Thursday, October 19, 2017

Topaz and Black Rock

Today for Fall Break we headed out for a delightful day trip to Utah's west desert.  First stop was the city of Delta.

Topaz Internment Camp is located in the middle of the far left of the map. Northwest of Abraham. The museum provides maps to the site and of the camp site.

Recently opened on Main Street is the Topaz Museum. It is a local, private endeavor to portray the story of the Topaz internment camp for Japanese Americans during WWII. It is a sobering museum that is well worth a visit. The woman behind the museum taught at Delta High School years ago. When the Intermountain Power Plant north of Delta came on line, many new families moved to the area. Old timers and new-comers had a hard time integrating at Delta High. This teacher wanted a project to bring them together. She sent her students out to research the Topaz camp by interviewing locals in Delta who were around during WWII. From those initial interviews emerged a commitment by many in Delta to preserve and tell the story of this unique portion of US history.

The story of Japanese Americans is the story of so many immigrants.  They came for a better life,

 and they often had a hard time integrating and finding acceptance.

During WWII Japanese Americans from the west coast were moved inland in fear that they might not be loyal to America.

8,000 Japanese Americans ended living in the hot-by-summer, cold-by-winter desert of Utah in the barrack city of Topaz which for a few years was the fifth largest city in Utah.

At the end of the war most of the barracks and recreation halls were sold to locals for farm buildings or even homes.  Half of one of those recreation halls has been restored.

To keep busy some of the camp residents gathered shells from the bed of ancient Lake Bonneville that they assembled and painted (sometimes with nail polish) into floral and animal decorations.

 Others painted.

 The Distant Camp by Chiura Obata. 1942

 Guard Tower and Mt Swasey. Which was sent out by Obata as a Christmas card.

Where Would We Go?, Thomas Ryosaku Matsuoka, 1944

One of the biggest challenges for those in the camps was deciding if and how they should show their allegiance to the Untied States. Many young men chose to enlist. Others protested their unjust internment by refusing to serve. George Takei's recent Broadway musical Allegiance depicts the camps and the question of loyalty to country.

Adding to the complexity was the fact that young men from Delta were fighting, dying and being imprisoned by Japan. One of these soldiers stated: "Every freedom I had been fighting for had been violated in my own backyard."

In a world where "the other" among us are still viewed with suspicion and treated unfairly, the story of Topaz is a good reminder that we can still do better.

No buildings remain at Topaz, just roads and cement floors.

 The irony. 

 Topaz Mountain to the northwest.

Just to the east of Topaz the western edge of Delta's many alfalfa fields begins.

 Delicious lunch back in Delta. El Jalisciense at the corner of 400 West and Main.

We then headed south through Deseret, east past Clear Lake (dry this time of year) to Devil's Garden in the middle of the Black Rock Desert and just a little west of Flowell.
The name sounded interesting so we drove off road for a mile to this pile of basalt. 

We were surprised and happy to find rock art.

Next stop, the impressive lava flows outside of Flowell. We gathered soft ball sized basalt rocks for a friend to use in his pig roasting pit.

See three previous posts about visits to this area to gather basalt:

Final Stop. Tabernacle hill (its dome is shaped like the Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake). It is the eastern remnant of an ancient volcano that blew its top leaving behind it lava core--the dark pointy rise to the right of the large mound.

 From the top of Tabernacle Hill looking down on the center core of the volcano.

A near by lava tube just waiting to be explored.

 Looking north across the Black Rock Desert.

 Atop the core.

Exploring one of the lava tubes. Will's favorite part of the day. Joel had read two books about the Japanese Camps so he also liked the morning part of our day.

On the drive home north along I-15 we were treated with rainbows and a gorgeous sunset. Back to work for the mom and dad tomorrow.

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