Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: George Kiyo Wakatsuki Interview
Narrator: George Kiyo Wakatsuki
Interviewer: Alisa Lynch
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada
Date: July 22, 2014
Densho ID: denshovh-wgeorge-01-0011

<Begin Segment 11>

AL: Did you get together as a family in camp, though, like for meals?

GW: As far as I remember, no. As far as I remember, I was running around with the kids, going to other mess halls, we never ate together with the family after that for a while.

AL: Did your parents try, did your mom try to get you to eat with the family?

GW: No, not really. Because she was, she got a job as a, because she had nursing experience as a dietician, so she would go to another block that was further down the street, I don't remember the number, maybe Block 30 or something like that. And they had a special menu for, I think for diabetes people, (...) so she was the dietician at that time. So I didn't see much of her.

AL: What were the mess hall meals like?

GW: Our first meal maybe was the first meal that we had together was... at that time, our mess hall had the Caucasian soldiers as cooks. So we were, you know, they didn't hire cooks from the camp at that time, so we were eating army rations more or less. And one of the first things we saw was they gave us rice and then they gave us apricots, and put the apricots and syrup over the rice. [Laughs] And that to us like you, we're putting mashed potatoes and some other stuff on it, not gravy, maybe ice cream or something on your mashed potatoes, see.

AL: I would eat that.

GW: [Laughs] Anyway, that wasn't, our first meal wasn't that enjoyable.

AL: Did it ever get any better?

GW: Oh, yeah, a lot better after they started recruiting people from camp who used to be chefs or something like that, to teach everybody how to cook. Then all the mess halls had camp people cooking.

AL: What was your favorite meal in the mess hall?

GW: Well, my favorite meal in the mess hall, I remember, and I still cook it myself sometimes, is fried rice and an egg, sunny side up egg. Put the sunny side up egg on the rice. I like that. [Laughs] I eat that all the time now. In fact, you go to Hawaii, that's one of the breakfast meals that they have, is fried rice, sunny side up egg and Spam on the side.

AL: What is the meal that you remember as being the worst meal in Manzanar?

GW: Mutton. They call it lamb stew, but it's mutton. That's sheep, I guess, very, very strong tasting. Some people like mutton, but I think it's the way you cook it. As long as you... they're old, and sheep, it's gonna smell and taste like sheep unless you cook it right. [Laughs] That was the worst meal. Whenever you hear that they're gonna have lamb stew, we stay away from there.

AL: You said before the schools started that you'd play games, run around with kids. When did, what grade were you in when school started in Manzanar?

GW: I was trying to think about that last night, because I met this... did I tell you about who I met? Sam Toji? He was in Block 16, and he was registering the same time as I was. And I heard him say, "Block 16," and I said, "You from Block 16?" And he says, "Yeah." I said, "I am, too." And he recognized who I was. He knew my name as Junior at that time, and we used to hang around together because he was maybe one or two years older than I was. And he remembers us going out and trout fishing and sneaking out underneath the barbed wire to get out. And he said we hung out together. I thought, "You know, I can't remember that." But then I asked him, "Do you remember the days that we used to go around the mess hall and try to find the best mess hall to eat at? And he said, "Yeah." So that's what we used to do. A bunch of us kids go around at lunchtime or dinnertime, run around to these different mess halls, we found out who had the best cooks to eat. That was fun. But then they, later on they caught on to that, so they had meal tickets so that we couldn't go in and eat.

AL: Yeah, you guys probably caused that.

GW: Yeah. [Laughs]

AL: We have some of the meal tickets in our museum collection.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2014 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.