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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida.
;Interview with Mr. George Morikami
*S. Carter Road, Delray, Florida
Conducted by Dr. George Pozzetta
with Dr. Harry A. Kersey
First question, not on tape: I want to talk to you about the early
Japanese settlement of Yam to, which was in this area.
M: Ask me about anything...Of course, I lived here since 1906.
M: Yes. 'Course now this Japanese settlement started in 1901. They
started raising pineapples for a few younger men,
M: Who had no money and no experience, nothing. And backing of the East
Coast Railroad Company, you see.
P: Railroad company?
M: Yes. nothing you know. All the land along the railroad '
belonged to the railroad company. This railroad company can reach Miami,
nmd in 19--, let's see, on 1906. So you can see
M; Just one single railroad, you know, not double. And every five or ten
miles along the railroad there's a little settlement, just a few houses.
None of it amounted to anything. Well, Palm Beach and Miami only towns to
amount to anything. Well, Miami, they never...maybe about three thousand.
And in other cities in the South, see. I believe Palm Beach, West Palm
Beach, was about around a thousand, you know. I'm not quite sure. All the
small settlements between, along the railroad, was just a few houses.
No stores, no post office, nothing. Of course, when I came here...get
out of here fdog ....
P: Mr. Morikami, was...?
M: Nothing. Well I'll tell you anyway. You see, I'm pretty old, now, and .--- ---
my memory's getting old. I'm almost eighty-nine now. Suffering from
arthritis. Can hardly sometime use arms, you see. The pain. And can
hardly walk. I'm not doing anything at all. Only thing I do is a little
gardening around the house, and flowers and fruit trees for hobby, you
know. That's the only pleasure I have now. 'Course I like to read. These
are all Japanese books.
M: All kind of books. And I've got American--I mean, in English. I've got
quite a library. I just bought this trailer a few months ago. Moved in
and then I got sick, nothing done to it. So what do you want?
P: Might I ask you some questions about the settlement?
M: Yeah. Maybe I can, I'm afraid...but as I say...
P: All right. I understand.
M: My memory is not...I don't know whether it's correct or not. To be correct
I'll tell you how to do this. Miami Herald, Miami Daily News, and
paper, Palm Beach paper, all the papers like that; Boca Raton and the
--they all have you know, write-ups in the paper. See?
M:,Now you can, they have it on the record. Now you ask them for a copy,
which I'm sure they'll be glad to give you.
M: And you just put it all together and make your judgement. I think that's
the best way because my memory is kl4 or --- What I might tell you might
not be correct.
P: I've looked at some of the newspapers and you're right)they do have...
M: The good one, Miami Daily News; that's a real good one. I've forgotten
the name of the writer, but he came here and spent about three hours with
me, you know?
M: And I told him the complete thing.
K: Maybe some personal information on him, where he came from and...
P: Do you remember, Mr. Morikami, if there were people in Japan trying to
organize people to come here? Or was it the railroad that had people
M: No, now, IJ tell you the way it is. Understand? Some of the young fellows
in Japan that came to this country, went to school and and, you
know didn't feel like go back -o" iow'0 Aw 1t And Japan is a small country.
Poor and can hardly make any living, you know; that's the truth, too. And
after some of them graduated from college, you know, and get out planting,
and like on the railroad company and so forth, that's the way it started.
Japanese government had nothing to do with it.
P: The government had nothing to do with it?
M: No, not that I know of. And after it was established around 1910, no,
1901, it started in a small way. In those days, you know, nothing could
be grown other than pineapple, no vegetables, nothing at all. Wasn't no
ground anyway. Every-summer, this time of the year, we get rain and rain;
the whole country under water. You know. And the mosquitos, ooh! And the
flies, day and night. You had to wear a head net to go out during the
summer. That's right. And the heat! 100 was nothing. And hard work, you
know. I had no tractor then and no automobile. It was a heavy grub hoe,
you know. Inch by inch I started. I cleared the land to get a piece of
ground to grow pineapples. Well, by the time they started things were
looking pretty...with the blight, you know. But at the same time Cuba
M: Yeah. You know the land was better soil, better climate, and cheaper
labor. They have everything.
P: Were there any Japanese...?
M: And they came down at the same time. They could ship their product by
boat to New York and other eastern cities much cheaper than by railroad
here. Well, we tried a few years)but couldn't compete. The pineapple
business Met to pieces. The few people around here lost all they had.
Well, Delray was a small town when I came here. They might have maybe
thirty or forty houses Jcw )hotel, there's no doctors, no hospital.
There were two, three little stores, where you can get a pair of shoes,
or a hat, something, groceries, you know. Among the people at that
time there were German people from Michigan. They lived in German-
town. They they were going back. Only a few remained.
And that's the way it started.
P: Were you always right here?
M: Oh, I tell you. I can you the way I happened to come out. Well, since
I find out how hard it is to make a living, and no chance for young
man in old country. Well, I didn't know what to do. My ambition you
know was to get hold of a piece of land, plant fruit trees, and ship
to Siberia, Korea, and Man uria, and China. This is right after the
Japanese-Russian War. But Japan won the war, and they were dead broke.
Oh, they had a hard time.
P: They were broke?
M: Yeah. A man in the town come to me and say, "George, do you want to go
?" I said, "Sure, I'll be glad to get out of the country
when I can." And he said, "I'll tell you. A friend of mine is raising
pineapple in North Carolina in America. And maybe he could use you. You
could come over." Well, I know where Florida is. I studied. I got pretty
good in geography. I know the conditions and everything, you know, very
well, more than anybody else. All right, I'll be glad to go there, but
have no gL u a no muney or nothing. Well, I tell you what we can do. I'll
find out about a month or two goi find out and in transporta-
tion .h_ or something. Charges from Japan to here. And other expenses,
PiA'job, the amount was about three hundred yen, Japanese money, and
$150 dollars he quoted, in American dollars at that time. Now you work
three years for the people and they'll pay all the expenses e______._ _
And you'll get $500 in American money as a bonus.
P: At the end of three years?
M: Well, it wasn't much, but I thought, you know, it's pretty good and then
I think...I figure with a hundred, five hundred yen I can...go back to
Japan and buy the whole mountainside and plant fruit trees and ship all
peaches and all kinds of fruit in the old, you know, country on the main-
land to Siberia and Manchuria, and China and Korea all over. That was my
dream. But the second day I came here my boss died.
P: Do you remember the name of your boss?
M: Mr. Oki. Yeah, Mr. Oki. And he's old man, too. Well, he was a silk merchant
in Japan, you know. He had money was not so very old; oh,
around, maybe around sixty years old when-he-came over here. But he got
typhoid fever. A lot of people died. Oh, by the
hundreds the Americans died. A few of my country people died, too. Wasn't
no hospital, no doctors* I tell you, we had a tough time. No fresh milk,
P: Did you get your money at the end of three years or...?
M: No, couldn't get a nickel. I paid him Back, and then I
couldn't go back. I had no money. The only thing I could do was stay here
and do something. So I decided to stay. But I couldn't speak a word.
Couldn't write a word either. See? I was three years, stayed here three
years among my own people. No chance to learn any English there. Among
them, you know, they speak their own language, you know.
P: Were there any...?
M: There might be lA,t... fifteen old men. No women then, and mostly high
school graduates who can speak already in English, you know. But they
don't talk in English so I had no chance to learn anything.A n /i
\ r The only thing that I could do--learn English, some way.
P: How did you learn English? Did you attend classes or...?
M: Well, ...only way I could work it out is find work in American family.
I may haveochance to learn something. So I put an ad in the paper. I got
one answer from a shipbuilder in Melbourne, no, not Melbourne, Eau Gallie.
You know where that town is.
M: Brevard County. And he said I'll pay you I'll pay you toee-
de3afsaa month with board and a room. See? And you work for one month.
Wasn't much, but I made a few dollars and got to stay anyway. So I accepted
the job. Well, I workedeone whole month. Couldn't learn hardly anything. Had
to work all day.
P: No chance to learn the language?
M: Of course, and then I quit the job. It wasn't any good. Rented a piece of
land way out of town and raised a little garden. And every Saturday I
carrots and turnips and some tomatoes and put them in a gunny
sack. You know, in those days all fertilizer would come in cloth bags, you
know. Two hundred pounds, big ones. I fill it up carry over shoulder; go
over forty miles to the farmhouse and peddle around the town. But I
had no trouble because fresh vegetables are scarce, especially in the
summertime, you know. But I couldn't make enough money to go to school.
So I gave up the hope. I just went to school one year with little kids.
I learned something, but it was too hard. It was pretty hard work. So I
decided to come back. Those who stayed here are doing fine because they
gave up on pineapples; they turned to tomato growing. Prices are good
and they made good money, see.
P: On tomatoes?
M: Yeah. Well, I had an old friend here. I had no money, nothing. So I asked
him if maybe he could use me. "Yeah, I can use you. But I'll tell you
what I can do I have a piece of ground I've started to clear," he said.
It's about a half acre. And a half acre is nothing like now. But in those
days one acre is a big farm. See? No tractor, nothing at all. All one can
take is acre, acre and a half, with a hoe and a rake and a shovel. That's
all you needed. You finish the clearing and plant and raise the crop and
no charge for the rent. But I had no money for fertilizer; I had no money
for seed. I had no money to buy the tools to work with. Then I figured out.
Maybe I could make some arrangements with the stores. So first I went to
the store. I told him everything. I wanted to do a little farming, but I
had no money. If only he could advance me enough to eat until my crop was
ready. And he said, "I don't know you, but your country people seem honest.
All right. I'll let you have all the fertilizer and the groceries that you
need and you can pay me back when the crops are ready." Now I got fertili-
zer; I mean groceries. And this store handled shoes and pants
and shirts and you know. And I got those too. But I needed
fertilizer. In those days the only fertilizer company in the whole of
Florida was one in Jacksonville, E. O. Painter. He specialized in fertil-
izer, or you know, and, of course, in pineapple fertilizer
and They had agents here, but I went to him. I needed a
little fertilizer until the crops are ready. And he said, "How much you
need?" Well, in those days you know, you didn't use much fertilizer. Like
about one ton to the acre. No matter what you raise. So I said, all I want
" 3 is a half ton. About a half ton added to the acre to the new land.
SSa _n eed a quarter of a ton of hard fertilizer which amount not over
--f n-dears I A An The whole thing. So, "All right. You can have
P: He gave it to you?
M: Right. Had the same agreement when the crop is ready, will pay back. So,
G _--__ ___ and a friend of mine had a big house and one extra
room, do I stayed with him at no rent. Now I got fertilizer, I got groceries,...
M: I got everything in materials. I tell you what tools I needed was, is...
no, I gotta tools, I had to buy a hoe and a rake and a shovel, axe, and
a wheelbarrow. Had to have those things Without you
just can't do anything at all. I don't know how...anyway, I don't remember
exactly how I got any of those things, but I got everything: a hoe, cost
me $1.25, a big, heavy hoe; axe, about $1.50; and a shovel, about $1.25; and
one bucket, galvanized bucket, about twenty-five cents. Like that, you know.
But I couldn't get enough money to buy a wheelbarrow. No. You see, if
you don't have a wheelbarrow you have to carry over shoulder. And a
wheelbarrow carries a 4we-t ndred pound bag. And there was only one
mule in the whole town. Only one mule to do hauling from wherever you
unload it to your farm.
P: You carry...?
M: And I got mine all right, but had quite a time. It was way out. You
wouldn't believe it. So I had to carry a tweundred pound bag over
shoulder like this, close to ground.
M: I don't see how I do it, but I did it, all right! Yeah, I did it.
P: Were you able to...?
M: I was young and strong, you know. And I tell you, I was twenty-two years
old. as soon as I get enough money to buy it,
I bought it; one of the first things I bought! But I tell you, that the
season, wet season, rain all the time. It rained and rained. I never seen
so much rain in all my life in summertime. All the crops drowned, all was
a complete failure. But my land, well-ditched, close to a big canal, and I
thrown up a high bed, and planted one single tow on top of the row, spacing
two and a half feet apart. I was very particular. Wonderful crop.
P: It was a good crop?
M: When ready, I tell you, I start picking. You set the picking bucket right
here. You don't move it. Pick your crops all around it. And a bucket and
a half will hold half a bushel. Great, big tomatoes. No
worms, no disease, nothing. One day I picked eighty-four bushels.
P: Wow! Eighty-four bushels.
M: Eighty-four and without help. Now I had a wheelbarrow, I had to load
them on the next day. Then to a packing house. They pack and sell for
you. The prices are good; $4 a bushel and a half. That was a pretty
good price, you know. Green tomatoes.
P: Who bought them? Did the railroad buy them?
M: No, the people who had the big packinghouses_ by the railroadd)
And of course, they had to pay the charges, you know, packing charges.
But the price was $4 a box.
P: So you were able to pay back? At the end of that.
M: When the season was over, all expenses paid, I had $1,000 in my pocket.
P: $1,000? Wow!
M: You wouldn't believe it. That's the way I started.
P: $1,000 the first, one season.
M: One season.
P: What year was that?
M: I quit work in 1906 and worked three years, and I went one year to school,
and that would be 1912.
P: Mr. Morikami, were there any Japanese...?
M: And I was twenty-two years old.
P: Were there any Japanese women here?
M: Well, some of my country people who married American women had children,
came down, you know. They had a big store. Made big money in farming,
you know. And they all failed, and going back, you know. two white women
there. They quit going back. New York or Chicago, somewhere. We were
here 'cause can't go back anyway. Some people come from old country,
you know, they married, you know...none of the Americans success. After
we started I'm sure___ I'm telling is almost correct.
Just contact with newspaper, they have the old records.
M: Miami Daily News, only good one because I told him the whole story.
P: Does the name "Sakai" mean anything to you? Mr. Sakai?
M: That's the one that was the promoter that started...
P: Did you know him?
M: He's dead now. He came over to this country and went to school and
graduated college in New York, you know. He couldn't get...railroad
company...He's the one who started it.
P: He worked with the railroad company, did he?
M: No, he wasn't working...
M: He farmed himself, too.
P: Do you know what school he graduated from?
P: Do you know what university he graduated from?
M: No, I don't think that...none of them graduated in...
P: New York?
M: ...agricultural school. None of them had any experience at all. See?
But the pineapple ...with a little help, well, that's the easiest
thing to grow.
M: In those days, you know, unlike it is right now. Here no matter what
you raise you have to spray and dust, and spray and dust. We didn't
have that trouble. In those days nothing at all. No worms, no bugs.
Just plant and harvest. See?
M: That's right.
P: When did you get this land? When did you get this land here?
M: This one here...well, it took me...I bought this land here in 1941. The
year I started. The war started. I was just a broke then. But I didn't
want to work under anybody. The first three years were enough. So...but
I had no money. I planted a small crop, a storm came and destroyed it.
But I couldn't re-finance at all. I decided to sharecrop with some of the
rich growers down there. Well, they had quite a few successful flower
growers. European people, you know. Marigolds and gladiolas
P: Like the Maychecks?
M: Yeah, Maycheck was working, too. He was independent. And Maycheck was from
the little town called, oh, I've forgotten the name of it.. way up...
anyway, he come down here and worked with the same company I sharecropped
with...a funeral manager, see, as a young man. Flower growers made money.
And I could get all the land I needed, but all I could...money to
buy not more than two acres. ....I could get their tractor to work
for me, but they had no other equipment, you know. I had no money to
hire help. See? I had a tough time. Well, I planted but I almost deci-
ded why__ ? I don't think I can carry on. So one evening I
decided to quit, give up. But next morning, I changed my mind. I'll
try again. So I worked harder and stayed here. Well, the crop wasn't
very good. And everything was so scarce on account of the war. Even
half rotten tomatoes was sixdeliars a bushel. I tell you, that's the
truth. I made good money out of my poor crop. When the season was over
my share was over $7,500. My share.
P: $7,500. Wow!
M; It was half and half. That's the way it started. Then of course, I
quit sharecropping. And I kept buying land. I don't know why I did
it. Whenever I see good land, I want it, whether I need it or not.
And so I buy here ten acres and ten acres here. You could have bought ;
anywhere on time. You didn't have money either. All along the Lake
Worth Drainage Company. They give you plenty of time. The price was
fifteen dollars to start with, -eten -dollas and gradually going
up. And at the time I bought this land in 1941 I paid some of it, at
-thiy-oe-rs an acre. And at the time, you know, I bought three
plant too much, and couldn't pay taxes, you know.
bought, you know. Almost without any profit, went broke. But finally I
bought most of an area one thousand acres one time. In all this area
near this spot. Not in any one place, you know. Well, I tell you in...
way back in 1924 we had a kind of boom here.
M: Not one like we had after the war. New towns started everywhere. When I
came over here there was no Lake Worth. That's a practically new town.
And no Hollywood. No Coral Gables. No Dania. Nothing. Just old towns.
P: You mentioned Eau Gallie.
M: Eau Gallie. Yes.
P: Were there any Japanese living there?
M: Yes, yes. Some of those who stayed here moved up there and started a
little farming up there. And that's where I got that job, you know.
M: ....of working for a shipbuilder.
P: Was there a Mr. Ohi...?
M: No, Ohi.
M: And he still exists up there. But he didn't make success of it. I don't
think he had any...more than ten or fifteen acres. And I don't know.
P: Were there any other Japanese with him or was he alone?
P: Ohi. Was he alone?
M: Ohi got a wife from Japan, you know. And his brother, two brothers and
a nephew or somebody came in...America, you know, to join him, you know.
That's his house, yeah. A Japanese carpenter came over and built it for
him. Named Ohi.
P: Japanese carpenter?
M: Yeah, I think that's right. That's right...Oh, I see, how did you happen
to get this?
P: Do you recognize Mr...?
M: Ah, yes. Bean patch
P: Do you recognize Mr. Ohi?
M: Yeah, he had a little barn on a farm. Well, must be one, same one. He
had only one in the yard. look for a big house, you know.
Bought a piece of ground from Mr. Gunesan and ...you got another picture?
M: Yes, yes. That's right. Only a freight...
P: You...I'm sorry.
M: Only a freight, freight house, you know.
M: No. I said only a freight house.
P: Oh, only a freight house. Yes, it's only a freight house. That's the
Florida East Coast Railroad station.
P: Do you recognize anyone in the picture?
M: ...I can't see...yeah. There's a woman here...
P: Right there?
M: Yes. Must be taken around 1915, something.
P: Yeah, 1913, I think. 1913.
K: Why did the people leave and go away?
P: Why did the people leave?
P: Why did the Japanese people leave here and go away?
M: They couldn't make much progress.
M: Yeah. Couldn't make a nickel. .That's a
big house where Sakai lived.
P: Sakai's house?
M: Yeah. You got his picture?
P: No, I do not. I do not.
M: I have one.
P: You do?
M: Himm. That's a small house over here, too. And one more this way, see?
P: Um, huh.
P: Is this the house that you had that room in for the...?
M: Well, when I first came here...this house here, see?
P: Um, huh.
M: This is one, this is one, see? T\l? is one C\AJ house.
M: And they had a pretty good sized house, you know.
P: Um, huh.
M: O__f- t- r gack of these houses was the pineapple farm. Don't
have any more?
P: No more.
P: This is Sakai's house?
M: Yeah, Sakai's house. Two-story houses.
M: And that house remained until '41, I believe. They come in, took the
whole thing. EX.w- o n- __. And the old houses destroyed, you
know, or moved, you know.
M: After the war was over they offered all the owners Washington, and of course
they were accepted 0w ____ _.That's the way it
started. But none of them stayed then, see?
P: When you...?
M: The only person who stayed...myself. Of course I didn't stay in Yamato.
I moved to Delray. See?
P: Um huh.
M: And a fellow named Kamikama who used to live in, down in old Yamato,
it's part of Boca Raton now. He's my age, and he is a big landowner.
3uSo c, qdO
I believe he's got about th-e-or-four-hundxed. acres back in Boca
Raton and quite a bit of acreage along the east side, you know. He had
a house built and lived there. I haven't see him because he's a peculiar
type of a man. Just only him and ...Two people live so close
together. I haven't see him in about five or six years. Only place he goes
----bank! And grocery store. That's the only place he goes.
M: Won't associate with anybody. He won't go visit anybody, he doesn't want
anybody to come visit either. Only stays alone. Old Negro woman can take
care for him. He's not so healthy now. But he's very rich now. I believe
if everything he's got now was sold it would maybe be worth three or four
or even more million dollars.
M: That's right.
"K:Mr. Neiland is his lawyer.
M: Yeah. Oh, I don't know whether...
[ end side one]
K: Yeah, Him and I have been friends for a long time.
M: Well, then maybe you know Kamikama's situation better than I do. I know
nothing about So I quit going, see? He doesn't
want anybody to come around.
P: In the early days)how did the Japanese people get along with the natives,
the American people.
M: Well, I'll tell you. Well, had no trouble at
all. Because they lived in separate and different parts of town, you know.
I had no trouble with anybody. And I tell you I could get along better
with American people than my own people!,-True. I tell you. Japanese people
are hard-producing people. See? Small island. Got to fight each other for
their living. If someone and he's supposed to be your friend or neighbor
make a success, don't like it. Get jealous! See? I didn't like it. I got
...after I came back and started on my own fields. I'll tell you another
thing I haven't told you. In 1913 I bought my land from Frumnaiya who
decided to go back to old country. I had my own land and I had share-
croppers; I got five or six sharecroppers, all Negroes, see. 'Course in
those days, you know, you couldn't plant more than an acre and a half or
two acres each, you know. But you know. And my idea
was instead of shipping what you raise up North to the big markets on
consignment. You know what consignment is?
P: Um huh.
M: It's cheaper shipping; it's commission people. They handle for you.
you get back. But you don't know what you get
for. And some people are honest; other people are dishonest, you know.
And also not dependable. If you're a smart young fellow who care around
here, what they call "mail order" business.
P: Mail order?
M: Mail order business. There's people, you know, about half a dozen down
there in Delray and Boca Raton and they send out every week a quotation,
what they call a quotation. The price list; how much beans cost, how
much tomatoes weigh, how much..., whatever they can scrape up around
here and put in the cart and send it to the All
over the South. And town, not the small ones---10,000 people. And res-
taurants7 Or hotels) and stores, you know. And some of them buy, you
know, from, direct from the shipper. And I find that out. They come out
whenever they get the order. Fortunately
And come out to the farm and buy cheapest groceries can grow. You know
how they do?
P: Um, huh.
M: And after picking up I find out that these guys making average about one
dollar profit for each basket, no matter what we sell. If
they buy fifty buckets a day, well, can make f4Ey--dotrs nice profit.
See? And not risk one cent of his money. Wll, if they can do it, why
M: But I had no...I had the idea, but I had no experience. I have_
I even couldn't write good letters. But the idea came. If I get good mailing
list, covering all the South, I believe I can get up a nice business. So I
went to the bank one day and ask the cashier. And I ask if I could
borrow the Blue Book. You know, the big book, you know, listing every
...property, you know. You can find anybody.
M: Blue Book. That's a heavy book. So I boptow it from the bank. A couple
of weeks. And go through there and pick up the towns and the stores in
Alabama, Georgia, and Florida, and North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee and
Virginia, West Virginia. All Southern states. And I got about t4iirhun--
Ndred names, prospective...good risk people. And I printed a double card.
You know, in those days you don't see anymore now, a double card, you know,
one for your message, one for reply. You remember?
P: The double card?
M: Postal card.
.: Yeah, one for your message, one for your reply.
P: Oh, yes. Yes.
M: They don't have them no more.
M: And you send away the reply card and whoever answers it, answer it
That's the kind. And only cost a penny apiece! Three hundred names, I sent to
every one, you know. Names, you know. If you're
interested experience. I grow my own stuff and
SIf you're interested then contact me on the reply card.
Why, I tell you, I got surprised. I got pretty good reply, more than half
the people answered. See? And then I started my own postal cards each week.
And whatever I have, my own stuff f also I could buy from friends
or neighbors. Well, I remember. The first order I got was for five crates
of tomatoes -_____ 5 a...nicest tomatoes
we ever received.
P: You shipped these on boats or on the train?
P: You shipped them on the train?
P: This was by railway express?
P: By railroad? You shipped them by the railroad?
M: Railway express.
P: Railway express.
M: No trucks or nothing. Go on now, you keep out [dog].
P: Yeah, railway express.
M: Like you can show me one of the railroad station, you know. And
once a day at about three o'clock in the afternoon the express come from
the South down in Miami, you know, and stops to pick up all shipments,
and that's the way they did it.
P: Do you have any of those cards left?
P: Do you have any of those cards left?
P: Huh? Do you have those cards still? Do you have any of your cards, your
postcards left? Are there any around?
M: Oh, yes, as I ay__ And then ...more.money, always
coming in, increasing, you know. One time I had almost threea-hidred
different customers. All ^, Some of them _mixed cars,
which contained f-ve- tundred-buckets a car. And shipments---I made one
shipment to Alaska.
P: To Alaska?
M: Yeah, Alaska.
P: What did you ship? Tomatoes? Not tomatoes.
M: Well, I don't know. But, they wanted to try. And of course I didn't know
how the results were. I shipped in Washington, San Francisco, California,
Los Angeles. I shipped lots of them to Los Angeles.
Railway express was fast in those days.
M: Yes. I built up a nice business in three or four years. I stayed in a
hotel, best hotel in town. And live there and eat there. But trouble was
can't eat when you want to. See? And I got so much responsibility. Now
No suppose when you expect some 1,000 crops be
ready and was next coming week. See? But something
happened. You can't get what you want. But when you receive, nothing to
ship. What you going to do? What a pain in the neck, I tell you. Respon-
P: Did you sell out?
M: Anyhow you have to lose money. See? You expect to pay fi-ve-del-lars
something. May cost more than that. I'd rather buy and ship it. That's
my customers. See? But even then you couldn't do it because
when you want it everybody else wants it. Well, I made a little fortune.
Built up a nice business, but my health was going bad. I had an ulcer
in the stomach. Noi from what I eat, but from worrying.
P: Worrying. Yes. So you gave it up? You sold the business?
M: Well, _only thing I want, on Christmas Eve I remained.
I went to my farm down there, and visited my sharecroppers. But I fell)
and soon throwing up blood. I couldn't get up. I called a doctor and the
doctor said, "You have to go. Do you want to live? Have to go down to
Miami hospital." So I ended up going _Christmas Eve, you know.
Oh, it was rainy and cold, you know, and not too They took
me down to Miami, Miami hospital. And U> -- pretty bad
sick. As long as you get operated right away, I don't know whether you,
you know, living tomorrow or not. Just like that.
M: I thought, well, could wait till day after 'til New Year, you know? No.
Tomorrow may be too late. I said, "All right, go ahead." I made up my
mind. Never suffered so much. Well, operation wasn't so successful. Too
far gone. Half my stomach rotted out. See? And I tell you
and it was Christmas Eve about ten o'clock, I believe,
they start operation. When I woke up and they gave -e a little pill that's
all I remember. When I woke up, all tied down, arms I
lay in the hospital. And I know what happened. About three o'clock next
day. I'd been dead about fifteen hours. Yeah. They thought I was dead.
Finally. Yeah. That's the way it happened. And I had a little money, but
I tell you. Even then the hospital expenses are pretty high. I had to
$ -o20.0 O /5o, o o
pay a-itedred.and=&-wenty or a hundrTed-and-thirty"d--lTars a week for
hospital room besides doctor's bills.
P: Did you say you had Negroes working, sharecropping on your farm?
M: Yes, Negroes, I had about six of them.
P,: Working for you?
M: Yes. On a share basis. You know this is the way. You farm the land,
fertilize it, even groceries. See? When the crop is ready and get return
for it, you give them half.
M: And you keep half. See?
P: Would you say that the Negro people and the Japanese people got along
1: I had no trouble at all. Sometimes they got, you know,
you know. But we had no kind of trouble that amounted to
anything, you know. Trouble is, some will steal, that's the only trouble
we had. So far, no trouble at all. Well, J'I j -i A o 4st ory now,
because it I go on, well, I could write a book. But do you know Mrs.
P: Yes. Yes.
M: She's an old friend of mine.
P: Virginia is?
M: Yes. She wanted my story. Several years ago she tell me to write. All
right, I'll write for you. First I'll write in Japanese. Then can
translate into English. I started but what's the use? Who would be in--
terested in an old farmer?
K:Well, I think it's very interesting.
M: But she'5 r-1 "' may come today. She's a fine woman, you know.
P: You say she may come today? She may come today?
M: Yes. She may come today.
M: She wants some pineapple plants you know, and some other kind of plants.
They bought a house in town, you see. One of the oldest houses and one
of the best-built houses. Was there when I came over here. And rented...
minister living there, Catholic, you know.
P: Catholic minister?
M: Catholic. They stayed there a few years when their daughter who was about
maybe eighteen years old died. I don't know, something happened, and they
moved away. See? Another party bought the property and then died. And then
they bought it, you know. It's a nice house. Not even a frame house, you
know, and a two-story house. They also bought a house on an adjoining___
And said, we get two- huuiadl, d-nIELy--do rent out of this house.
Well, I said, that's a good investment. like
in old time, you know. Never get too close, no matter what the people say.
P: Did most...
M: Maybe some day I don't think I ever will. And I tell you in 1915 I
was worth about...well, in those days money was even cheap, I had
money in five banks and worth about a quarter of a million dollars.
At the time Miami Herald, not, Miami Daily News,
fellow came and wanted my story, you know. But when the boom was over
and everything was over...all my money in the banks was gone. I tell
you, I tell you we had a tough time. No job, no money, nothing. Only
bank that stayed open was the one in Miami, one in Palm Beach, one in
Tampa and Jacksonville. All other banks...we had two or three banks
right here in town.
M: --- fN, s o -/ -4. A-ue TQnd I lost everything. Every cent I
had in the bank. So had to start all over again. But I didn't care.
I didn't. But I couldn't go back to my old job, you know. Because on
account of my health. So I went to farming. But farming wasn't so very
good then. You make a little money sometimes, you lose money some of
the time. But whatrmoney I have now comes from buying and selling, you
know, real estate.
P: Real estate.
M: Yes, real estate. Accept nothing but speculation. Whenever you see good
land there if it's cheap enough whether you have money or not, buy it.
Expecting turnover to a little profit. That's what I do. So I got I
figure about a -bunded-and-f-ifty acres here. I donated forty acres _
to the state for vegetable station, another forty acres to the
county for -- county park, you know. I still have a-hrdetf,
over a-tundred-te LWty -f-ve acres including this for something. I don't
need it. I don't need it. I got enough money to live on. But I don't
want to sell it. I could sell it today if I wanted to.
M: You know what this land is worth now? $10,000 an acre. can't believe
it. I wouldn't believe it. Yes.
M: Not like the big developments starting now. Especially up this way.
There's a new highway to be put through in the next few years. 100 feet
wide going clear down to Boca Raton, connect in Miami, and out the other
P: Um, huh.
M: more money, more trouble. I don't want that.
I had enough trouble.
P: Ha, ha!
M: I wanted to keep away from it.
M: As long as I can keep land, why, I'm safe. But when the money comes, you
can't tell what happens.
M: Too much trouble. So I decided not to sell it unless necessary.
P: Mr. Morikami, in the early days, did the Japanese people who stayed
here become citizens, American citizens or did the remain...?
M: Yes, Quite a few people; I didn't know. So many
Japanese people...well, very few my age. Mostly they've gone now and
all moved away. And down in Miami I don't know, there may be more than
-a--hundred. Mostly from Hawaii.
M: Second generation, third generation, see? I don't think anybody my
age, anybody down there now. All I know is Kamikama down in Boca
P: How about back in 1913 to 1915? Did the people then become naturalized,
M: Well, they had no trouble at all.
P: No trouble?
M: No trouble, I tell the truth.
P: I believe it.
M: If you wanted to come / ? Well, if you had enough education
and property in Japan, you could come over.here.
P: Do you think I could see that picture of Mr. Sakai?
M: Well, I tell you. I saw it the other day. Old, lot of old pictures. More
than what you got here.
P: I'm sure you do.
M: Maybe you want more pictures.
P: I would.
M: you know. We had a storm, we had hurri-
canes and storms and some of it destroyed and some water-soaked, but
some of them are good enough, you see. You can...
P: .:..make copies of them.