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Topaz: An Account of Japanese Americans Interned in Utah During WWII
Lesson
From War to war

UTAH aND THE COLD WAR

World War I and Utah
Utah's Capitols
Herbert S. Auerbach, Renaissance Man
Utah's "Ugly Duckling" Salt Flats
Publicizing Bryce Canyon
The Last Indian Uprising
Home Industry 20th Century Style
Some 80 Utah Nurses Served in World War I
World War I Heroine Maud Fitch Lived in Eureka, Utah
Mexican Families and the Sugar Industry in Garland
The Development of Zion National Park
The Twenties
Artist John Held, Jr. Created Cultural Icons, 1920's
Media Development in Weber County
Silent Films Intrigued & Occasionally Offended
Coal Production Amid the Wars
Sheep Fueled 1920's Economy
Military Installations
Boxcars and Section Houses
Jack Dempsey Loved Fighting, Mining, and Cowboying
Radio in Utah Began in May 1922 on Station KZN
The Cigarette Ban of the 19020's Caused an Uproar
Prohibition Failed to Stop the Liquor Flow in Utah
Lawyer Ran For President on the Farmer-Labor Ticket
George Sutherland Served on the U.S. Supreme Court
Alice Stratton Feared and Made Fun of "Kaiser Bill"
Klansmen at a Funeral and a Terrible Lynching
President Harding's 1923 Visit to Utah
Growing Crops For the Cannery
Dinosaur National Monument
The Fathers of Capitol Reef National Park
Ogden's the Bigelow-Preserves a Historic Area
Philo T. Farnsworth's Invention
The Beginnings of Commerical Aviation
The White Book Road Guide
The Great Depression
Depression Memories
"Even Grasshoppers Were Starving" During Drought
New Deal Agencies Built 233 Buildings in Utah
"Alphabet" Agencies in Utah County
The Civilian Conservation Corps Was a Boon to Utah
The Civilian Conservation Corps
Marriner S. Eccles Helped Design FDR's New Deal
Reed Smoot and the Smoot-Hawley Tariff, 1930
Reed Smoot & America's Natural Resources, 1903-33
Children in the 1930's Hoped to Become Nurses & Pilots
Arches National Monument
A Labor Inspector During the Great Depression
Clean Clothes Blowing in the Breeze
Utah's Rosies in the War
Garfield County Airport Has Unusual Hangar
Marie Ogden Led Spiritual Group in San Juan County
Uinta Basin Group Trekked to the 1933 World's Fair
Helen Hofmann Bertagnole-"Utah's Queen of Swing"
World War II in Utah
How Trains Helped Win a War
The War Effort at Home
Topaz Relocation Center
Topaz: Japanese American Interned in UT During WWII
Japanese Agricultural Colony at Keetley
Utahn Survives the Attack at Pearl Harbor
The USS Salt Lake City Made History
Utah Naval Officer Died a Hero's Death at Pearl Harbor
Rhymes Filled Children's Autograph Books
Utah's Rosies Upshot
Women Workers and Housing Issues
World War II Claimed the Lives of Four Utah Brothers

Yoshiko Uchida
Beehive History 25

In September 1942 we were shipped by train to a concentration camp which we knew to be somewhere in Utah and was called Topaz.

There were no trees, or growth of any kind, except clumps of dry greasewood. We were entering the Sevier Desert some fifteen miles west of Delta, and the surrounding were now as bleak as a bleached bone. as the bus drew up to one of the barracks, we heard the unlikely sound of band music. Marching toward us down the industry road was g group of young Boy Scouts who had come with the advance contingent, playing bugles, trumpets, and drums and carrying signs that read, " Welcome to Topaz--Your Camp."  It was a touching sight to see them standing in the burning sun, covered with dust and making such a determined effort to lessen the shock of our arrival at this bleak desert camp.

We found that our [barracks] room contained nothing but four army cots without mattresses . . . Those who arrived still later did not even have barracks to go to and were simply assigned to cots set up in empty mess halls, laundries, or the corridors of the hospital.

As the mornings and nights grew colder, we looked with increased longing at the black iron stove that stood uselessly outside our barracks waiting for work crews to bring it inside and connect it. One day, almost a month after our arrival, a work crew composed of resident men appeared and finally installed our stove . ..

By now my father, sensing the tremendous needs of the struggling community, had volunteered to serve on several committees. My mother, in her own gentle and quiet way, continued to be a loving focal point for our family, converting our dreary barracks room into a makeshift home, where we invited our friends as we did back in Berkeley. Having been a close family, ours did not disintegrate, as many did, from the pressures created when entire families were confined to living in a single room.

I applied to work in the Topaz elementary school system [and] earned a salary of $19 a month for the forty-hour week.

[One day] about noon, gray-brown clouds began massing in the sky, and a hot sultry wind seemed an ominous portent of coming storm. Before I was halfway to school the wind grew so intense I felt as though I were caught in a hurricane of dust. Barracks only a few feet away were soon completely obscured by walls of dust, and I was fearful that the wind might sweep me off my feet. I stopped every few yards to lean against a barracks and catch my breath and then plodded on to school. When I got there, I found that many of the children had braved the storm to come to school. It touched me deeply to see the eagerness of the children to learn despite the desolation of their surroundings and the meager tools for learning.  At the time they seemed to adapt with equanimity and cheerfulness sot his total and bewildering upheaval of their young lives.

I tried to conduct class, but dust poured into the room from all sides as well as from the hole in the roof, which still lacked a chimney.  It soon became obvious that we could not continue classes, and it seemed prudent to send the children home before the storm grew worse and stranded us all at school. That night the wind reached such terrible force I was sure our barracks would be blown apart. For hours the wind shrieked around us like a howling animal, rattling and shaking our flimsy barracks. The following day, the non-Japanese head of elementary schools reprimanded the teachers of Block 41 for having dismissed school without consulting him.

A succession of dust storms, rainsqualls, and a full-fledged snowstorm finally brought our limping schools to a complete halt in mid-November. Snow blew in from the holes that still remained in our roof, and we all shivered in ten-degree temperatures even though we wore coats, scares, and boots. An official notice finally appeared stating that schools would close and not reopen until they were fully winterized with sheetrock walls and stoves. It seemed close to miraculous that we had been able to hold any kind of school for as long as we had, and I knew it was possible only because the children had been so eager to come and the residents so anxious to have some semblance of order in their lives.

Excerpted from "Topaz: City of Dust," in Utah Historical Quarterly 38 (Summer 1980).

 

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