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-01-0015

<Begin Segment 15>

MA: So you were, then, in Topaz with your grandmother for a while. I had a, I was curious if you, I know there was a couple incidences in Topaz with guards and, you know, internees who were shot at from the guards. Do you remember those times and what happened with that?

GO: Just that once, and this older man, I think he was in his sixties, was walking his dog and got too close to the fence, and the guard probably yelled something at him, but he didn't hear. So he put his hands up and didn't say anything, but he kept walking. And so I guess the soldier felt like he was threatened. He was up in the tower, as far as I remember.

MA: What were some of the reactions in the camp to that incident?

GO: Well, it was a mixed feeling. We didn't have the... in San Francisco, we didn't have as many Kibeis and rabble-rousers as down south, southern California, and so it just quieted down. And I guess the newspaper, the newspaper, Weekly, is it, must have reported it in detail so that people would know exactly what happened.

MA: While you were in Topaz, were you able to go out into the town ever?

GO: Yes.

MA: Into Delta?

GO: Yes. Delta is not a big town, but at least it had a fairly well-stored or... for a small town, and then of course they accommodate us by getting things that we might want more of. Of course, my mother used to come out to Salt Lake a lot.

MA: How were you treated by the townspeople in Delta when you would visit, when you would go out to visit in Delta?

GO: I remember the first time we went, we couldn't go to a restaurant, they wouldn't allow us, they didn't want Japanese customers. Some of them had... I don't remember. For the first fall -- no, not the first fall, but the second fall of our stay in Utah, an enterprising family decided to take... it's not a bus ride, we had to ride on the dirty old cattle car, you know, cattle truck, and so we took our GI blanket and sat on the floor, and they would take us to Oak City Canyon, I guess in that area, it was one of the nicest. And since we had the mountains, we also had the beautiful red leaves and we spent a whole day there. They provided us with a chicken, fried chicken lunch, fried chicken and potato and jello and so forth, and it was only for a dollar per person. Of course, when you're earning only eight dollars or twelve dollars a month with family, you can't afford that, and so many didn't go. But I remember we went on two trips, and it was just wonderful, just felt like we came to heaven from hell. But it was really beautiful. And so I thought, "Well, they must trust us now." 'Cause, you know, there might have been walkaways or whatever.

MA: So are there any other memories or thoughts you'd like to share about your time in Topaz?

GO: Only that my husband's family wasn't there. They went with a Sacramento bunch to somewhere else. Oh, they ended up in Arkansas, I remember. But the cousin, the girl, was being sent to a mental hospital in Provo, the state mental hospital in Provo, and the brothers came over one day and said, "She's gonna be moved, I wonder if Grace can ride with her." So anyway, she was very quiet anyway, but I did ride to take her to the hospital there. And eventually she was moved to -- when the family was moved to California -- they sent her to another facility, I think it was in Stockton or somewhere, and she eventually died there.

MA: What had had happened to her in camp?

GO: Well, she was very quiet, never made real good friends. She was a nice person, but she just couldn't handle all that closeness to everything and everybody. You know, when we first went to Topaz, I went into the restroom, and there was no partition between seats in the women's side. I think there was an elbow-high, and when we sat, we could still talk to our neighbors, and there was no door or curtain or anything in front. But boy, a lot of people must have complained, because sure enough, they sent carpenters to at least build it up a bit, and then put curtain on the...

MA: Yeah, a real lack of privacy.

GO: That's right.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Topaz Museum. All Rights Reserved.