Published on March 16th, 2013 | by Michael Sullivan1
Before the Fall: The Japanese in Tacoma
In this photo, it is July of 1940, in the heart of what was known then as “Japantown”.
It seems everyone is celebrating the opening of the new Tacoma Narrows Bridge. There are festive parades, concerts, and speeches, with a shared community pride and sense of marvel at the elegant new suspension bridge.
So much would change so soon.
Nearly all the people in this photo would journey out to the narrows on a windy day to witness the bizarre galloping of Tacoma’s bridge before it fell.
After the bombing of Pearl Harbor the next year, they would board a train at Union Station and be interned at a government relocation camp for most of the war.
Strictly enforced immigration laws championed by Tacoma’s Congressman Albert Johnson had already hindered property ownership for most of the Japanese American families living downtown, so almost none returned.
But on this fine sunny July day, none of that mattered yet. I like the saddle shoes and high school hair styles – so tellingly all-American.