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Field Trip #3: Topaz

April 18, 2011

I’ve lived in Utah my entire life and have never been to Topaz.  I don’t even think I knew where Topaz was until I did some research last week.  What is Topaz?  It is the Topaz Interment Camp, where over 8000 Japanese-Americans, mainly from the San Francisco area, were relocated beginning in 1942.  It became the fifth-largest city in Utah at the time.

We made the 2 1/2-hour drive from Salt Lake on Friday, stopping in Delta at the Great Basin Museum first, where there is one of the original buildings from the camp.

This was part of a recreation hall, but a portion of it was partitioned to show what an apartment would have looked like for several internees.

They brought only what they could carry with them and were provided with beds and a coal stove.  That was it.  Any other furniture was made from scraps of wood at the camp.

Mess halls were provided and there were two elementary schools and a high school as well as a hospital and a few other buildings.

Two different maps of the camp:

Then we drove out to the actual site of the camp, 16 miles northwest of Delta.  There is a memorial outside the site:

This was a list of all the men who served in the war, even as their families were interned by the U.S. government.  Starred names are those who lost their lives.  This was very sobering.

We drove through the site.  Nothing is left standing, but there are signs marking the various buildings and block numbers and foundations and debris still to be seen.

I can’t describe my feelings as I stood there looking out at the desolate landscape and thinking about all those who had to call that place home in such a sad chapter of our nation’s history.  I’m glad we took the chance to drive down and ponder a bit about what happened there.

Who will the next exceptions be, and what will we do about it?  Something to think about.

“If this democracy, with her extraordinary Constitution, could imprison people only because of their ethnic background, it could happen again.  And it could happen to anyone, black, brown, yellow or white.”       ~Senator Daniel K. Inouye

8 Comments leave one →
  1. Grandma permalink
    April 18, 2011 8:51 am

    That’s a fieldtrip I wish I had been on. Yes it is sobering to think about. Thank you for sharing.

  2. April 18, 2011 10:08 pm

    What a great field trip. What an interesting, and yes sobering, place to visit. That is the way to make History really come to life and become real. I will have to see if there is anything around here that we could see. We will eventually get to WWII.

  3. April 19, 2011 10:18 pm

    Thank you for sharing this. Absolutely fascinating and heartbreaking. I have lived in Utah for several years but never knew about this camp. Next time I go back I’ll need to check this out. I’ve enjoyed reading your past posts. You do a fantastic job with homeschooling. I love how you encompass so much – – reading, music, videos, etc. with the history lessons. Amazing.

  4. April 20, 2011 1:42 pm

    Wow, I have never heard of that either. Thank you so much for sharing.

  5. April 20, 2011 2:45 pm

    wow, so sad, and so sobering. Living History, indeed.

  6. April 20, 2011 11:02 pm

    How wonderful that you had the oppertunity to visit and think about this part of our history. Thanks for sharing.

  7. April 23, 2011 12:15 pm

    I read about Topaz on another blog this morning and realized that this would be a great excursion for my family as well. My grandpa actually was a school teacher there, and it is a place we NEED to see. Thanks so much for sharing your experience.

  8. April 23, 2011 4:51 pm

    I have heard and read about these camps- I had no idea that there was one in Utah. I will have to put that on my list for my next trip out. What a great idea!

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