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-01-0012

<Begin Segment 12>

MA: So you were a, you were mentioning that you were a high school senior at that point. And when did you start school again? You went to Topaz high school?

GO: Uh-huh, so I can't remember when it started, but it didn't take too, too long. But there was only one high school, and I don't know whether that high school took a whole block or not, but at least we had a room to ourselves. Tanforan it was different. We sat in the bleachers... "This is your high tenth grade or low eleventh grade, here's your senior class." That's how that... but at least the teachers endured it, I mean, they kept the school going until they were ready to ship us out to Topaz.

MA: So in Topaz, did each class have its own room or barracks?

GO: That was easily altered because, you know, you take the one wall and then it'll be a double room. Or else, like I said, I think the small end barracks, I mean, rooms in Topaz was maybe a little wider than from that point to that point, but, well, I guess it was a little longer, though. Maybe a little bit longer. Because we could set the bed facing this way, see.

MA: So what types of classes did they offer in Topaz?

GO: Well, as far as I know -- and I didn't take these unusual classes, it was just all basic or any commercial classes they offered. But there was always somebody who was willing to teach it, and I don't know... well, oh, in fact, I have a yearbook that you could see, and it would show that there were quite a few teachers and quite a few Nisei teachers also, to take over certain subjects.

MA: And then you must have, did you have a graduation ceremony, as you were a senior?

GO: Oh yes. Well, I took home ec. -- I mean, I didn't have too many credits, all I needed was English and core, the core classes to complete my senior year, and so I didn't have to take a lot of classes. But just for, to spend the time, I took cooking and home ec. The poor teacher, she had to stoke up the stove with coal and wood just like we did for our heating. So she was a young teacher, and she was just about in tears because she's never had to stoke a fire and stove before, and she had to do that before she could teach cooking. But the teachers were really nice, I mean, they really were. And in fact, we mentioned once, "Gee, I haven't had a waffle for a long time. I wish you had brought a waffle iron." And a couple of the Caucasian teachers would say, "I have some, I brought mine," and somebody else said they did. And so they organized a waffle party at their apartment, and we enjoyed that. 'Cause later on, I became a secretary. As soon as I graduated, I became secretary to the elementary school principal, Wanda Robertson, and she was a wonderful teacher to me, actually.

MA: She was the elementary school principal?

GO: Yes, uh-huh.

MA: And you were her secretary?

GO: Uh-huh. There was only a, just one staff. You know, I mean, me and the principal, period. And so when she was not around, I was acting like a principal, you know, telling the boy who didn't mind the teacher, "Well, you better do this or else." [Laughs]

MA: I'm curious about Ms. Robertson and where she came from and why she was teaching in Topaz, why she chose to come to Topaz?

GO: We were thinking later on, after we knew her and all, that she was working for her doctorate. So, 'cause we didn't call her Dr. Robertson when she came, but I think in her books and all, I think she mentioned that she was a PhD now, or something. But she was nice, too, she was a little stricter than the other teachers, but very nice.

MA: What was your stepmother doing in terms of work? Was she working in Topaz?

GO: Uh-huh, she was a, there was a block manager that took care of the different physical needs or any complaints or whatever, and she was his secretary. So every block had an assistant, so she was assistant block manager.

MA: And your grandmother at that point, how was, how was she doing? Was she working or just...

GO: Oh, she had plenty of work, because it was just washboard laundry room, and she had, she did all the wash, there was space to hang up the clothes inside and had lines because of winter weather. But in our, most of the people had lines in their barracks, too, so they could hang up things to dry.

MA: So she was busy with housework and taking care of everything?

GO: Yeah. There was always housework and dusting all the time, constant.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Topaz Museum. All Rights Reserved.