Densho Digital Archive
Topaz Museum Collection
Title: Grace F. Oshita Interview
Narrator: Grace F. Oshita
Interviewer: Megan Asaka
Location: Salt Lake City, Utah
Date: June 4, 2008
Densho ID: denshovh-ograce-01-0011

<Begin Segment 11>

MA: Okay, so we were talking about your experiences at Tanforan. And I wanted to talk about Topaz now. And can you talk about the day that you left for, for Topaz and what that was like?

GO: We were loaded onto any car, you know, train cars as they could find, and naturally, the old ones were the only ones available for us. And some, somebody mentioned, "Yes, we had candle lights or gas lights," or something like that, you know. At least ours was a regular electric light that they had on the... but still, it was an old, old thing. I did write on my first letter, I said what made me feel sad was that this might be the last time I'll even see the skyline of San Francisco, never knowing where would we, where would we go next, would we end in Japan? Never knew. So the unknown was the worst, I think. We couldn't do anything about it, so we just went on.

MA: So you arrived in Topaz, and that was around, that was still in 1942.

GO: Yes, uh-huh. And I can't remember whether it was quite November, no, it wasn't that cold, I don't think. But Utah could have a variety of, you know, I mean, hots and colds, and mellow, I mean, very mild winter and severe winter, you couldn't tell what to expect.

MA: So when you arrived in Topaz, what, what were you thinking at that point, when you got off the train and were there?

GO: Well, wherever you looked, it was just sandy, it was almost like... it wasn't sand, it was like dust, fine dust that just blew all over. And it would come into, through each cracks, or window, well, just not fitting right, so that was hard. I think my grandma was cleaning the... well, everybody was cleaning, sweeping, whatever, all the time because all this dust would come in. That was the main subject of the whole camp was how dusty it was.

MA: And what were your living conditions like in Topaz?

GO: There were twelve barracks divided into six living quarters. For, small one at the end for two people or two or three people, that's what my grandma and my mom and I had. And then the second one would be the largest, and they would accommodate up to six people. And so that was the next one, and then the one in the center were two square, big enough for four people, and so at least we were separated by families. I didn't realize it, or did you know that some camps had to share rooms with several families, you know. If you only had two and there were so many couples, I thought that was terrible. It was the first time I had heard about that. But a Japanese lady had mentioned it to me and I said, "Well, you're the first one who ever mentioned that," because I said, "We didn't have to live with strangers," and says, "Total strangers," they would just say, "It needs two more bed in here," and it's a great big room, and you're just taking one corner or something. I couldn't believe that that happened. At least we had separate rooms for a family.

MA: So your, your barrack and your living situation, was it, how many, was it just one big room?

GO: Everybody's barracks, I mean, room was one big room. If you had twelve kids, well, you'd get... see, our outside door, because of the severe winter we could have, it's always, there's always an outside door and a small foyer, you know, and then it divided into one, it would be C and D or A and B. And that was so that we would have a double door, and that helped. And I always wondered, "Why do they have this scraper?" There was a piece of metal standing up and holding its, and right by the door, and it turned out to be that you're supposed to scrape your mud off your feet before you entered, and we sure used it. The slightest damp little bit of rain or something, boy, that, it would stick to our shoes and raise havoc.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Topaz Museum. All Rights Reserved.