Federal Way history book makes long-awaited debut

Groundbreaking news: A team of multi-talented volunteers at the Historical Society of Federal Way (HSFW) just completed the long-awaited and overdue manuscript of the city’s history.

This is the kind of wonderful story that deserves to be shouted from the rafters of every home and building in town.

When I was 10, my Japanese-American mother traded in her credentials as a PTA mom and Blue Bird group leader to return to the University of Washington in Seattle and earn a master’s degree in librarianship. My head still hurts where she repeatedly drilled into my head the importance of a good reference book.

My immigrant husband and I bought our home at the end of the 1970s and moved to the city with the idea we’d begin our family. I believed that the lack of a written history of the area also meant a lack of a common and easily accessible starting point to talk about community for many years — for a then otherwise shy, socially reclusive, tongue-tied and bookish woman like myself.

The area has witnessed a colorful span of local history since Captain George Vancouver noted in his log the measurements of “47 degrees, 21 minutes latitude” after a stop on the beach in 1792 near Poverty Bay just north of Redondo Beach.

This is noted in the HSFW’s excellent online historical timeline compiled by area resident Dick Caster. However, a volume containing a history of Federal Way has not been a feature on the shelves of local homes, schools, libraries and businesses.

This longtime omission is about to change.

No amount of thanks that can be properly bestowed on the HSFW volunteers responsible for the upcoming book as written in the most recent issue of the society’s quarterly newsletter, Historical Gazette (July-Sept. 2008), with credits to: Maria Sciacqua, Dick Caster and Ann Hagen as well as the able direction of hard-working, forwar-thinking and dynamic society president, Diana Noble-Gulliford.

Over and above its intrinsic value as a good reference, the real beauty of the project lies in the fact authors have chosen to harness the power of carefully chosen pictures over hundreds of pages of words to convey a snapshot evolution of the city — which speaks more and in greater depth to the kinds of details that are inadvertently absent from the shorter, pithy portraits of the area we’ve had in the interim.

As a child of Asian-American heritage, my tinted memories of growing up in Seattle are filtered through the perspective of a non-white youngster whose school days were surrounded by generic representations of people who were always Caucasian.

Nonetheless, as a city resident I felt a deep sense of pride having read as part of my classroom experience a history of Seattle written for the young. And despite the general lack of inclusion by area citizens from such diverse communities (a topic of which I was then already sensitive), the overall feeling of social integration and cohesiveness with the broader community of Seattle was only reinforced after a school field trip to the Museum of History and Industry, which turned up illustrations and displays underlining the story I read.

Advertising students will recognize this as part of getting your audience to recognize brands through constant repetition and placement. Educators and politicians are very aware of the value of making multiple efforts to put their subject, name, party and voting record out. I’ll submit that linkages between history and building community are no different.

Thanks to the HSFW history book crew, its membership and all those people in the community whose stories will be shared in this initial outing. There is an opportunity within the grasp of us all to consider the beginnings of such ownership.

Federal Way resident Mizu Sugimura: mizu.s@comcast.net.

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