Watch this video and think about what it might have been like to live in this community.
At its peak, Topaz housed 8,130 Japanese Americans. Most of those held in Topaz were from the San Francisco Bay area in California: Alameda, San Francisco, and San Mateo Counties.
Each residential block had twelve housing barracks, a dining hall, a bathroom, a laundry facility, a recreation hall, and a block manager’s office. Each block also had a community mess hall, where almost everyone ate their meals. Some inmates were able to get jobs as cooks, dishwashers, or other staff positions within the camps, but many did not work. For the Issei, who often worked six or seven days a week, this was the most free time they ever had since immigrating to the United States. The inmates kept themselves busy taking classes like English and citizenship, or working on gardens; many did arts and crafts to pass the time. If they wanted to buy things they couldn’t get at the camps, they ordered them from catalogs for Sears or Montgomery Ward. At Topaz, some ordered ice skates by mail to use at the camp rink.