My day trip down to the Delta area was very meaningful to me. My mom has never been there, so I dragged her along. Between the two of us, we got some pretty good pictures to share with you as I relate all that happened.
We left my house bright and early with every intention of driving straight to the Topaz site, which is pretty much what we did do, after wandering around some lovely fields and meeting three very friendly farmers. (The provided map was confusing.)After arriving at the site only a little bit late, we were treated to several speakers, including Governor Huntsman (pictured, in the blue shirt.) All the speeches were touching, focusing on the importance of this day as the Topaz Relocation Center received its status as a national landmark. A very nice plaque had been erected and stood off to the side of the podium.
The Governor also took a moment to recognize Jane Beckwith for all her hard work in rallying the community to preserve Topaz. Jane is an amazing lady and I've had the chance to speak with her on several occasions about Topaz and the work they are doing out there. It was wonderful to see her get some public recognition for everything she's done.
From there, we went to the Great Basin Museum, where a restored barrack is on display. This is me (from a very unattractive perspective) entering the barrack. The museum curators did everything they could to recreate the appearance of the building, which is essentially made from tar paper, sheetrock, and studs. No air conditioning at all -- it had to have been over a hundred degrees in there, and that is how the internees lived every day during the summer, in the sweltering heat.
Each of the barracks was divided up into six apartments, which would hold an entire family. Here is a picture of the basic room, also restored by curators. Yes, the apartments really were as small as they appear here. Can you imagine living in such a small space, with your spouse, children, and possibly your in-laws as well?
This is the other half of the room. Notice that the wall behind me is uncovered sheetrock. This is how the walls in the barracks really were at the time. No insulation, nothing. Even though I've been to the museum a few times before, showing it to my mom took on a whole new significance.
After leaving the museum, we went to the Delta City Park, where a wonderful lunch was held. This is a plaque that was placed on one of the tables under the pavilion, remarking on the national landmark status of the camp. With the induction of Topaz, there are now just thirteen national landmarks in the state. That's pretty amazing.
After lunch, we set up my table under the comforting arms of a shady tree. This is me, hiding my consternation at forgetting to bring a chair or any change. We managed, though, and met many wonderful people as they stopped by to chat.
As the day's planned activities were scheduled to go into the night, and I had to get back home, we made the library our last stop for the day. I felt the need for a breather, and Mark Twain was kind enough to read me a story while I relaxed.
Once inside the library, we took notice of the displays that had been created to memorialize the day.
I'm constantly amazed at the grace and dignity shown by the Japanese Americans during this time of trial in their lives. Even today, they show very little anger about what happened to them. They accepted it, did the very best they could with it, and refused to allow their circumstances dictate the people they would be. Oftentimes, historians speak of the internment as an act that stripped the Japanese Americans of their dignity and freedom. It did strip them of their freedom, but their dignity, they maintained. Their story is inspirational to me.
Right now, this is what the camp site looks like. You can see foundations as you study the ground, but everything that once was there, has been stripped away. The Topaz Museum is, as of yet, still a dream. Funds are being raised to create a building specifically for the commemoration of the camp and to rebuild a portion of the camp out on the actual site. This is such a worthy cause, and every little bit helps. Won't you please visit the Topaz Museum website and send in a donation, however small? Our children need to learn these stories. There are many adults who have yet to learn these stories, and the lessons that go along with them. I plan to be a live-long supporter of this great cause, speaking about it as often and to as many people as I can. Today was wonderful, eye-opening, heart-softening, as it always is when I go down there. I want my grandchildren to be able to have that experience too.