Tag Archives: WA

A 100 Year Then and Now Photo Project


c-10-326
Grandfather Hisakichi and Grandmother Kono posing in Seattle with their first child, my Uncle Yutaka, in 1910.

My grandfather, Hisakichi Kanemoto, immigrated from Hiroshima in 1898 with my grandmother Kono coming in 1908 to become his picture bride.  They had seven children of which my dad is the last surviving sibling at 96 years of age.  Five of those children called “Hotel Fujii” their home at King and Maynard in Seattle, WA.  Sadly, Hotel Fujii is no longer standing.

_________________________________

My two littlest kids and I took a short vacation trip to Seattle the week of June 22, 2015.  One project I tasked myself was to attempt putting together “then and now” recreations of family photos taken about 100 years ago. Well, mostly 90 years ago but 100 sounded better.  Yet, I was only partially successful; it was luck for the most part:

c-10-322
(Clockwise) Grandmother Kono, Uncle Suetaro, an unknown girl and dad on tricycle.  Dad says the corner brick building had a butcher shop at street level.  Circa 1925.  Color image taken at King and Maynard, June 25, 2015.
c-10-319
Looking east up King Street. You can see the “Hotel Fujii” signage extending out from the hotel above my Grandmother. Year unknown but post 1917.
c-10-317
At King and Maynard. Clockwise from Grandmother: Aunt Shiz, Uncle Suetaro, Dad and baby Mieko. Based on baby Mieko, likely 1925.
c-10-343
Grandfather Hisakichi at far right, taken at Mt. Rainier August 1919. Finding a similar location on Mt. Rainier was a long shot but I had hoped this location in 1919 would not be far from current road stops as they were traveling in a 1913 Chevrolet Classic Six (Note 1). The 2015 color shot was a few hundred yards from the Rainier Inn.
c-10-320
Aunt Shiz dancing on left, looking east up King Street. The bottom of the Hotel Fujii signage is above the girls. My guess is circa 1923.
c-10-312
Grandmother Kono holding baby Mieko. Uncle Suetaro is peeking over the chair looking at his sister. Dad is standing in the middle with Aunt Shiz to his right. The lady is unknown as is the child but we suspect it is Mrs. Fujii. King and Maynard, circa 1923.
c-10-324
Dad and Uncle Suetaro in front of Grandfather’s barbershop. Circa 1922, King and Maynard.
c-10-325
Although a poor recreation, Grandfather is standing at right with his hand on an unnamed male buddy. He is in other photos. Taken at the entrance to Grandfather’s barbershop (best guess as to location). Circa 1917.

This “then and now” project was only partially successful as I did not consider many things:

  1. Other very successful “then and now” recreations by professionals primarily had one thing in their backgrounds that I did not: a building.  I overlooked that fact.  The Fujii Hotel was torn down with only a park left in its place, e.g., there were no windows or doors to line up the old photos with.  For the most part, that made for difficulty in guessing/placing from where the photos from the mid-1910s to the 1920s were taken.
  2. I did not consider the fact that the buildings on this street 100 years ago were built on a hill, i.e., all were built upon a concrete base that was taller at the west end compared to the east end.
  3. Because of the number of cars parked curbside, I had to resort to wide angle shots.  By doing so, perspective in comparison to the original would not be correct.
  4. There were a few homeless at the park who clearly did not want their picture taken.  As my two kids were with me, that became a hurdle.
  5. I did not take into account the time of day (shade).
  6. I did not anticipate the construction nor the large trucks, garbage cans and trees blocking the view.
  7. I misjudged the position from where I took the photographs, affecting perspective and angle.  I should have been ten more yards east for a few of the images.  Too late now.

I also realized that there were no pictures of Uncle Yutaka nor Aunt Michie at the Hotel Fujii.  Uncle Yutaka had likely already been in Japan (1913) by the time these old family photos were taken.  Aunt Michie, of course, was the only sibling not born in Seattle but rather in Hiroshima.

c-10-327
Uncle Yutaka and Aunt Michie, taken circa 1918 in Hiroshima.

A lot was learned.

I only wish I had gained the experience before undertaking this family project.  I do hope my cousins and children will still find these images interesting if not to merely appreciate our family photos from “100 years ago”.

_____________________________

NOTES:

1.  Grandfather (back to camera in center) camping on Mt. Rainier and Mr. Fujii’s 1913 Chevrolet Six:

1913 Chevrolet Classic Six - Retouched

2. King and Maynard today:

18602648003_4b41a9b559_k
The current store “Gossip” behind my kids was a butcher shop in the 1910s/1920s per my father.

3. The northeast corner of King and Maynard, taken June 25, 2015.  The building still stands as it was 100 years ago.

https://www.flickr.com/gp/p47koji/NcY4S9

4. Hing Hay Park where Hotel Fujii once stood; taken from across the street.  My guess is the barbershop entrance was behind the green car.

hing hay
At the corner was a small grocery store. To its left was Hotel Fujii. Taken June 25, 2015.

Obsession, Time and Retouching


What an off-the-wall title.

But you have to be obsessed…when time is working against you.

_____________________

A single page from my Grandmother’s precious photo album

Retouching faded or damaged family photographs can become a labor of love.

Perhaps the finished product is meaningless to people outside of your family.  Maybe to some within your own family as well.  But somehow, you become obsessed with it because in spite what others feel, you know in your heart it is important… and perhaps more important as the years roll by.

Family members come into this world, live, then pass on.  How did they live?  Where?  What was it like “back then”?

That’s my mission.  To leave hints of what it was like for my descendants as well as interested family.

To let others see what “they” looked like.  How “they” smiled.  How “they” grew up.

________________________

The first snapshot above is but a page from my Grandmother Kono’s photo album.

Brittle pages.  Photos that were lovingly pasted onto those pages by my Grandmother.  Photos now eaten by insects.  Faded.  Damaged.

Now is the time.  Restore and retouch.  Hundreds of them.  That’s the mission.  Before all knowledge of their lives disappear.

They are disappearing today.

________________________

Having but free software, the retouching being done is surely amateur.  Basic at the best.  I wish I could afford professional software but then again, there would be a tremendous learning curve.  Make do with what you have…as “they” did.

And when you finish one photograph, you receive gifts.  Gifts of seeing what would have been lost.  Lost to their descendents forever.

Here is one example from that page:

(L to R) Suetaro, my dad, Aunt Shiz and an unknown friend. Circa 1923 at 620 S. King Street in Seattle, WA.

While the detail is surely not “lost”, it is hard to make out things.  The print is small to begin with; a quarter was placed for size reference.

But after restoring and retouching, some fun things come into clearer view – especially if there is a companion print to compare with:

In another pose on the same album page, you can see both my dad and Suetaro were holding food in their hands and dad had a bandaged thumb.  Here, after restoration, you can more clearly see the food but it blends into his bandaged thumb which would have been hard to separate.  I’m pretty sure Dad is eating an “onigiri” or rice ball, likely wrapped in seaweed.  Uncle Suetaro had already devoured his.  Minor detail, yes.  But now we have an idea of what Grandmother fed them in Seattle while growing up.

Aunt Shiz…well, it appears she would rather have been playing with her friend but we know she wore a uniform to school.  And she has a hair clip.  Berets for boys were in fashion, also, it seems.  Funny as Dad doesn’t like to wear hats much.  We also know that on that day, they wore very Western clothes…down to his overalls.

One barber pole is also different than the other.  When dad saw this today, for some reason, he just proudly blurted out, “620 S. King Street”, and very happily.  I think he was amazed at himself for remembering.  But the confirmation of the address came from retouching the print.  He also said, “That’s wood (referring to the sidewalk),” implying he doesn’t remember a wooden sidewalk.  But I mentioned to him it was cement when you look at it carefully and he was happy that he wasn’t a “pumpkin head”.

From this retouched print, Dad also added one startling comment out of the blue.  He said a number of “hakujin”, or Caucasians, came to the shop, even though it was in “Japanese Town”.  I asked him why.  His reply was, “I don’t know…  but Japanese are more attentive, I guess, than the other barbers…especially in shaving.”  I know what he means.

________________________

So all this “stuff” came from retouching a faded photo… Things that would have been otherwise lost.  Face it.  Dad isn’t the little boy eating that onigiri anymore.  But he still eats like a horse.  A good sign.  Aunt Shiz didn’t feel like eating much the day she quietly passed away.

Obsession and time.

And time is running out.

Dadgummit


OK.

Please allow me to beat this one to death.

Yes.  President Harding’s last photos in my grandmother’s album.

OMG.  Leave it alone!

________________________

I found a copy of the actual event flyer from July 1923.

Now we can see an overview.  See what the Bell Street Pier looked like when President Harding rode in his motorcade.

You can make out train tracks.  Look at the far left – you can see the window locations on the building and…a pole.  You can also see blackness under what appears to be a short bridge and a railing that abruptly ends.  Important stuff.

The “PORT OF SEATTLE” with “BELL STREET PIER” signage can be signage can be seen at the far left.

Upon studying “Grandma’s” photos further and in comparison to the “press” photo (below), I feel BOTH were taken within seconds of each other – but from opposite side of the motorcade.  Please note my scribbles:

“Grandma’s” on top, “press” below.

And note the following obervations:

  1. Pole – also painted white at the bottom;
  2. The prominent roof of a car (circled) parked along the pier and next to the pole;
  3. The group of four men marked with the proverbial “X marks the spot(s)”;
  4. The wooden railing in both of Grandma Kono’s photos; and,
  5. The US Marine Corps on one side of the motorcade, the US Navy on the other.

Amazing.  These are two rare images taken from different sides of President Harding and within seconds of each other.

BUT…….

With the flyer image, we now know train tracks ran along the pier.  Trains are also visible in the press photo.  There are MEN atop the rail cars.

Due to the angle, it is believed the photos in Grandma Kono’s album were taken from atop the rail cars.  Off to the left just outside the field of view in the picture (just like the grassy knoll in the famous Zapruder film of JFK’s assassination).

Ergo, I cannot fathom Grandma Kono climbing atop a rail car…let alone in a dress as was customary at that time for ladies.

Or would she?  Nah.

So…I don’t believe she herself took the pictures.

Dadgummit.

BUT……

Perhaps it was Grandpa Hisakichi!

OK.  Stop.

A Desire and President Harding


It was hard not to get caught up on the surprising photos Grandma Kono took of President Harding.

Taken in 1922 at the White House.

July 27, 1923.

Six days before the sudden death of President Harding.

I just couldn’t deny my natural tendency to research…with no goal to speak of.

And while I have hundreds of other vintage family photographs taken of up to a century ago to scan and retouch, I just had retouch President Harding’s pictures.  To bring back the excitement of that warm day in Seattle.

I was a bad boy.

And this story is unexciting unless you are into the past…and into a family’s past as well.

__________________________

It was most fortunate Flickr friend, US Navy veteran and author M. Shawn Hennessy (author of “Freedom’s Fortress“) offered assistance without any prompting.  What a guy…especially since he is on the mend after a bad spill on his bike.  He is sure to make a lot of friends with the TSA getting through airport security now.

After some researching on his own, Shawn classified the battleship in Grandma Kono’s photo album as one from the Pennsylvania class.

After Shawn’s assist made it easy, she was identified as BB-38 – the USS Pennsylvania.  Interestingly, another battleship, the USS Idaho, was part of President Harding’s naval review – not the USS Pennsylvania.  It appears that President Harding boarded the USS Pennsylvania in Puget Sound for dinner although she was a frequent visitor to that area.

Grandma Kono’s picture as retouched:

A couple of vintage naval photographs of the USS Pennsylvania on the internet for comparison:

Archival photograph
Archival photograph

(Note: After FDR signed the Executive Order to imprison Japanese citizens on the west coast after Pearl Harbor, the FBI went into many private homes in search of “spy material” which definitely would have included any happenstance photo of the military.  It would be interesting to contemplate of what may have happened if my grandparents had remained in Seattle and the FBI came across these photographs in their home after Pearl Harbor.)

Her other picture of the USS Pennsylvania as retouched.  The shuttle does not have a civilian standing at aft as I previously noted.  We now see that he is a naval officer with his cocked hat and shoulder paulettes.

The photos in Grandma Kono’s album of President Harding’s motorcade were taken from a distance – not streetside.  That would become an interesting point.

The retouched photos in Grandma’s album; in the first image, the limousine is between the US Marine Corps recruiting truck and a car’s rooftop.  Shawn identified the ship at dockside as the destroyer USS Hendersen:

The closest view of the President in Grandma Kono’s album as retouched.

In scanning the internet, Shawn and I came across a few “press-type” professional photographs of the event; they were mostly taken from streetside.  Up close and personal.  The best image showing the details of President Harding’s limousine – down to the carpet of flowers on the hood – and the First Lady’s hat found by Shawn on the internet:

A professional press photo

Another view:

Scan the bystanders.  This is also a cropped image of the next photo.
This is the uncropped image of the previous photo.  Scan the bystanders.

If you enlarge the images and scan the bystanders, I did not see one individual with a camera to his or her face.  Many of the males were doffing their hat with one hand which further decreases the number of individuals capable of taking a photo.

As for the cameras of that time, they would have been of the collapsible bellows type or an early Brownie – which would have been literally a box with a small hole for the lens.  Both required two hands to operate properly.  In the family photos while camping somewhere near Seattle, I noticed a bellows-type camera.  Also important to note that is it was unlikely her camera would have been a Speed Graphic (4×5 film requires a dark slide thereby too much time) or a TLR (square negative with a reverse image in viewfinder).  It would be more likely she used 620 or 127 film in my opinion.

_______________________________

I also did not notice obvious non-whites in the crowds.

The significance of seeing only Caucasian bystanders?  Perhaps minorities may have decided to not be in the way…or there was no interest…or had to work as it was a Monday.  That leads me to the question of whether or not my grandmother was there to snap the pictures.  If not, from whom would she have received copies of these pictures?

_______________________________

My conclusively unsupportable conclusions?  That’s a sentence for sure.

No matter how you look at Grandma Kono’s pictures, they appear to be rare, personally taken photos outside of “authorized” photographs – military, government or newspaper.  They also show the “ambience” of the event being taken from a distance.

I also believe Grandfather Hisakichi would have been unlikely to have snapped the photos if he were there.  He was known to be strict and would have honored customs – like doffing his hat.  That would remove him from have taken the pictures of the motorcade as it required two hands to operate a camera of that era.  That leaves Grandma Kono – IF she was there.

Lastly, I believe the film used was either 620 or 127 (or similar) and not large format.  It is further supported by the print size (roughtly 2-1/2 x 3-1/2).  That would tend to support the belief that the photo was taken by an ordinary bystander and not a professional photographer.  It was also not taken by a Speed Graphic.

_____________________________

Hmmm…  After all this research, should I have been doing something else after all?

All I know for sure was that the photos of President Harding were taken on July 27, 1923 at the Bell Street Pier in Seattle.

That he was already ill.

That our 29th President would be dead six days later.

That I couldn’t spot any civilians snapping a picture.

And a desire to believe my Grandma Kono took these rare pictures of President Harding.

Private Photos of President Harding


Unbelievable.

The last few privately taken photos of an American president before his death were in an old Japanese lady’s photo album.

My grandmother’s.

________________________________

These four photos had intrigued me.  They had caught my eye earlier but there were other precious photographs to scan and retouch.

But the curiosity killed this old sourpuss.

I had to scan them… and there were fantastic discoveries.

_______________________________

President Harding, our 29th president, arrived in Seattle on July 27, 1923.  He was on a 40-day tour of the Western United States.

He would pass away just six days later.

_______________________________

After collaborating with a flickr buddy and author, Shawn Hennessey, we came to the conclusion that this indeed was President Harding’s motorcade at the Port of Seattle.  Of course,  we will never know for sure who took these photos but they are of the same size and finish of many of Grandmother Kono’s other photos of that time period.  Still, they are remarkably an incredible capture historically.

They are unretouched.  I thought they look better as-is.

A shuttle bears the colors and a civilian stands at the aft.  US Navy sailors are at the fore.
Shawn Hennessy believes this to be a Pennsylvania class battleship due to the single stack.  President Harding did review the fleet in the harbor (about 50 ships).

You can clearly make out the Port of Seattle signage with the beginning of “Bell Street Pier” on the building.  Note the US Marine and US Navy color guards.  It is likely President Harding’s destroyer that is docked at pier’s end.  The blanket of flowers can be seen on the hood of the President’s limousine, too.

Motorcade begins

The President can be seen closer below.  Of note is the agent standing on the limousine’s running board – or more specifically, his clothing.  Compare his clothing to other images you can find on the web.  You will see gentlemen doffing their hats to the President as he passes by.

President Harding.  He will pass away six days later in San Francisco.

__________________________________

Just a glimpse into American history – from a Hiroshima photo album.

I hope you all won’t mind if I feel Grandmother Kono took these pictures in 1923.

Grandfather and a Coleman


It was there at Grandfather Hisakichi’s feet…  a Coleman stove!  My guess is circa 1920 up near a Mt. Rainier campground…  It’s just so…unexpected to see a Japanese family of the early 1900’s with such an “American” icon.  I hope I am not a rascist but I sure didn’t expect it.

Grandfather Hisakichi at the right. Unretouched.

And amateurish-ly (is that a word?) retouched with free software.  I’m El Cheapo:

As retouched.

Grandmother Kono is not pictured but I wonder who snapped the photo.

There was a photo of Mt. Rainier dated August 1920 on another page in the deteriorating album kept by Grandmother Kono.

Unretouched.

It is remotely possible the man on the right is also Grandfather Hisakichi but I doubt it.  I feel this was at a separate outing from the campsite photo.

The Letter from 1945


The Letter from 1945

February 19, 1945 – Men with names like Kuwahara and Koyanagi were with the US Marines on the sands of Iwo Jima.

No, not the Japanese soldiers within the concrete fortifications led by General Tadamichi Kuribayashi of the Japanese Imperial Army. These were Americans of Japanese descent, or Japanese-Americans. Nisei. And to make matters worse, they were in the uniforms of the US Army. GI Joes. The Japanese were trying to kill them, too.

Sorry, Marines. It wasn’t all your show – lightheatedly, of course.  (One of the greatest US Marines, John Basilone, CMH, Navy Cross gave his life on those black talcum powder-like sands.)

Having said that, ever watch the iconic B&W World War II classic, “The Sands of Iwo Jima”? John Wayne might just be turning over in his grave.  But to his credit, the movie is one of my faves.  It’s theme song, “The Marine’s Hymm”, gives me goosebumps even to this day.

________________________

The envelope immediately caught my attention. Aside from a crease, the envelope looked pristine. It was addressed to my Dad while he was in Minidoka, an Idaho prison camp where he and over 10,000 Japanese-Americans were imprisoned by FDR. It was postmarked September 2, 1945 – just about seven months after the bloody fight for Iwo Jima. The return address was the “War Department”.

If you’ll get past the lawyer speak, the letter says Dad is now free to go about America as he chooses.

___________________________

Because of secrecy, photos of Japanese-Americans in the US Army’s MIS are rare. This one shows Nisei on the sands of Iwo Jima.

About one thousand young Nisei men volunteered for the US Army while their families remained imprisoned in Minidoka. That’s about ten percent of the total camp’s population. Most who volunteered were from my Dad’s home state, Washington. While Dad was not one of those volunteers, 71 of these young men from Minidoka were killed fighting for the red, white and blue. Two were bestowed the Medal of Honor – posthumously. Silent patriots to this day.

“Kibei” were amongst those 1,000 men. Kibei’s were a sub-set of Nisei’s as a whole. A Kibei is a Japanese-American who actually spent time being raised in Japan. One result was they were absolutely fluent in Japanese – read, write, speak. Even slang and dirty words. No land-locked Nisei could come close. Dad was a Kibei.

___________________________

During the war, over 6,000 Nisei became part of the Military Intelligence Service (MIS). The MIS were top secret. They were largely all volunteers.

But the Kibei – they formed the crucial core of the group. The most fluent. The decisive secret weapon. As luck would have it, many of these Kibei were from Hiroshima. Their fathers came to Hawaii or Washington in droves from Hiroshima for a better life – just like my Grandfather Hisakichi. (Dad is pictured here standing next to his Hiroshima home in 1947.)

MIS Kibei were the ones who intercepted and swiftly translated the Japanese Imperial Navy radio transmissions that led to the shoot down of Admiral Yamamoto’s transport. Kibei also swiftly and accurately translated captured critical secret military plans written in Japanese (“Z-Plan“) for the defense of the Marianas Islands and the Philippines; this led to the lopsided American naval victory called the “Marianas Turkey Shoot” in 1944 – as well as to the death of my Seattle-born Uncle Suetaro. My dad’s youngest brother.

Interestingly, due to continuing suspicions, the US Navy and the Marine Corps refused to enlist the Nisei. Their loss.

___________________________

Actual “Z-Plan” report translated by Nisei of the top secret MIS.

The cloak and dagger actions of the MIS were only declassified in the 1972 by Executive Order 11652. That’s a long time. And true to their oaths, these Nisei kept their heroics to themselves for all those decades. They sought no honor or recognition.

____________________________

But back to the letter of 1945 – mailed to my Dad just seven months after the vicious fight for Iwo Jima. While my father finally volunteered for duty in February 1947 and became part of the famed MIS, his silent and patriotic Nisei brothers that preceded him hastened the end of war and saved millions of casualties – for both sides.

In recognition for their patriotism, sacrifices and loyalty, Congress bestowed upon the MIS and other Nisei who fought for the US in 2010 the Congressional Gold Medal. Two of my uncles were recipients although they had passed away.

By the way, the first recipient of the Congressional Gold Medal was George Washington. I believe the Nisei are in pretty good company.

__________________________

No credit is being taken from the young Marines who fought and died for Iwo Jima. The Marines did take Iwo Jima with their blood…but they were not alone. About 50 Nisei MIS’ers landed in the first assault waves alongside the Marines.

Just ask Mineo Yamagata, a MIS veteran of Saipan and Tinian. He accompanied the 28th Marines to the summit of Mt. Suribachi and witnessed the flag raising.

Oh… He was from Hawaii.