I’m back from Utah, where I spent three days (more or less) in Delta, which is located approximately two hours south of Salt Lake City by car. I knew nothing about the plant and the town before going, in contrast to the usual fevered searching I do in the weeks leading up to a trip, so I was surprised the first day, during a down time, to find out that Topaz was nearby.
Let me explain. Topaz is one of the euphemistically-named War Relocation Centers, one of a handful in the country and where most of the internees who were gathered up at Tanforan ended up. So one the same day that I flew from San Francisco to Salt Lake City and drove to Delta and ultimately to Topaz, I was sort of kind of retracing steps, in a sense, at least inadvertently. The site is hard to find and still, seventy plus years later, in the middle of nowhere: fields as far as the eye can see, although there’s a few houses on the way out there. I went during a relatively cool and wet time, but I can see how you’d complain of dust and mud and to have to live there for more than three years!
In town they have built a museum building and there’s ‘restored’ barracks behind it, ‘restored’ meaning the barracks are in the original as-built configuration, with exposed tarpaper and other hastily-assembled earmarks. I learned that Topaz internees were allowed to work on farms and in town, but the fact remains that you’d be stuck going ‘home’ to a place that wasn’t, a place where there’s no there, there. There’s a few times in my life that I’ve felt like there was no one else on earth and standing in the middle of the square was like that, quiet and sere and serene, I suppose, in a way.