Densho Digital Archive
Emiko and Chizuko Omori Collection
Title: Harry Ueno Interview
Narrator: Harry Ueno
Interviewer: Emiko Omori
Location: San Mateo, California
Date: February 18, 1994
Densho ID: denshovh-uharry-01-0016

<Begin Segment 16>

EO: When you first discovered the shortage of sugar, did you go to the camp administrator?

HU: No, I couldn't go right away because we still not organized the mess hall union or anything.

EO: But did you go somewhere to report this shortage?

HU: After I organized, I get the permission from Director Coverley to organize there because they get a lot of complaints. Every mess hall chief went over to administration and shortage of meat and sugar. They complained, but individual complaint doesn't mean anything, they won't even listen to it. So that I told Coverley, I went over to see him and said, "Mess hall, we had thirty-eighty mess hall, including the hospital and the orphanage mess hall. Thirty-six blocks, thirty-eight mess halls. And you had a lot of complaints come in. And so many complained that you don't know what to do. So let us organize and make the one package: everybody's complaints in the one package, and then let you know what we want, and then you give us instructions what to do, we could spread the word to everybody." And I went to the mess steward, Winchester, his name, him, too. So he said, "That's a good idea." He agreed with me and give me permission to organize. That's why I organized. Everybody was ready for those things. And we asked him to select five representatives for the whole mess hall, and so we could, in other words, negotiating committee of five. And we went in, but, well, other people, they don't like talking against them, so I'm the one most of the time talking to Ned Kimball, the Acting Director. And a lot of the time, we have to argue this thing because he said we have to use a lot of sugar in the hospital. I couldn't understand why the hospital have to use a lot of sugar. I went to the hospital, there's the only mess hall they kept the record. And the hospital said, "We never use, a lot of people have the diabetes, so we don't use the sugar. So we don't use more than what they supply us," they said. So that was a lie.

And another thing, before we organized, they used to give us a box of orange a month. And box of little cookies for the minor children's snack, because we used to give children a little snack outside, you know, the 3 o'clock. But in a camp, they send out box of oranges and box of cookies, we just give to the minor children, you know, kindergarten and under, see. When the lunch time, we just put it in the paper and give to them. Then about a month later, we didn't see nothing. Then all of a sudden my friend coming back from canteen, she's carrying the orange and I said, "Where'd you get those oranges? The same thing we used to get 'em," I told her. Oranges used to be boxes, a longer box, not like today. A lot more in there, hundred fifty or hundred sixty-five in there, see. So she said, "I buy in the canteen." And she had the cookies, same thing, too. So I went to the Block 16, his name is -- he's a Kibei and name is Tateoka. I asked him, "Would you ask the administration what's happened to the orange and the cookies we used to get for the minor children?" And he said, "No, no, no, no, no." He was kind of, "We cannot talk against the administration." So I went to Tateishi. I didn't know him before but he was the next block manager, Block 23. That's John Tateishi's father, and he's about the same age as me. And I asked him, "Could you speak up in the block manager meeting and ask Mr. Kimball what happened to those orange and the cookies they used to supply us for nothing? Now people have to buy." So he went over the administration and I went in the afternoon and watched what he's going to say. Then Kimball said, "That was a mistake and we sent to the canteen and sold those cookies and oranges." That's about three thousand dollars or more, somebody pocketed those things. [Laughs] So in other words, finally they admit they had a mistake but they don't say they're going to give us a benefit for the lost three thousand dollars, no. And that's the way that it was.

I have a record from assistant chief of police in the Poston camp, same way there. Mess stewards, they do all kinds of trick to cheat the people. He wrote those articles, that same way. And I talked to the assistant director in Tule Lake, Paul Robertson. I still communicate with him. You know, Paul Robertson, he lives in Carmichael. He's about eighty-nine or ninety years old. And he told me one time, I visited his home in Carmichael, and he said, "You know, Harry, in camp at Tule Lake, before the strike," that's before 1943 strike, November, mid-November they had the strike there. Before the strike at Tule Lake they had a hog farm, chicken farm and slaughterhouse for the hogs. And one time the head of the slaughterhouse, he had a accident going back to his home on the railroad track there. Car had something, probably a railroad track that bumped something and he had an accident. His trunk was wide open. Nothing but full of pork in there. In other words, he was stealing all those pork in the black market in his village or town, see. And that's the way they are. Even at Manzanar. Same way.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 1994, 2003 Densho and Emiko Omori. All Rights Reserved.