Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: George Matsumoto Interview
Narrator: George Matsumoto
Interviewer: Kirk Peterson
Location: Orange, California
Date: June 10, 2009
Densho ID: denshovh-mgeorge_3-01-0015

<Begin Segment 15>

KP: So some people say that the riot had to do with food and food distribution.

GM: Yeah.

KP: What, what do you know about that?

GM: Well, they were, they said that the chief, this camp, as far as the food was... this guy named Winchester, he and his subordinates were stealing rations, mostly sugar, and selling it on the black market, and meat. And sugar was rationed in those days, so there was a squawk about that. I didn't...

KP: Working in the mess hall, did you see any evidence that your food wasn't what it was supposed to be when it was delivered?

GM: Lots of times when we got our supplies, like eggs, there would be layers missing out of the crate. Now, we didn't know, probably the farms were stealing it. And then we used to get some bad food.

KP: What kind?

GM: There were rotten eggs and really old and lots of time we got bread that was moldy, so you can poke the whole thing and you have holes in the bread, and everybody going, "Hey, what's goin' on?" So you would make bread pudding, but nobody likes bread pudding, and lot of time I just scraped a little bit off with a knife and made French toast. Then we used to have powdered milk. If you let that sit there, it all settled down and it's all water on top, so people didn't like that, but that's all you had.

KP: And what about, what kind of other stuff did you get in terms of canned goods and where did that come from?

GM: Oh, they were all army issue. You could tell by the cardboard box. There were four one-gallon cans in each carton, and they had a crescent and the U.S. Army quartermaster, so you knew it was army. But a lot of the labels that went, came to camp, they were turned inside out, so it said peas and then it'd be a blank. So you figured, well, they always said what the army was for us. But that's, that's what a lot of the vegetables came from, is the canned stuff, and people didn't like hominy grits and stuff like that. And we used to get a lot of florina and oatmeal and people didn't eat that stuff, so then all the garbage came from it.

RP: George, did you get, did you have people who would actually come up to you and complain about the food?

GM: Oh, yes, all the time.

RP: What would they say to you?

GM: They'd say, "Slop suey again" and stuff like that. Bologna and they'd turn their nose, and they didn't like lamb, so I would camouflage it by frying it, deep fry it and pass it off as sweet and sour pork.

KP: Did it work?

GM: Well, it killed the smell. And then lots of times we had eggs, but they were powdered eggs and you let them set and make water run out, and then lots of times when you cooked something, like scrambled eggs, it looked kind of artificial, so I used to take some fresh eggs, crush up the shells and throw 'em in so maybe they'd think it was real egg. And then I used to use egg, yellow dye, food dye, mix it in, and I'd do the same thing with our hotcake, hotcake mix. I was telling Richard that, since a lot of the eggs are old and you have a big pot there, you throw it in there, you spoil the whole pot, so I used to use the little saucepan and we used to crack half a dozen eggs in there, up to there and we'd dump it in, but we'd catch a lot of the rotten ones.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2009 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.