Wash’s Auto Repair is closing in August after 48 years in business in Columbia City. Owner Washin (Wash) Murakami, 83, said, “It’s about time.”
Murakami said he attributes the success of his business, at 5021 Rainier Ave. S., to the fact that he likes to stay busy and work with his hands and has had “two good mechanics with him for over 40 years. One of them retired six years ago.”
Murakami was thinking about retiring then, but he worried about his other mechanic, Mike Minnari.
“I waited for Mike to get to retirement age. He turned 67 now and has been getting Social Security for about a year, so I don’t feel so bad.”
Murakami was raised on a farm in Sumner, Wash., with 10 siblings. In 1942, when he was 14 years old, his family was taken to an internment camp in nearby Puyallup. From there, they were moved to the Minidoka War Relocation Center in Idaho.
“We called it a concentration camp back then — it sounded better than an internment camp,” Murakami said.
They spent three years in the camp. When they were released, his family moved to a farm his father and brother had purchased in Auburn, Wash. At this time, Murakami went to school for a year in Cleveland, Ohio.
When he returned, he said he “was lucky" to start an apprenticeship at Seventh Avenue Service, an auto-repair shop on South Jackson Street in Seattle.
Three years into his work as a mechanic, Murakami had a close call. The car was on a jack with its front wheels removed and the rear wheels on the ground. He was under it working on the engine while it was running.
“I accidentally hit the reverse lever, and the car started backing off [the jack]. I pulled the wires to stop the car, but it fell on me. I thought I was gone,” he said.
He said cars from that era had a big frame on them, and he fit inside the frame. “I must’ve been skinny,” he said with a laugh. His injuries were a black eye and a bruised chest.
This wasn’t his first mishap with a vehicle. When he was 5, he was hit by an empty farm truck driven by his oldest brother. He was hospitalized for three months in traction, though he did not have any broken bones.
. WASH, Page 18