Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Kinge Okauchi Interview
Narrator: Kinge Okauchi
Interviewer: Richard Potashin
Location: Ridgecrest, California
Date: July 16, 2008
Densho ID: denshovh-okinge-01-0018

<Begin Segment 18>

RP: Did, at Manzanar, they had three shifts, you know, for lunch, breakfast and dinner. People would come in and eat for a half hour and then leave, another group would come in. Is that the way it worked at --

KO: Pretty much that way. What we, I think, did in our group was we didn't make shifts, we just, they came and we had everything ready for them. So as the stuff started going, running down, the cooks would keep up with it. So it was sort of like some of these coffee shops and stuff. You cook as they came in, and that way, everybody got hot stuff instead of having it sitting there waiting, cooling off. Except things like stew, which just sat there. But even there, we had the stew pot on the stove, and the serving area, we'd dish out more stuff from the hot pots instead of... but we had the three meals a day. And towards, after a while, after a few months, people started making their own schedules about coming in for the meal period. But first, the early birds would come in early, and then the late people would come in later. And it always was that if they ran out at the end, if they came late and ran out, that was their tough luck. We couldn't do anything about it.

RP: Did you have meal tickets at all?

KO: No, no. We just, everybody had, ate in their own blocks, usually. But that was an informal arrangement. We would visit between blocks and stuff.

RP: Kirk, do you have any mess hall questions for Kinge?

KP: I think you answered one of them. You talked about the... it sounds like the kitchen in the mess hall was divided into an actually cooking kitchen and then a storeroom?

KO: Yeah. I noticed in looking into the mess hall things, setup you had, was essentially the building was pretty much the same, but we had everything stacked at one end. Storeroom was in the middle, and off to one side, and then... yeah, the storeroom was on the one corner, and then we had the refrigerator on one end of the storeroom and a corridor, and hot water heater and stuff, whatever, the coal, coal burner heater for the fire, stove, which was in another corner, the coal burning stove, old cast iron coal burning stove that they have there. And then we had a counter which essentially was a serving counter. And the work area between that and the stove. So that if you come off the stove, you put the prepared stuff on the counter in between, and then you could move it to the serving counter as needed. And then the pot washing facility was off to one end, one side, and that's where they also washed the dishes and stuff. And I fortunately didn't have to wash all the dishes. I just, my job was primarily the pots. And so we had people coming in to do the dishwashing part, which I appreciated greatly. [Laughs] I didn't have as much work to do that way. But on the other hand, I had to get there earlier. 'Cause dishwashing crew, all they had to do was get there after the prescribed dinner, or eating period, and they did couple hours and they were gone.

RP: So did you work different shifts usually, or had one specific shift like dinner shift?

KO: No, I had to work the --

RP: Pretty much the whole day?

KO: Three shift all day. But I got the in between period. And essentially the, practically, I think everybody did essentially in the kitchen crew, we pretty much did the same way. In our group, I think some of the other blocks had different arrangements like different shifts. But our group, essentially, the whole crew just worked at the same time. The cooks came in early, and they did their thing. I believe the cooks, KP types came early and they could leave earlier. I had the advantage that I didn't have to come in when the cooks started 'cause the pots were already washed, and I had to, all I had to do was be there when they started using the pots. And stick around long enough to make sure everything was tidied up. At that point, I wound up as a stock clerk and stuff like that. And since they only had one official stock clerk, they needed another one to just hang around when he wasn't, he was off somewhere or something like that. So I got that job, simply being a body. I was an available body, and so I was able to do that part. 'Cause nobody else, the cooks were busy, and the cooks, I guess, did most of their own KP anyway. And the dishwashers, they were only part time or a little bit of time. So there was nobody else around in between.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.