Posts Tagged ‘trading’

February 12, 1944

Posted: February 12, 2014 in Uncategorized
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On February 12, 1944, I went back to work in the shipyard. Time went by much faster when one was working. I was back in the swing of things again – trading and hitting the swill boxes again, getting what extra food that I could find. I began to feel better and to gain some weight.

Every prisoner learned the art of trading one thing for another due to the fact that we had no money, with very few exceptions, and those who did have could not spend it. Cigarettes were money in camp, as one could trade them for just about anything in camp. When we first arrived in camp, one could buy or trade fifteen cigarettes for one ration of rice. By the time we left Camp D-1, one could get a ration of rice for two or three cigarettes. There were three prices on just about everything that one bought or traded for. First was the price in camp; then a second price in the shipyard, and then the high price occurred when one took something out of the camp and traded for an item in the shipyard, and then brought it back into camp. The reason for this was that one ran the risk of losing it when he left camp, for we never knew when we would have a “shake down,” and if the Japs found it, they took it away from you, and you got slapped around for trying to get something out of camp. If you got caught trading in the shipyard with the civilians, you not only lost what you were trying to trade, but you got punished by the guard more severely than in Camp. Then the third chance was when we came back to camp. The price then increased about five times, as each time one ran the chance of losing everything that he had invested, plus the severe punishment that the Japs “dished out.”

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The next day I tore up my mosquito net and took some bamboo strips and made me two fly traps. I took these down to the latrine and set them over the hole of the latrine, with a sign on them that read, “Please replace when hole not in use.” I struck it rich the first day. I had caught fifteen tins of flies, which at that time were worth three biscuits per can. With forty-five biscuits I was in the trading business. I had a real good week of catching flies and trading. I had a good supply of cigarettes, five toes of garlic that I had traded from a fellow by the name of Hatfield. We all named him the garlic king. I don’t know where he got it, but it seemed as though about once a week he would have this garlic strung around his neck and hanging to his waist. I then converted either cigarettes or biscuits for curry powder, sugar or what we called at the time dysentery bars-unrefined sugar poured into coconut shells. I really thought that I had a good thing going; my fly traps were paying off bountifully, and I was getting extras to eat on the side and building up my medicine supply.