educator and community activist in the Puget Sound Region. Her charismatic approach to education and her passion for providing educational opportunities for all people has made her a respected public figure inside and outside her community. Mimms has made it her goal to bring a sense of urgency to the issues around providing educational opportunities at all levels within a community and she continues to approach this subject with conviction. She brought higher education learning to her Tacoma community through Evergreen State College with a purpose in mind, and she has furthered the efforts of several other educational programs over the years. Through her work she has strengthened the potential for growth within the Hilltop community in Tacoma and her unfailing dedication to her students is obvious from her comments during her interview. Though officially retired from the field of education she remains an active part of the community and the actions she took in Tacoma have made a significant difference in the opportunities available to minorities in the Hilltop community. - Robin Eisenbacher

James Walton: From Texas To Tacoma - Call # CHP 2014#05

James L. Walton, born in Mineola Texas. The former city manager is a respected civic leader and pioneer for the city of Tacoma. He was a Vietnam Era Veteran serving his country.  He was a leader in the 1960s civil rights movement and a founder of Tacoma’s Black Collective.  During very political times he was able to focus on the goal and be the voice of the community. He has spent a substantial part of his life advocating for improved health services, education, and equality for the people of this region. His devoted attention to his community earned him an honorary Doctor of Law degree from the University of Puget Sound. - Julian L. McGilvery

Lifting as We Climb: Mrs. Freddie Mae Barnett & the Tacoma City Association of Colored Women’s Club - Call # CHP 2014#09

This project consists of several parts.  The first part provides background to Mrs. Barnett’s family life in Athens, Georgia, her marriage and her military life.  The next section provides a brief overview of her life upon moving to Tacoma, Washington in 1959 from Germany, and her family’s experience of institutionalized racism in the form of housing, employment, and education, to her civic and racial justice activism and leadership on a local, regional and national level within the Associations of Colored Women’s Clubs. - Vazaskia V. Crockrell-Caldwell

Madeline Taylor: 103-Year-Old 20th Century Working Married Woman - Call # CHP 2014#08

103-year-old Tumwater Washington resident, Madeline Taylor, shared about her long life spent in the Greater Seattle area.  From the early days of horse drawn carriages delivering milk in North Seattle, to being the first female employee at the Lake Washington Shipyard in Kirkland, to taking pioneering yachting adventures featured in film and National Geographic Magazine, Madeline has seen much of the world.  She reflects on her inability to work at a public school when she married due to laws forbidding women school employees to be married, which led to her eventual elopement and then job change to the shipyards.  During a time when working married women were still a novelty, Madeline also became the shipyard’s first pregnant worker, and then first working mother. - Deborah Taylor-Hough

A Mid-Knight Run - Call # CHP 2014#01

This Master’s Degree research and interview project examines the migration of Black Americans from the South to the Pacific Northwest. I record the journey of the Knight family from Moss Point, Mississippi to various states and countries finally ending up in Tacoma, Washington. Dorothy Knight, compares and contrasts how life differed in the Northwest as opposed to the South. Knight outlines the trials, struggles and violent acts she and her family witnessed and experienced within her life-time.  All the while providing an historical back-drop of what it meant to be Black in the 1930’s to the current time. This personal account of one family’s journey to the Northwest puts a name and face to the struggles that millions of Blacks migrating out of the South faced. - Shawn Jenkins

Robert Elofson: The Lower Elwha Klallam and the Return of Their River - Call # CHP 2014#06

In 1910, dam construction began on the Elwha River. Thomas Aldwell, a white settler from Canada, built the dam without a fish passage. Seventeen years later, a second dam was built on the Elwha, also without a fish passage. For the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, these dams meant a loss of culture, fish, and a way of life. A member of the Lower Elwha Tribe, Robert Elofson grew up under stressful circumstances. After his mother died when he was six, he spent his remaining youth bouncing between family members and foster homes. Despite his shaky upbringing, Robert worked hard and returned to Port Angeles with two bachelor degrees and a desire to increase the fish populations on the Elwha. In those early post-Boldt decision years, Robert worked on the Lower Elwha Tribe’s first fishery and witnessed the tribe’s efforts at halting the re-licensing of the dams that were killing all of the fish on the Elwha River. A landmark restoration bill that passed in 1992 consummated the largest dam removal project in American history and ensured that Robert would witness the return of the river, its fish, and his tribe’s economy. - Jordan Woolston

What We Built Came Out of That Basement: Brian Skiffington on Hardcore Punk in Tacoma - Call # CHP 2014#02

The goal of this paper is to offer an insight into and brief history of modern hardcore punk music and culture from roughly 2000 to the present in Tacoma, Washington. The bulk of the information is drawn from interviews with Brian Skiffington. In addition to the information and insight provided by Skiffington, this essay features some insight and analysis, as well as some individual history and personal thoughts of the author, additional research laying the groundwork for the early hardcore punk scene in Tacoma, and a brief sketch of the nature of hardcore punk and its roots, which lie outside of the local area. Following the introductory essay is an oral history of Brian Skiffington, in a sense an edited version of the transcript of the more extensive interviews, in order to provide the reader with a first hand narrative of some of the highlights of this history. - Zack Pattin