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Tacoma Community History Projects: 1994

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

Project Descriptions

African-American Life in Tacoma - Call # 1994#03

Ms. Louise Ray Turner and Ms. Bernice C. Canada were interviewed on Wednesday, February 9, 1994 in the living room of their home in Tacoma, Washington. They reflect on their grandparents' and parents' life in the South, why the grandparents and parents migrated to the Pacific Northwest and what the Pacific Northwest challenge meant to them. Ms. Turner and Ms. Canada reflect on their life experiences in Tacoma as well as their extended family relationships. They begin with their early childhood and continue to their present roles as ministers caring for the sick and home bound. There are reflections on their school years, family life at home, being a wife and mother, racial tension, social activities and employment opportunities. Other topics include what the atmosphere in Tacoma was like during the civil rights movement, the media reaction to the civil rights movement and the changes caused by World War II. The interview continues with their views on discrimination in Tacoma, and the importance of religious involvement. It concludes by comparing the past family structure with today's, as well as with their serious concerns for the future of African-Americans. -Preston T. Jones

A Concrete Look at Our Community - Call # 1994#06

Dr. Thomas W. Anderson, co-founder of Concrete Technology Corporation at 1123 Port of Tacoma Road, Tacoma, Washington, was interviewed on Monday, February 7, 1994. Dr. Anderson was born in Tacoma in 1912 and has been an integral part of our community. His Norwegian heritage is reflected in his values and his quiet but impressive personality. This document is a brief reflection of his accomplishments as an entrepreneur, and a community individual who believes that being a business man in this community carries a responsibility and an obligation not only to the people who work for him, but to the community in which he resides. His corporation reflects this in the job description of the administrative staff. The Concrete Technology Corporation has had a national impact on the prestressed concrete industry. -Barbara L. Shaw

An Honorable Man: Judge Bertil E. Johnson - Call # 1994#09

Bertil E. Johnson, son of Scandinavian immigrants John Edward and Maria Johnson, helped found the Tacoma Boys Club during the 1940s. He also worked for many years as both a prosecutor and a judge, and was instrumental in establishing the Juvenile Court in Tacoma. The interview is augmented with Boys Club business minutes, letters, and newspaper articles. -John Kingerly

The Puyallup Tribe: History and Contributions to the South Puget Sound - Call # 1994#02

Binah Paz was born in Olympia in 1961 and grew up in Yelm, where she attended Yelm High School. She has taught Indian culture at the Chief Leschi elementary school and is currently (1994) the Culture Coordinator at Chief Leschi High School. Binah has traveled world-wide as a spokesperson for her mother, Janet McCloud, who has been a well known fishing rights activist since the 60's. Binah visited post-revolutionary Nicaragua in 1983 and Europe is a favorite place to her. She has traveled to Austria, Germany, Switzerland, and Amsterdam, often on speaking engagements of a political nature on Native American issues, and sometimes as a cultural exchange. She has also traveled with her dance group as far as Hawaii. Her mother's tribe is Tulalip and her father's tribe is Puyallup. In an interview for the Tacoma Morning News Tribune in 1990, reporter Leslie Brown described her as "a high school counselor with remarkable energy and a seemingly unflagging belief in her people's potential." It's people like Binah who give substance to the promise of a bright future for the Puyallup Tribe. -Jane Frazier

The Safe Streets Campaign: Tacoma and Pierce County Respone to Youth Violence - Call # 1994#01

The Tacoma/Pierce County Safe Streets Campaign was launched in 1989 by local community leaders who sought a provocative stance against drugs and youth violence. An increase in gang activity had been steadily encouraging both trends. While these problems aren't unique to the area, city and county leaders, in concert with community residents, have found unique ways to address them. Tacoma's Deputy City Manager and Safe Streets organizer Jim Walton indicated, "We were naive enough to think that we'd have this problem licked and that Safe Streets could sunset in two years." An extensive interview was also conducted with Tacoma/Pierce County Councilman Dennis Flannigan, and Safe Streets Prevention Partnership Coordiator Greg Kline. Additional brief interviews were conducted with former Safe Streets Executive Director Lyle Quasim and former Hilltop resident Joyceann Hagens. -Janice M. Foster

Sisters of Providence and Sister Frances Cabrini - Call # 1994#07

The Sisters of Charity of Providence, later known as the Sisters of Providence, follow the legacy of generations of religious women who have cared for the poor and the sick since the Middle Ages. Mother Joseph arrived in the Northwest from Montreal in late 1856, and was awed by the beauty of the country during her boat trip up the Columbia River. She passed on her enthusiasm for the Pacific Northwest and her strong belief in compassionate service to those who followed through the years. St Peter Hospital was designed and built by Mother Joseph in 1887, primarily to care for the loggers and millworkers in Thurston and Mason county. The nursing school at St Peter was founded by the Sisters of Providence in 1918, when they found they could no longer take care of the sick by themselves. Sister Francis Cabrini Rohr became Director of the Professional Nursing School in its last year of existence, and concurrently designed the curriculum and accredited the Practical School of Nursing. -Connie M. Smith

Swiss Immigration - Call # 1994#04

Over one hundred years ago, Tacoma and its surrounding areas became the home to an influx of Swiss immigrants. Most of them came to Tacoma with the intention of buying land, using their knowledge and talent as farmers, and starting dairy farms. With the immigration of more Swiss, Tacoma developed a strong Swiss community committed to supporting their fellow countrymen as they began new lives in the United States. Even though the Swiss blended in with American society, they have been able to maintain a strong ethnic bond that today still helps them to maintain their proud Swiss heritage. Through their many organizations the Swiss have maintained a very active community. Even though their numbers are small, they have been able to keep much of their cultural identity and continue their tradition of family closeness. Family is not restricted just to kin but includes all people of Swiss descent. -Pamela M. Hailey

A Tradition of Excellence: The Sonntags and Public Service - Call # 1994#08

Jack Sonntag Sr., Pierce County Auditor from 1948 until his in 1969, had three sons. Jack Jr., the oldest, is an administrator with Tacoma Public Schools. Dick, his middle son, is a former Tacoma city council member and current (1994) member of the Tacoma School District Board of Directors. Brian, the youngest, has been Pierce County Clerk, Pierce County Auditor, and is currently (1994) State Auditor. Collectively the four Sonntags have served the citizens of our communities in various capacities for over forty-five years. Jack Sonntag Sr. started a family tradition of dedicated service, "A Tradition of Excellence." Each of his sons has pursued an individual path to follow in his footsteps in a unique way. Each has made a different, but important contribution. The Sonntags believe that public officials work for the citizens and that the public has every right to excellent service from their government. NOTE: Throughout the interviews, Dick Sonntag is referred to alternately as Dick, Richard or Rich. -Allison H. Sonntag

Winning the Hearts and Minds of Fort Lewis and McChord GIs during the Viet Nam Era - Call # 1994#05

From the very first onslaught of U.S. involvement in Vietnam there were various strains of resistance among the American people. The local experience not only includes anti-war activity on college campuses and among the local communities, but also among the very people called to pick up the gun to fight the war, the American G.I. The voice of one active duty anti-war protester, Michael Royce speaks to the common experience of hundreds more around the country during this historical period. His sentiments and thoughts are those that a whole generation struggled over: What am I willing to live for? What am I willing to die for? The project binder includes 30 editions of the "Lewis-McChord Free Press" newspaper - later called the "G.I. Voice" - from January 1970 through October 1973. -Beula Robb