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Mess Hall I.D. card
Mess Hall I.D. card

"Section 14 Mess / Identification Card / Name: Mary Tsukamoto / Barrack Number 2 Apartment Number 3 / Mess Hours / Breakfast 7:30 am, Lunch 12:30 pm, Dinner 5:30 pm / You must respond promptly to Mess calls."
Because of the number of internees served in each section's mess hall, many camps provided meals in shifts. Camp authorities hoped to maintain family structure by mandating that families eat together, but the mess hall system could not facilitate family interaction while serving hundreds of people three times a day.

"Now, in the mess halls, after a few weeks had passed, we stopped eating as a family. Mama tried to hold us together for a while, but it was hopeless. My older brothers and sisters...began eating with their friends, or eating somewhere blocks away, in the hope of finding better food.... Camp authorities frowned on mess hall hopping and tried to stop it...
Younger boys, like Ray, would make a game of seeing how many mess halls they could hit in one meal period -- be the first in line at Block 16, gobble down your food, run to 17 by the middle of the dinner hour, gulp another helping, and hurry to 18 to make the end of the chow line and stuff in the third meal of the evening...
Kiyo and I were too young to run around, but often we would eat in gangs with other kids, while the grownups sat at another table. I confess I enjoyed this part of it at the time. We all did. A couple of years after the camps opened, sociologists studying the life noticed what had happened to the families. They made some recommendations, and edicts went out that families must start eating together again. Most people resented this; they griped and grumbled. They were in the habit of eating with their friends. And until the mess hall system itself could be changed, not much could really be done. It was too late."
Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and James D. Houston, Farewell to Manzanar
Courtesy of Mary Tsukamoto