Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Kazuko Iwahashi Interview
Narrator: Kazuko Iwahashi
Interviewer: Martha Nakagawa
Location: Emeryville, California
Date: May 26, 2011
Densho ID: denshovh-ikazuko-01-0016

<Begin Segment 16>

MN: And then the train stopped at Delta, Utah, is that right? And then from Delta you boarded a bus and arrived at Topaz. What was your first impression of Topaz?

KI: It looked awfully dry. It looked awfully dry and then of course even before you even approach... as you approach it down the road you can see all these black buildings, black surrounding. I don't remember if I recall seeing barbed wires or anything though until we actually got to the camp.

MN: And what was it like stepping off the bus?

KI: Well, the ground was pretty soft, powdery, so it was kind of messy.

MN: Do you remember the barrack that you were assigned?

KI: Oh, yeah, I don't know how we got there. I don't know if we walked it or if a truck came and took us. I think we probably walked it. And then because of the baggage that everybody had, I think those were brought later on by army trucks. But we were, I'm pretty sure somebody escorted us to our barrack.

MN: Which block was that?

KI: Block 20 which was in the center part, which wasn't as far as having to walk way over to Block 42 or way at the opposite end.

MN: So when you arrived at Topaz, what were some of the first things you did?

KI: Probably went looking for my friends. [Laughs] I wasn't too... I don't remember being too helpful around the room itself but I must have done something. I was the oldest child, unless I was so spoiled and my mother and father did all the work I don't know. But I don't remember doing any hard work or saying something, oh, I don't want to do that. If I did anything I just probably helped make the bed or just something, there was no furniture anyway except the cots.

MN: Now how soon after you moved in did school start at Topaz?

KI: I think it started in September, so pretty quick, pretty quick because when did we leave? Okay, let's see... so that means that we had to whole summer.

MN: Well, the whole summer was at Tanforan, right?

KI: Yeah, let's see... May, June, July... yeah, I guess it was soon after the school did start in September there.

MN: And you got to Topaz about August or September?

KI: Yeah, it was hot so it had to be July, August, September, something.

MN: And now you're in junior high school. What was the junior high school at Topaz called?

KI: Topaz Junior High. [Laughs] Real original and the high school was called Topaz High School.

MN: Now which block was the junior high school located?

KI: Both the high school and the junior high school was Block 32.

MN: And was there a Japanese language school at Topaz?

KI: I think each of the... not a camp wide one but I know they tried to start one in our own block and had it in the recreation hall. Very small attendance, maybe three or four of us, but I don't know who it was that was the teacher but it didn't last very long. I don't think we were interested at that age at that time.

MN: Then let's see, you also joined the Girls Reserve. Can you tell us what the Girls Reserves club was and what activities you did?

KI: Girl Reserves is sort of like the Girl's Scouts but it had a different beginning and stuff like that. I don't know... our leaders were the Nisei women and I think we were the Junior Girl Reserves and I think there were the Senior Girl Reserves because there was a lot of kids those days. And we did the same thing that we did at the other place. I can't remember where we met though, I can't remember if we met at the school or at a recreation hall. And now that you're asking, me I can't remember anything specific we did.

MN: Camping?

KI: Well, except for that camping, but on a everyday basis during the rest of the year I can't remember what we did. I know we did things, obviously, but I can't remember if it was games, like baseball and basketball and doing crafts or what we did. But the big event of course was that camping because we got to go out of the camp.

MN: And where did you go camping at?

KI: It's a place called Camp Antelope and it's... I think it's an old, it was an old CCC camp or something like that. And everything was of course outdoors, we slept in pup tents, two of us to a pup tent, and had open dining hall. And of course I don't remember having hot water because I remember thinking gosh... we must have had it for taking showers.

MN: How long was this camping trip?

KI: Who?

MN: How long was the camping trip?

KI: Well, normally I think it lasted about month, I mean, not a month, excuse me, one week. But our group had to end up staying maybe two or three extra days 'cause I think something was happening in camp, I think something was happening in camp so that they couldn't get the transportation back up to us to take us home. But our group had the experience of having a little brush fire right on the side of the little swimming hole and we had to actually form a bucket brigade, take the water out of the pool and then put the fire out. So that was sort of exciting.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.