Puyallup: News

Camp Harmony Committee to provide living history presentation

A historic photo shows Japanese Americans interned at Camp Harmony at the Puyallup Fairgrounds in 1942.
A historic photo shows Japanese Americans interned at Camp Harmony at the Puyallup Fairgrounds in 1942. Courtesy

The Washington State Fairgrounds brings happy memories for those involved with the annual Washington State Fair and other events throughout the year.

However, during a brief time in 1942, the fairgrounds were converted to a Japanese internment camp, ironically called Camp Harmony, bringing a dark and painful history to the iconic downtown Puyallup spot.

Camp Harmony was a temporary facility where Japanese Americans were forced together in March of 1942, following an executive order from President Franklin Roosevelt.

Now that Campy Harmony is part of the local community’s history, in 2013 the Camp Harmony Committee was created in an effort to educate the community about the dark past of the fairgrounds, and to keep the memory alive.

As part of the Festival of Books at the Puyallup Public Library, which has a theme of WW II: Memories of Valor, the library is hosting the Camp Harmony Committee on Saturday (Oct. 10).

“A lot of people weren’t aware that the fairgrounds were a gathering center for a Japanese internment camp,” said Bonnie Anderson, the youth services librarian.

The event is family friendly for parents of older children. Anderson cautions that the tone around Camp Harmony is sad, but it is a part of history.

Camp Harmony Committee member Elsie Yotsuuye Taniguchi, who was detained in the Japanese internment camp as a child, will speak at Saturday’s event.

“I thought it would be a good connection with our Festival of Books theme,” Rhonda Gould, interim library director, said of the upcoming event. “It will be powerful to hear their stories, hear them share their experience and how it’s impacted their lives.”

Dan Russ, chair of the Camp Harmony Committee, says the presentation at the library will have more of a living history feel to it.

“The people who are speaking lived through it, and were children when it happened,” he said. “The presentation is an effort to keep Camp Harmony alive.”

With the 75th anniversary of Camp Harmony approaching in 2017, Russ and the rest of the committee are taking part in what he calls an educational effort.

“It’s a good time to remember the civil rights violations,” Russ said. “It’s part of our history as a community and state.”

During the lifetime of Camp Harmony, those imprisoned lived in mud, dirt and horse stalls from April to October of 1942, Russ said.

“It’s a reminder that racial injustice can happen everywhere,” he said. “It will help people not to let it happen again.”

The Camp Harmony Committee begins at 11 a.m., and wraps up at 12:30 Saturday (Oct. 10) at the Puyallup Public Library. For more information, visit www.puyallupfestivalofbooks.com/.