Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Arthur Ogami Interview
Narrator: Arthur Ogami
Interviewer: Alice Ito
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: March 10, 2004
Densho ID: denshovh-oarthur-01-0012

<Begin Segment 12>

AI: Well, tell me more about the early weeks and first few months in Manzanar. What were the conditions like for you? You described the room you lived in, what about other aspects of the camp?

AO: The other aspects was that we had a mess hall, a kitchen. And that's at the designated time they would ring a pan or anything to, because they didn't have a regular bell to ring, and so you'd hear a clatter of garbage cans clanging to tell us that it was time to go eat, so we all rush to the mess hall. But before the mess hall was open there was a long line anyways because everyone was pretty hungry. And so we lined up, go into the mess hall. They would hand out was the metal mess kits, we called 'em mess kits, and a metal cup to drink out of. So we have hot coffee and everything and then we'd try to drink out of that metal cup. [Laughs] It was kinda unpleasant, 'cause it's too hot to drink out of it.

AI: I bet it was.

AO: And I don't quite remember what kind of silverware we had, but they were metal so we'd scoop it out and... and then we'd sit down at these long bench tables and then when they said, ask for salt or pepper, instead of passing it down they'll throw it to you, so... [laughs] so there's a lot of humor at mess time. And as they stand in line to be served there would be the server standing there and they would scoop up something and instead of just tap it into your plate, just comically they would toss it in there. So we had fun and it wasn't all that bad in the camp.

AI: Were you living near other people from your neighborhood, or from your -- or people that you knew at all? Or were they mostly strangers to you?

AO: In the camp, majority of them were strangers. Some of the ones that were evacuated from Glendale, they were, they were pretty close, but entire camp, I never realized that there were so many Japanese people living in the area. In Manzanar the total population at the peak time was a little over ten thousand.

AI: So that's a fairly good size town.

AO: Yes, and one square mile.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.