Men who found and restored antique radio looking for family who - KPTV - FOX 12

Men who found and restored antique radio looking for family who had to give it up

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A vintage radio has been restored after surviving a Gresham house fire, and now two men are trying to return it to the family who had to give it up before going into a World War II internment camp. (KPTV) A vintage radio has been restored after surviving a Gresham house fire, and now two men are trying to return it to the family who had to give it up before going into a World War II internment camp. (KPTV)
PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) -

A 1939 Zenith Stars and Bars vintage radio sits in Pat Kagi's home waiting to be claimed.

If it looks out of place, it's because the radio dates back to a time when a radio could be 40 inches tall and an elegant piece of living room furniture.

It brought the outside world into America’s homes.

It would have brought word of the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor and America’s entry into World War II.

Americans listening would have also heard of America’s plans to send Japanese-Americans living on the west coast inland to internment camps.

This valuable old radio, in fact, was once owned by one of those Japanese-American families.

Will Barnett, a local electrician, bought it after it was blackened and nearly destroyed in a Gresham house fire. The man he bought the radio from told him that the original owners had been sent to an internment camp, but he did not know the family's name.

When he got the radio home, Barnett first set out to restore the radio. Then he set out to return it.

He needed help trying to find the family of the original owner, so he turned to the Northwest Vintage Radio Society.

The nonprofit group works toward restoring and preserving antique radio and wireless equipment, and they got the zenith back in working order.

Society member Kagi said the old radio was a fancy one for its time, and returning it to the owner is a personal mission for him, calling it an opportunity to, “return something of value to a family."

Kagi's own mother was interned in Wyoming during World War II, and she shared with him the tension and loss she felt as a child.

His mother said people were only allowed to bring one suitcase with them, and she left behind her prized possession, a Shirley Temple doll.

"It had a silk dress and was all beautiful, and she really prized that,” he said. “It was the one thing she left behind that she really regrets."

Kagi actually bought his mom another Shirley Temple doll a few years ago, but if he could get her back that original one, he would. He knows just how important that would be to her.

If he can, Kagi said he just wants to return the beautiful antique radio back to its original family. He has spent years trying to track down the original owners of this prized Depression-era radio.

They don't have a family name, but they just suspect the family lived in Gresham in the early 1940s.

Kagi and Barnett both hope that sharing the story of their search can help them find the family, and have a chance to return a piece of personal history.

They ask anyone that may have information that could help them connect with the original owners of the radio to contact them on the society's website, NWVRS.org.

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