EVOLUTION OF A GARDEN


Sachi
“Sachi” watercolor painting by kayti sweetland rasmussen

The Japanese period began with teaching my Campfire Girls troop about children’s holidays in Japan. There were many little Japanese friends while growing up in Long Beach, California, and it was fun to hear about “Girls and Boys Day celebrations. When a CampFire Girls troop opened up it seemed like a good project to teach them about children’s customs in Japan, so a lot of study began on my part first.

What started with the CampFire group, extended to studying the language, and to the decoration of a new home and garden.

Japanese screen
Antique Japanese Screen

Japanese Lady
“Japanese Lady” stoneware sculpture by kayti sweetland rasmussen

While we tore the house apart and rebuilt, restored and re-imaged it, we began to tackle the flat, uninteresting patch of grass in the backyard. We suggested a swimming pool, but our girls said they would rather go to the two neighborhood pools where their friends swam.

San Francisco has a world famous Japanese garden which we frequented often getting ideas for a garden of our own. It had to begin with a pool of course, and Dr. Advice spent many evenings after work digging. The hole was soon about 4′ deep, 12′ long and 8’wide, so I suggested he stop. Ultimately, there was another pond with waterfall at the other end of the yard, and a red moon bridge over the larger pool, leading to a small teahouse among the trees at the other side. A wooden finial on the top of the roof was carved by a woodcarver friend. We were indebted to our late brother-in-law and another friend for joining us in all the digging, hammering and celebratory beer drinking after the job was finished. Our good friend Tak Fudenna helped us get rocks and offered suggestions.

gete Japanese garden

J Garden 2 (2)

J Garden 2 (1)

J Garden 4 (1)

J Garden 4 (2)
The bridge had a slight accident a few years later when it groaned under the stress of about 15 high school girls posing for a photo-op before graduation. Dr. A groaned a bit himself when he called home from a business trip and heard the news.

A visiting Japanese friend who came during a home and garden tour, said “It’s lovely now, but wait another ten years and it will be spectacular.” I visited it several years ago, and he was right.

AN UNCOMMON MAN


What kind of friend wakes you up with a knock on the bedroom window at 4:30 in the morning telling you to “Get up! You’re going to miss the morning!” It had better be a good friend!

Tak Fudenna was a farmer, and as farmers get up early, he went several times a week to the home of his good friend Dr. Advice to share what he loved; the fresh morning air, the solitude of early morning, the beauty of a healthy field of cauliflower waiting to be harvested.

It became the habit of the two men to go to the “Alvarado Hilton” for a quick breakfast at Mary’s before “checking” the fields, and before the workday began for both. I don’t remember what the actual name of the “Hilton” was, but it was in the small town of Alvarado, and had once years ago been a small bank.

Like thousands of small farming communities throughout the country, Alvarado was a suburb of a larger nearby town which kept growing. While the rest of the town of Alvarado slumbered away for lack of business, the “Hilton” watched its few small businesses fold and buildings stand empty.

At some point in time the bank became a very casual eating place presided over by a woman who dished out hearty breakfasts to hungry farmers needing a big meal and a few cups of coffee to jump-start their day.

Tak was a practical joker, and one soon learned not to take his word that something was “not very hot”. After tasting it himself, he would offer a spoonful to Dr. Advice, who soon found out it was tabasco sauce straight out of the bottle! The Danes were never used to sprinkling tabasco on their pastry.

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The three Fudenna brothers were all second generation Japanese-Americans who had the largest cauliflower farm in Fremont. When WW2 broke out, all Japanese in America, by order of Executive Order 9066, were interned in military-type “relocation” camps throughout the country for the duration of the war. Tak and his mother were sent to Topaz Lake, Utah and their farms as well as most other Japanese-American farmers, were confiscated.

When he was eighteen, as did thousands of other boys in America, Tak received a draft notice saying he was now in the army as a member of the all Japanese-American 442 regiment, and was sent to North Africa. The battalion had the most casualties of any U.S. battalion and went on to fight in Italy where Tak received the bronze star.

When asked about his internment camp experience, he was fond of saying “When it’s over, it’s over. Just plow it under.

EXECUTIVE ORDER

In time, Tak married and raised a family of six children, whose three oldest boys became outstanding athletes in the local high school before going on to take over the family farms. Tak told them that someday there would be no more farms in Fremont, so the three sons went to Salinas and Yuma to farm lettuce and cauliflower.

The farmland that they held in Fremont has now been turned into apartments and small businesses.

Tak and his wife, Sachi, had never missed a game and were big supporters of the high school sports program. After all his boys graduated from school, Tak was musing what he could leave the school and the city to benefit the youth program. What he settled on was a football stadium, that would have a great track, lights, good bleachers, restrooms and food stands.

Together he and a group of his friends built the Tak Fudenna stadium at Washington High School but to be used by all the high schools in Fremont. When people found what he was planning, donations of material and manpower poured in to help this cheerful, loveable man achieve the legacy he left to our city.

Tak was killed in a road accident at the age of 51. He was truly a common, Uncommon man.