Finding Grandpa in Topaz
I have heard my grandparents — Leon A. Westover and Maurine R. Westover — speak of their time in Topaz, Utah many times. It was their unique part of the war experience, a chapter of their lives that took another unusual turn when Grandpa later joined UNRRA (United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration) and went to Europe after the war. Topaz was a Japanese Internment Camp, a shocking chapter in American history that saw thousands of American citizens of Japanese descent forced into detention centers. Grandpa was the head of the math and science department at a camp school and Grandma taught Japanese children.
I saw an article in the Salt Lake Tribune updating the status of the project to erect a museum at Topaz. In browsing their website I found the above picture showing Grandpa with teachers of the math and science department — a picture I had never seen before.
My father was a small child when during the more than 2 years my grandparents lived there. I actually think that helped them to take more pictures there than they likely would have because Topaz itself is far from picturesque.
I have the “Ramblings” yearbook for 1944. An unknown child has scribbled on many of the page, but the book is intact. The only pictures of Dad (Leon) and Mom (Maurine) are on the faculty page. The back of the book has several autographs and comments from some of Mom’s students since this was her copy. I took thIs book to the dedication of the Topaz site as a National Landmark. I met some of these students there. One of them was taught by Dad at Topaz and her daughter was also taught by Dad….at Berkeley High school. I have much more to tell about that experience. I will share that information in future writings.