Densho Digital Archive
Topaz Museum Collection
Title: Bob Utsumi Interview
Narrator: Bob Utsumi
Interviewer: Megan Asaka
Location: Emeryville, California
Date: July 31, 2008
Densho ID: denshovh-ubob-01-0015

<Begin Segment 15>

MA: So I wanted to ask about your father a little bit. You mentioned your mother worked as a waitress in the mess hall. Your father, actually, you were telling me, worked in the co-op?

BU: Yes.

MA: In the Topaz Co-op?

BU: What had happened, my dad, the co-op wanted to open up a photo studio. And Dad was approached by one of the Caucasian administrators, and I think through Lee Mullis.

MA: Who was storing your belongings at that point, or helping in the church?

BU: Yeah, but he... but the cameras and things were in government storage somewhere. Anyways, somehow Lee got involved, or no, no, maybe not. Maybe it was just the co-op wrote back to the feds who were in control of his cameras. And he was able to get his camera out because he was going to be the co-op photographer. And a fellow named Emil Sekerak, who was in charge at that time, helped him get his cameras and the opened the photo studio in Topaz. And I (...) think he was the only one that was able to have a camera. Even anybody else, I don't think were able to have cameras.

MA: Well, I know that Dave Tatsuno was also in, in Topaz.

BU: Yes, he was.

MA: Did your father work at all with him?

BU: They worked together, but Dave had the clothing and sales store, my dad had the photo studio, okay. And, yeah, Dave -- oh, I know what. Dave left his, his camera, movie camera with Lee Mullis. He knew Lee, although he was from San Francisco. He left the movie camera with Lee, and Lee gave, sent the camera to Dave, and he took all those movies "illegally." And what a great story. It's too bad that he didn't give that film before it became so used, you know. If it was in original condition, it would have been so much better.

MA: So your father, though, had consent from the camp authorities to sort of take the photos and have the cameras?

BU: Yeah, yeah. Like I say, officially, he was the camp, the co-op photographer. So he was able to have the camera, but I don't know, he never brought... I don't know. He was the camp photographer. He climbed the water tower to take the picture of Topaz. These aerial, well, it looked like an aerial view, but he climbed the water tower, he took it in three sections, and he didn't have his panorama camera, he didn't have that. He took those.

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