Densho Digital Archive
Topaz Museum Collection
Title: Helen Harano Christ Interview
Narrator: Helen Harano Christ
Interviewer: Megan Asaka
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: June 18, 2008
Densho ID: denshovh-chelen-01-0012

<Begin Segment 12>

MA: And so you arrived in Delta and then took trucks to Topaz, is that how it worked?

HC: Yeah, uh-huh.

MA: And then when you arrived in Topaz, what were your impressions and what were you thinking at that point?

HC: Well, I, it must have been a bus that we rode on because -- and I told you a truck earlier, but... because I'm thinking that the, when we got on, when we got off, before we got off, a soldier came onto the bus with, along with a Japanese man. And he said, "Well, ya'll are here now," or something to that effect. And he said, "And I'm going to read ya'll's names." And he started making, saying the names, and it was, he had such a bad southern accent we couldn't understand anything he was saying. And so finally he said, "Well, buddy, ya'll have to do this for me 'cause I can't, can't say ya'll's names." And so then he read off the names of all the people that were supposed to be on the bus. And, and I don't remember if this happened before or after, but some, after all the names were read... but somebody said, "Well, we're in Topaz, Utah, we are wards of the government, and we are to be, to stay inside the, the barbed wire fence, wear your IDs with you all the time, don't take them off, and, and don't consort with any of the, any of the Caucasian people. There are soldiers here, and they're instructed to shoot if you go outside the, the fence. And we are to, to... we are to be, be model citizens while we're here in this, in this place, under these circumstances, so we'll just have to make the best of it." And then somebody got up and interpreted it in Japanese, and of course there were some people who didn't want to agree with it, but that was the situation. And then we could get off the bus and had to show our IDs before we could get off, to make sure that we were who we were. When we got off the bus, we were... well, we were, we stopped at Block 28, and a dust storm had come up. And so we, first thing we faced in Topaz was the dust. We had to make, make our way to our barracks, which weren't quite finished yet. In fact, we were told that the windows had just been put in that morning. And I stuck my finger in the putty and it was still soft. I managed to leave my mark, didn't I? [Laughs]

MA: And at that point it was still the eleven of you?

HC: Still eleven.

MA: And you remained in the, in the same barrack or close?

HC: We had, we had two, the two middle rooms of a, of a six-room barrack. And my grandmother and her two boys were on the end barrack, that end room, which was intended for two or three people, one, two or three people. Then the next one was intended for five people, and then the two middles were intended for four people each, and then five again, and then two. So each barrack was quite full. And we ate in the mess hall and did our laundry in the laundry room, and the latrine was in the area where the laundry room was. That was also where the hot water was made, and the boys and the girls were separated by sex for using the latrine. The block manager lived in the, or had his office in the dining room area.

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