Interview with Yoshikazu Wilson Yamauchi, May 25, 1982

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Interview with Yoshikazu Wilson Yamauchi, May 25, 1982
Yamauchi, Yoshikazu Wilson ( Interviewee )
Publication Date:


Subjects / Keywords:
Palm Beach County Oral History Collection ( local )
Spatial Coverage:
Palm Beach (Fla.) -- History.


This text has been transcribed from an audio or video oral history. Digitization was funded by a gift from Caleb J. and Michele B. Grimes.

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Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, Department of History, University of Florida
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This interview is part of the 'Palm Beach' collection of interviews held by the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program of the Department of History at the University of Florida
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Interviewee: Yoshikazu Wilson Yamauchi
Interviewer: Sumiko Kobayashi
Date: May 25, 1982
Place: Plymouth, Michigan

K: Now I going to ask you about your name and present employment and your parents,

where their home in Japan was, and something about what you remember about life

in Yamato and what you did after you left the colony. First, your name and present

employment, please. (--ye, will -yu spek up p.lo)

Y: Yea-. Yoshikazu Wilson Yamauchi.

K: And where are you employed?

Y: At the Detroit Arsenal in northern Michigan.

K: ThaI a branch of the U.S. Army?

Y: Yea, it could because there is something like research and development end of it.

K: You are an engineer?

Y: Yes, a mechanical engineer.

K: I see. When and where were you born?

Y: January, 1917.

K: Where?
Y: Yamato) e y.

K: Were you born in the hospital in West Palm Beach like I was or were you born right

in your home?

Y: I d know for sure but I think it might be at home.

K: -et=, is there a record of your birth with the bureau *of vital statistics in


Y: Birth certificate. I have one.

K: You do have one.

Y: They gave me a photo copy.

K: Yes. So I have one too. Your parents )o you know where your parents home in Japan

was? What part of Japan did they come from?

Page 2

Y: Df 4hQ west end@

K: Western end of Japan?

Y: Yet.

K: Do you remember the _

Y: No. Kiyoto fu.

K: Kiyoto?

Y: Kiyoto Fu, ye: .

K: Kiyoto Fu. Anywhere near Miazu? That's where, ,

Y: IT') kind of close I understand. Their home was close to Mlniyama.

K: Your mother's. Miniyama. And your father? Do you remember

Y: Ye4. He lived in sort of a village close by. Ahsi I think it was.

K: Did they come together or did your father come earlier?

Y: He came earlier I understand.

K: Did he come directly to Florida from Japan or did he way of Hawaii or the

yest coast somewhere?

Y: I dorit)now. I do remember that one.

K: S=y, was your father recruited by Kamiya or Sakii, George Sakii?

Y: I do4tknow.

K: You dor'tknow. Do you remember, are there any other members of your parents family

in the United States?

Y: No. IE

K Do you know how your father happened to come to the United States?

Y: Have no idea.

K: What year did he come?

Y: I am not sure. All I know he was in the United States around 1915.

K: About 1915. Well, that'- about the same time that my father came. He first came

in 1914.

Y: Not much help.

Page 3

K: How did your mother happen to come? Was it arranged in Japan?

Y: Married over there. They both came.

K: Oh, they both came together?

Y: She came afterwardS. He came first. Then he went back and brought her.

K: -09 What are your earliest recollections of Yamato? Can you think of any

recollections of Yamato? Do you remember going to school? Do you remember some of

the other children there? Remember their names?


K: Kamiya?

Y: KODC- I think ve)seen a couple of times.

K: Who?

Y: Rocro.

K: Oh, Rocro, yea, Kamiya. He')the one who died in the motorcycle accident.

Y: Yeah. J--I remember a- and there was five girls in the

2 v i.t- ir 'm ot clear which name is who.

K: Do you remember a man named George Morikami?

Y: Barely.

K: Just barely. Do you remember the two Kobayashi's? Hedel and Oscar SUslxr-- my


Y: I knew that Gil. All I remember aboit him was that his name reads

K: HT.

Y: Something like that.

K: And do you remember the Oyshi brothers?

Y: Nope. Just one.

K: Just one. The one that was a station master?

Y: I do'j know what he was but he was around there. He hung around with the Kamiya

family a lot.

Page 4

K: Well yes. Well, thag because he was Mrs. Kamiya's brother.


K: Do you remember -*aee=ae-fg ai'going to the one-room school house?

Y: Yel.

K: You do remember that.

Y: And then, the first day of the seventh grade!l remember that much.

K: fh=i.. But did you yourself gTa. =gj, go up to the seventh grade?

Y: I remember my first and second grade and then I remember Martha and another

fellow was sitting in back. He was a seventh grade student. Something liked that.

Some sort of situation that came.

K: Vm, what was it like going to the=e the one-room school,i1e was it noisy?

Y: I i think so particularly.

K: Do you remember the names of some of your other classmates?

r*Some of the white children for example.

Y: No.

K: And the school, the teachers? You do(, remember their names.

Y: No.

K: What did you hear about the early days of Yamato from older people there?

Did you hear anything about the founding? About raising pineapples?

Y: iv heard about raising pineapples. I e heard the colony came over to

Florida to raise pineapples but it dida work out worth anything.

K: Do you have any pictures in ycd) family album from those days?

Y: My wife keeps an archive. You have to ask her. S- h< Qrry be vAlb 5kx

comes back, you can ask fB %O9 rC 5 J I d Qy SOrA LAOP,

K: Oh. Okay. About how many students were there -E in that one-room school house?

Y: Oh, in between L4cun

K: Twenty? Oh, that many in a one-room school house?

Y: Well, tha '. off the top of M

Page 5

K: Do you remember when the school closed?

Y: No. Q>.

K: Do you remember being bused to Boca Raton or ,

Y: No.

K: No. All right. When and where did you graduate from high school?

Y: Miami Beach.

K: Miami Beach?

Y: Ite6X.

K: That-sright. You moved away from Yamato and your family moved to Miami Beach.

Y: No. They moved to the outskirts of Miami, and from there to Miami Beach. There was

a changing of schools in there.

K: What did your father go into after he left Miami?

Y: First he worked in the nrrec w .i Cns .,,

K: Employee. He worked for somebody else.

Y: Tha right. Then he went fin -.

K: In Miami is this?
<^ 1" in YC.'i Ic eh
Y: Ye%. Then he --- as a caretake-garndfer, cut the grass, trimmed the trees, etc.

K: And this was his own business, was it?

Y: Yes.

K: And he was doing that when they died?

Y: No, he had retired for a few years. And ^/ we reconstructed the last few days.

They were preparing to return to Japan and they got in a car accident and that was the

end of them.

K: Oh. -*kfa ., you had already left at that point.

Y: Yes. 1962.

K: T It,-ih pend the accident happened in 1962, right?

When, where did you go to college?

Y: Gainesville, Florida.

Page 6

K: Gainesville?

Y: t-Ta. ,

K: University of Florida?

Y: YesasS

K: Oh, yes. Th I where the oral history project is located now you know.

Y: No, I did2' l know.

K: Tha )where these tapes are going.

Y: Big changes, different.

K: Yes. -rirT,98,V did you take an engineering course there?

Y: Yeak. Mechanical engineering.

K: Mechanical engineering. And you pursued that profession since. Do you remember
czd- hLe--
wc-r Yamato school, special activities a-xmdaba yts, especially around the

holidays? T=as, Christmas plays, singing. ,

Y: Something like that anyway. Curtain off the front of the room, somebody would sing

or re c-4- or something of that sort.

K: How did you get to school? Did you, I guess everybody walked, didn't they? Or did

somebody take you?
f--- ---^.
Y: Well, most of the time and sometimes my father carried me to a certain

place and dropped me off. He went to work in 'the farm.

K: Oh. Did you every have to help on the farm?

Y: No, no.

K: No. Not even packing?

Y: No.

K: Packing tomatoes?

Y: Too little.

K: Too little. What did your father raise? Do you know what he raised?

Y: What he called truck farming. Tomat -peppe, -eggplan-beans and so on.

K: And did you have a truck or a tractor or a mule ?

Page 7

re-nuM ber
Y: No. He did everything with a truck. I can barely him having a mule or a horse.

And the last I remember is the horse died'and thy were dragging it away to -

I dolknow what.

K: Oh.

Y: YeiS

K: Who were your best friends? Did you have a particular friend?

Y: Well, I went around with Kaz most of the time.

K: Kaz. Kaz Kamiya.

Y: Yeza. i4p v'j0 c-cJpLo-4-I+ iC ( I Ln. '

K: Were there any fights among the boys?

Y: I do I know

K: You dc remember. What did you do for play after school? Do you remember?

Y: u ,m O,

K: You do member going to that indian mound to play?

Y: No. gtr

K: Did you speak Japanese or English to your parents in you-r home?

Y: Might have been Japanese.

K: Can you speak any Japanese now?

Y: Not too much, no.

K: Can you understand?

Y: Unless they do2)get too complicated words.

K: Have you ever been to Japan??

Y: Yea.

K: Oh, you tdid go? When ?

Y: About 1927 orAq26. In that area.

K: Oh, when you were a young man.

Page 8

Y: Yea.

K: I= CS,

Y: Ten, ten or eleven. Or nine, ten.

K: Oh. You, you visited your grandparents then,
Y: Yeaf.

K: In your parents hometown area.

4: You' might have been different from the Kamiyas for example and the Sakii's who spoke

English among themselves if you were the only child and so you would probably

have spoken more Japanese in the family. You spoke English with the other children

though didn't you ? Thq9)been the general pattern.

Y: I guess so. I do't)remember.

K: Yepta=eas-! a!-mae How about food. Did you eat mostly Japanese or American food

or a mixture?

Y: Mixture, I think.

K: Mimeae. What kindoof breakfast did you have? American or Japanese?

Y: I think it was more American. Eggs and bacon, something like that.

K: And you, I guess "I"xr eaasmi we didITlaave fresh milk so

you had canned milk when you had milk at all?

Y: Powdered milk.

K: Powdered milk.

Y: If I remember.

K: WsFm h. Would you like to go again to Japan? zfr at a -... you haven't been there

since you were an adult.

Y: 1970.

K: 1970 you went?sth

Y: It was I

K: Oh. Did you go with a tour group or... No? By yourself?
dauah#r V- wkon siK vjciz cxcNri;.d ChirJe/',
Y: No. With a family. Myb ot was there and took o.-e4-if She ran around

the fair. CA r ,J 1 Ct/she pulled me with her to the fair and I walked back.

Page 9

Y: Kentucky Fried Chicken.

K: Kentucky Fried Chicken. Oh, colonel what his name. Did you see McDonald's over


Y:q Not then. No.

K: Not in, 1970, was it you went?

Y: Yea.

K: How long did you stay?

Y: Sixty days.

K: Oh. Two months..Did you visit your parent's hometown area?

Y: We passed through it,ye.

K: What holidays do you remember being celebrated? Did you celebrate Thanksgiving,

Christmas, New Year's, Fourth of July, t -te

Y: I remember Christmas.

K: Christmas.

Y: Ye&h.

K: Did you have a Christmas tree?

Y: Yel.

K: Oh, you did?%ause my mother said that people did( have Christmas trees in their


Y: We exchanged presents.

K: You exchanged presents?

Y: \/es

K: And, at what, were your parents Christian?

Y: No. Buddhist.

K: Buddhist. But they celebrated Christmas.

Y: Yes.

K: Oh.

Y: Easter and the three days of New Year, Christmas.

Page 10

K: Do you remember Thanksgiving being celebrated?

Y: No.

K: No.

Y: CclnnoL remr-0mfber &-lkJ.

K: How, New Year's? Special Japanese foods at New Year's?

Y: It might have been.

K: Muchie. Do you remember muchie? Having any muchie.

Y: Yeh. I remember having it. The Kamiya family beating that rice in a big,,,

K: Oh, they did. They pounded the rice.

Y: And I remember oysters beaten with a rpa0te Somebody else is turning the

muchie over. I was wondering how they synchronized it. One person turned over t

K: You gotta have good timing. I saw it in Japan for the first time. But I did(trealizE

they did that at, muchiskoo it's called in Florida.

Y: the Kamiya family.

K: Z=am. ye did they share the muchie with any of the others?

Y: I dor5)remember that much.

K: How about the fourth of July. Do you remember the Fourth of July parades?

Y: No.

K: No. All right. How about beach parties? Do you remember going to the beach, having

Udo, going fishing.? No. You dot)reemember.

Y: No.7

K: Did you play baseball among the boys?

Y; Not particularly. I have no memories of playing any particular sports. No.

K: How about movies?9 iA -a- did you do anything else for recreation? Going to

the movies of listening to the radio? Or maybe they did) have radio in thai, they

di ct have radio in those days?

Y: No. My mother had what called victrola' .'---

Page 11

K: Oh? Hand cranked?

Y: Yea, and records from Japan.

K: Any American records, ,_ or anything like that?

Y: No. I doit remember that.

K: No. How much did you know about your father's business?

Y: Not too much.

K: Not too much. Do you know how many people he employed?

Y: In ?

K: tbmia Did he have his own packing shed?

Y: I think he had his own packing shed. I believe therd two families of egroes

sharecropping with him. Tha like I remember it.

K: And where did you live? You did' liveai in that group of houses thaes

shown in the pictures wta#iitLf near the Sakii family.

Y: Our family's way in the back with a road leading into it.

You a road leading into it.

K: Oh. Anywhere near the IIerc, Kobashi family?

Y: cIc o- C.-. .. vi ?

K: Fe-h4iZr. And that was the, what, about half a mile from f.,li'--aE- Dteixie Highway?

Y: Ye&.

K: Did you go often to that area with the five or so houses there? Where the Sakii's

lived, and

Y: A few times Jiirrjin I dor(tknow how often.

K: -ZE7= did your father know anything about farming when he came or was he in some

other line of work.

Y: I dorn)know

- But he was,the area he came from was mostly farm land.

K: Oh, it was. So maybe he did know. It turns out that very few of those people

Page 31J

K: knew much about farming before they started farming. ie i i

Y: They had so-called peasant, is that what you might say, :SO hLhPlrQ V farming

(+A\ .Sry!f' j and it gets passed down.

K: -SiABh. What did your mother do? I guess she was just a housewife. But, I should

say just a housewife.

Y: Her family ~- Wilson and her father was in the rice business, growing


K: This was in Japan.

Y: Yea. So she used to do a little farming also.

K: Oh. Do you know when your father sold out?

Y: No.

K: Do you know how much acreage he had?

Y: No.

K: And he sold-out during the land boom and moved to Miami first. Is that correct?

Y: WellI gather from h'' and stuff, he was in Miami and he started getting a

little better and he sold land and dairy, he:;ihad something in dairies, I do know

what and he sold it then. Might have been before the boom.

K: UmSet. Oh, before the boom.

Y: \'ause every once in a while I hear the story you should have it all.

K: Oh. To get more money you mean. Well, that may be but my father was one of the

earlier ones so he did)get as much money, but in the early days they gave you

all the money in cash. Now the people who held out hoping to get more, they got part

of their money in cash and then they got promises for the rest of it. They never

collected on the rest of it. So tha' what you get for being too greedy.

ar. How old did you say you were when you left Miami? About eight?

Y: Miami?

K: I mean, left Yamato.

Y: Seven or eight I imagine) iei.

K: ia=3. You were still in grammar school then.

Page 13

Y: Yeai.

K: Byiidy .yui never, did you go to the school in Del ey or Boca Raton?

Y: I dc )recall them doing that.

K: Oh. So maybe you moved directly from Yamato School to Miami then.

Y: I -- --ver school. It sa surburb of Miami. They call it little iiver.

K: iver?

Y: River. Little river. 4ae.Sr\c--( rV-tr"

K: Oh. Little River.

Y: F a.e -=aa.: rvenrr Sc-fio. HUlI i tre

K: What did you do after you finished high school? You went to college at

Gainesville. ?And you have a degree in mechanical engineering.

Y: Yeah. UtB=h=e .

K: Did you go to Detroit and look for a job or did you get the job before you moved

--ork cz- Ford
Y: Yffh. My father was taking care of a person's yard cAn hI O_: d Im wvam

f-r k- mp & hen your son is going to come up and see met So I went up there

and got me a production line.

K: Oh, they did.--f

Y: Yel.

K: Oh. And how long were you on the production -line?

Y: Through the war.

K: Through the war. Oh. World War I.

Y: EFi. No, e!. two.

K: Two. *Bas.

Y: fjTot that old yet.

K: Sorry. So then how did you get into, into your profession there? Was it

at Ford or did you have to leave Ford?


Page 14

Y: I left Ford for the University of Detroit as a lab technician and working *to the

faculty. Then they -ef c{rPn and we had money troubles. We got to lay people off.

Does t)sound too good.

K: When was this?

Y: t'j)been going on for pretty close to ten years now.

"S-And the faculty at the University of Detroit is going down and down.

K: Oh, so you hav been working for the army all that long. t.
Mo- _, mCd-enlc e nQl ne-e
Y: YAnd heard that the army reded oonnit thoe n Vpy so
S ven'.t t.-re and find out five gi before they can process all the


K: Really? Oh. Where were you when World War II broke out? You were in Detroit on

a production line?

Y: Yes, I was oJ- F'! Ir' rr, -',,. ,

K: Were you affected by, by World War II?

Y: No.

K: Did you feel any discrimination because of the war?

Y: Not really. IOi kind of hard to see the Americans trying to skirt around.

K: What do you mean trying to skirt around?
OGn c '\ 0 (hnee/- N I no ?
Y: They see me ar re you Chinese? No. hliino ?

K: Oh.

Y: Indian? Finally come down. Japanese?- That s)about all I have.

K: Well, dlyi, was your father's business hurt at all'by theqkar?

Y: Not that I know of. He waEO in any "relocation camp,!.

K: HI.P2Easn ? Well, not he woul'It)have been. Not from the East Coast. Well, you

weren't either, were you?

Y: No.

K: No.

Page 15

Y: All he had to do was take the radio into the police station and they had a

big _f newspaper showing P^ radio at this police station.

K: Oh. Oh, you mean he turned it in.

Y: Yek. ".

K: Short wave radio,was it?

Y: No. No.

K: No? Wasn't 0 rcd ir-CV 4

Y: Broadcast.

K: Oh. So he was hurt as far as you know. Did you hear or read about the

concentration camps, the relocation camps?

Y: Ye ki .a"rcC( cbo0 :-

K: Did yoduknow anybody MtE who was in them?

Y: Quite a number of FD-s- in this Detroit area came out of those camps.

K: Yes. Well, I was in one too. We moved to the West Coast just in time to get caught

in that. When your parents were killed in that automobile accident, it was an

auto-train collision from what I hear, who notified you?

Y: Police.

K: Police. Oh.

Y: 0o Ccl Police.

K: s -, local police here? h, Yest, well of course if you were the only child

there wouldn't be any brothers of sisters to let you know. Have you maintained

contact with anyone else tha s7Q former resident of Yamato? Did you keep in touch

with Kaz Kamiya for example before he died?

Y: No. Umthm-

K: So you just lost contact a together.

Y: Only thing is a Christmas card or the __

K: __? In New York?

Y: Yesa.

Page 16

K: And when was the last time that you returned to the Yamato area?

Y: I dotremember that one.

K: Long time ago. Didn't you say about twenty years ago?

Y: I was in Miami when parents, y6u know.

K: Oh. Thts right. And you, I guess you went back to the funeral.
Y: Ye
K: You are married. Yeaeae, what is your wife's name?

Y: Mioko.

K: Mioko. Is she from the West Coast?

K: She was raised 6n the'Coast. Visited Florida for a couple of weeks dr something.

very short. Went back West Coast. Father died. Mother took them all to Japan.

She got raised in Japan.

K: Oh. I see. And you have a daughter.
Y: Yea.

K: And aday what is her name?

Y: Sio.

K: Sio. Does she have an American name?

Y: Karen.

K: Karen. Which name does she use?

Y: Depends on her mood. Right now it's Sio.

K: Sio. eitos, she probably doesn't speak any Japanese, does she? Well, if her

mother was raised in Japan. I guess she might.

Y: She can understand a little bit.

K: A little bit.

Y: Her pronunciation is a little odd. -------_

K: What does she do?

Y: She1 reduction manager in one of those, audio-visual advertisement things that

make those slides.

K: Utthrmb. Oh. She works for an advertising agency?

Page 17

Y: audiovisual position. Makes those slides.

K: Oh. I see. And she is not living at home now. She is living nearby.

tti=s is she married?

Y: No.

K: So her name is also Yamauchi. Karen Sio.

Y: Sio.

K: Karen Yamauchi. Do you think you might want to return to the Yamato area when you


Y: No. Thing is, i) kind of warm and humid

K: Yes.

Y: And my wife doe likethe bugs.

K: Bugs. She doesn't like bugs? I guess in warm,humid climates, there are always bugs.

Y: They get big. Not small.

K: Yes. -tSali.

Y: So.

K: You doir( think you will.

Y: Whenever she sees bugs on the plants, she beats on them.

K: Oh. Well, the winters here though are pretty fierce, aren't they?

Y: Yei.

K: You think you might retire to the West Coast?

Y: Possible.

K: ti-iant You haveiT thought that far ahead. So you are presently working for the

defense department. Now th's expanding I understand.

Y: IVause Reagan says so.

K: Well, thank you very much. I can't think of anything more to ask you.

Y: Sorry I could ) add more but is been so long. I was so young.

K: Yes. aB)a. That has a lot to do with it3 he fact that you were young.V course I sdorit

remember a thing about it myself. Everything I know about Yamato is what Ivh heard

Page 18

K: from other people because I left when I was about two years old. So. Okay. Thank

youN'y much.