It’s not very often I ride on a Metro bus but the other day I needed my car tuned up so I rode the Metro 7 Rainier bus from the repair shop to my house in South Seattle. I know this will not please the environmentalists but this was probably my first trip through Rainier Valley on a bus since the days before I received my driver’s license. Although I have driven through the valley on many occasions, you tend to be a lot more observant of your surroundings when you’re not the one doing the driving, and the vehicle stops at every block.
Rainier Valley has gone through many changes, and I wondered what ever happened to many of the businesses that populated Rainier Avenue in the '60s. I remember the Foremost dairy plant that was located where the I-90 intersection is today, and there was a clothing factory (Black Bear if my memory serves me right) next door. There was a Copeland lumberyard at the intersection of Empire Way (now Martin Luther King, Jr. Way), and you couldn’t beat the price of a hamburger and fries at either Dags or Gils near Genesee Street.
Times have changed and it must be difficult for businesses to keep up with the latest trends to remain profitable. When I worked at Boeing, there was a famous quote that was passed around that stressed the importance of remaining up to date and relevant. The quote came from Albert Einstein who said, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”
The NVC and NVC Foundation are experiencing similar problems that today’s businesses are faced with. We are fortunate to have existed for some 70 years but we are starting to feel the effects of so many of the Nisei no longer being with us. The Nisei developed a kinship by persevering through some of the most adverse conditions that one could impose upon a generation. Those who survived found comfort in bonding with those who suffered similar pains. That was the basis for the formation of the NVC, and to this day, you can still see that bond at every Nisei Lunch and Speaker Series.
That bond does not exist between most Sansei and Yonsei. Most of us never dealt with adversity and never knew what it was like to have doors closed to us. We were able to pursue the careers we wanted and to live wherever we chose. If the NVC and NVC Foundation intend to be around for future generations, new goals and missions must be explored to make our organizations more relevant to today’s Japanese Americans. Unfortunately, there will always be reluctance on the part of some to ever want to change. It is human nature that we find comfort in doing things the way they have been done in the past.
My term as president of the NVC Foundation will be up in just a few days. In the two years I have served as president, I know I have ruffled a few feathers for suggesting that changes needed to be made. My suggestions were never intended to be personal and were only made to help us survive in a changing world. But being on the receiving end of negative feedback can sometimes weigh you down and question why you even bothered to get involved. Fortunately, I did have some loyal supporters and there were always subtle reminders why we do what we do.
One of the services that the NVC Foundation provides is a school tour of our hall museum and an opportunity for students to talk to survivors of the incarceration camps. Debbie Kashino always requests that visiting students submit feedback on cards that we can hang on our Ema board. On a recent tour by students from Christ the King School, one girl wrote, “Something I wish for is world peace and never another war, and for no more prison camps that hurt people because they’re just like us.” Leave it to a fourth grade student to remind me what the NVC Foundation is about -- and why I choose to be involved.