Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: George Oda Interview
Narrator: George Oda
Interviewer: Rose Masters
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada
Date: July 22, 2014
Densho ID: denshovh-ogeorge-01-0011

<Begin Segment 11>

RM: This is tape two of an interview with George Oda. I'm Rose Masters and we are in Las Vegas, Nevada, at the Main Street Station. George, you were just telling us about coming back to camp from furlough up in Idaho, and things that people would bring back to camp. I'm wondering if you have any specific memories of bringing stuff for your family, like your mom or your sisters.

GO: Oh, like I said, probably some food or some clothing or whatever, what they need in camp. Otherwise it's some little things.

RM: So you got to go on furlough. But before that, when you got to camp, you decided you weren't gonna go back to high school. What did your parents think about that? Did they ever say anything about it?

GO: No, they didn't say anything.

RM: They were okay with that?

GO: I guess I was grown up enough to make up my mind.

RM: So your first job you said was at a dishwasher in the Block 16 mess hall. Can you tell me just a little bit about what that job was like?

GO: Well, the people that goes in the mess hall, after they eat they bring their dishes. And there's a person that cleans a dish and then throw it in the... what do you call that? Anyway, I washed my dishes in there, and this lady's wiping. That's all it was, just washing dishes.

RM: So were you working while people were eating?

GO: Yeah. We eat first and then the people started eating. As they finish, then they bring the dishes to the certain place, and this one person cleaned it off and passed it over to us, and I wash it.

RM: Do you remember if the sink was right next to the kitchen, or where was it?

GO: It was in the mess hall as you go out. See, as you go out, the people bring the dishes and leave it on the counter. And this person cleans it off and pushes it over.

RM: What was, can you describe a mess hall at mealtime? What did it sound like?

GO: Noisy. [Laughs] It's noisy. People were talking loud and all this and that. Yeah, otherwise you get used to it. At first it was bad, but otherwise... so sometimes we find out that there's, the next block was having a steak or better food, we used to walk over there.

RM: Even though, didn't you cook in that mess hall also?

GO: No, no, I mean before. For people that start working in the kitchen, they know what's going on over there, they go walking over there and eat.

RM: So I've seen those mess hall passes, I think you maybe even donated one. So were people allowed to go, were you allowed to go over to the next block?

GO: No, you're not. [Laughs]

RM: So how did you get around that rule?

GO: I think that's where they got the mess hall tickets. I think that's the reason, because them days, like I said, if the next kitchen is feeding better food, I think more people would go in there, and less people would come to their own block. So I think they made their pass, that's where we got, like my wife got that pass.

RM: So it was guys like you to blame for that. [Laughs]

GO: Well, the younger people, yeah, like us.

RM: So tell me about your other jobs. You said you were also a junior cook. Did you know how to cook before you took on that job?

GO: No.

RM: How did you learn?

GO: Actually, it's what the cooks tell you to do. They said, "Well, cut this here," lettuce or whatever, so we do it. They had to tell you to wash the pot and pan, so we wash it. But in the meantime they tell you how to do this and how to do that.

RM: Do you remember who the cook in your block was?

GO: But I don't know the name. I could picture him.

RM: Who else worked at the mess hall?

GO: Oh, my friend from North Hollywood, we worked together. That's where this friend of mine, that's where he met his wife.

RM: Oh, what's his name?

GO: Tosh Takayama.

RM: And he met his wife in Mess Hall 16?

GO: Mess Hall 16.

RM: What was her name?

GO: Sue... I forgot her last name. But the first name is Sue. Even my other friend, he met his wife in camp, too, I mean, in the kitchen.

RM: Mess halls for romance. So actually, tell me a little bit about other uses for the mess hall. You donated a movie ticket that was...

GO: No, the movie ticket, it was outside.

RM: Oh, okay, it wasn't in the mess hall.

GO: No, no. The mess hall you had probably a dance or whatever, get together. Dance, I don't know about dance. They can't move the table, it's a block... wait a minute. They had a recreation building that's for meetings or dances or whatever.

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