Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Michiko Wada Interview
Narrator: Michiko Wada
Interviewers: Kristen Luetkemeier (primary), Larisa
Proulx (secondary)
Location: Laguna Woods, California
Date: November 20, 2014
Densho ID: denshovh-wmichiko-01-0008

<Begin Segment 8>

KL: What was your job in Manzanar?

MW: Office work. Because in the block office there's so many people or so many homes, and when they have toilet paper or soap or whatever that had, because they couldn't go out and buy it. They did have, they told me later, but we don't have a car. Somebody said, "Well, go look at the hospital they have." I said, "Do you know how far that is? You've got to walk." And it's not paved road. And so they used to say also, they had a canteen. I said, I've never been to a canteen." But evidently toward the main office and all, that they did have. But they used to... I don't know why they would be making netting and things for the war when they were in camp, but that's the job they gave 'em. It's better than nothing, you get sixteen dollars a month, so you take it.

KL: What block were you working in?

MW: I was working in 10. I think it was 10, gosh, I can't remember. Was his name... well, Mr. Hori was, I thought...

KL: The name I know from Block 14 is Mr. Ikari or Mr. Itari, or Mr. Ikari?

MW: Mr. Itarti?

KL: No, I'm sorry. Mr. Ikari.

MW: Oh, Ikari. Oh, I don't know. That doesn't ring a bell to me.

KL: But sometimes they changed.

MW: Well, yeah, see, because I worked in the block office after I graduated, then when I went to Tule, too, do you think I could remember that man's name? But it was right across from the mess hall. And so he would say, "Let's go get a cup of coffee." Well, we just walked over there into the mess hall to get a cup of coffee, but that was in Tule. But this one here, there was no mess hall. It was at the end of the block and you're toward the other end of it, you're not going to walk over there, let me tell you. And then you don't know who the cook is. My brother used to, later on (...) deliver food to the various mess hall, and he said, "Boy, that mess hall is something, it's sure got a good cook." But he said, "Don't even try to go because the food there is for the people in the block." See, so they don't want people from another block to come. But you know, like anywhere else, there's some good cooks and bad cooks. Oh, you get the bad cooks and they're really bad. (...) In the mess hall they had over there a barrack (next to the museum), and they took me there and I walked in and I said, "My gosh." I said, "I remember everything about this mess hall," exactly where they're serving the tea, exactly where the cooks were. I don't know why when I walked in, I stood there and I thought, "It hasn't changed, this is exactly what it was that I remember." And they used to have, like the men (in service) used to, or people used in camp, that metal plate, metal cup, you have to hook it on. Well, you'd be walking with the hot tea to your bench of some sort, that thing will flip over. Oh my god, and it was hot, that tin is hot. You put hot water in, it's really hot. Boy, a lot of people got burnt from that. We had to be real careful but that was terrible, even the plate. It's an oblong plate like this, and it has a handle, and it hooks on, you just lift it and hook it on. But you know, that thing, after a while, it's got to wear out, or it would undo itself. It was a mess in that mess hall. And if you had kids taking it, a lady had to just take just the tea, just the this and just the that if they had kids, because they couldn't have the kids do it, it's too dangerous, even for us. And we used to all jump because it would be so hot. But that mess hall is exactly what I remember.

KL: That's good to hear.

MW: It's amazing. I walked in there and I said, "Oh my gosh, this is what I remember." And if it was before, if you asked me, I would have forgotten how the tea was set up, where the cooks were. But when you go in there, the big old pots like this, that's what they had. [Laughs]

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2014 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.