Interview with Masuko Kamiya, October 15, 1982

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Interview with Masuko Kamiya, October 15, 1982
Series Title:
Masuko Kamiya
Kamiya, Masuko ( Interviewee )


Subjects / Keywords:
Palm Beach County Oral History Collection ( local )

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Source Institution:
University of Florida
Holding Location:
University of Florida
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Masuko Kamiya

Masuko Dorothy Kamiya Suga was born in 1917, the fourth

child in the Kamiya family, between Frank and Kazuo.

When her personal recollections of Yamato begin the Kamiya

store already had gas pumps. Mules and hand plows were

still used to farm. Eventually they bought a tractor.

She remembers very rich black dirt. Tiny insects which

lived in the muck caused muck itch; the children had to

go home and take a bath to get rid of them.

The Kamiyas did not have a Japanese style ofuro (bath), but

the Sakais (first cousins) did. It was a wooden ofuro.

The Kamiyas got rid of it after they moved into the old

Sakai house, whether because of dampness in the wood or

simply because it was considered old-fashioned and undesirable

she does not remember.

Editor's Note: When using an ofuro the bather soaps up
and rinses the body before entering the
deep tub; thus many bathers can use the
same hot water for soaking without dirtying
the water. The water is almost unbearably hot.

She does not remember being bothered by heat, humidity and

insects. Children seem not to mind such things.


Other Japanese she remembers:

Mori with his dog. The dog was like a collie.

Mori took the dog everywhere with him in his car.

Mr. and Mrs. Ashida shirt-tail relatives (distantly

related). (Mrs. ?) Ashida invented a birth control

device. Many years later a Japanese doctor, who

came twice to New York for conferences in connection

with the birth control device, visited with Masuko.

Kamikama a tall skinny man who bought peanuts by the


George Morikami lived in a house on his farm across

the Dixie Highway.

Japanese Families with Children

The Yoshidas had two boys; one was named Jun. Both

were very quiet.

Yoshikazu wilson Yamauchi (called Yoshibo) was Masuko's

classmate in the one-room school at Yamato. He

was the smartest in the class--a competitor.

Masuko kept in touch with him for a while after

he left Yamato but has not been in contact with

him for many years. He was an only child.

Editor's Note: Yoshikazu Wilson Yamauchi presently


is living in the Detroit, MI, area.
He is a civilian employee of the
U.S. Army; he is married and has
one daughter. He lives at:

27800 Arlington
Southfield, MI 48076
(313) 356-8986 (Home phone no.)

Hideo Kobayashi family:

Mr. Kobayashi liked to come over after his evening

bath and talk about the big fish he caught. He

loved to talk and had a jolly laugh. He philosoph-

ically compared things to the royal palms: the

longer you keep them the bigger they get and the

more they are worth except that eventually they

get so big they cannot be moved.

The Hideo Kobayashi children are:

Sakaye oldest son

Tomiko daughter; injured in an automobile
accident on Easter vacation. She
was found the next morning in her
overturned car. She now is partially
paralyzed; helps with the cooking but
has difficulty speaking. She is a
registered nurse.

Tamotsu (Tom) married to caucasian

Kiyoshi son

All live in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.


Jyo Sakai family:

The Sakai girls were first cousins to Masuko.

Jyo Sakai and Masuko's father were brothers

(H.T. Kamiya had been adopted into the Kamiya

family). When Jyo Sakai died (about 1923) the

mother and five daughters went to Japan to live.

Masuko has not kept in contact with the Sakai





Dinah laundry woman. Came to the Kamiya house

to wash, iron and scrub the kitchen floor (a wooden

floor). The kitchen was the only floor she scrubbed.

She boiled the clothes over a wood fie. Her

daughter Pauline continued doing the same things

after Aunt Dinah retired or died.

They had an easy relationship with the blacks.

They did not socialize, but they respected each

other. Mrs. Kamiya (Masuko's mother), even when

Masuko was a child, though it unnecessary

(thought what unnecessary? probably the strict

segregation of whites and blacks (Japanese were

considered white in the context of the times)).

Editor's note: The above statement is an interpre-
tation of original notes taken during
the interview which are not clear.

Other blacks: Kooty Cat (a woman) and her brother Snooky.

One family of blacks had a house near the Kamiyas

across the Dixie Highway. Others lived in scattered

houses in the area. Pearl City was the black town

next to Boca Raton.



Father, called Papa by the children, was a very outgoing person

who liked people, especially children. He played golf, goh

and billiards and loved going to the movies. He would ask,

"Anybody want to go to the movies?" and the children would

pile into the family car and off they would go to the

movies (where?). Masuko, the little sister, had to stay

home. Mrs. Kamiya seldom went to the movies. She probably

had to stay home with the younger children.

Papa played golf in Delray (called Delray, not Delray Beach,

then) and in West Palm Beach. They (Sugas?) still have his

bag with the clubs, which have wooden handles.

He played goh (sometimes called Japanese chess) with Fujimori

or Shiota (Masuko thinks). Goh is a gentleman's game, but

if a player makes a stupid move, other players are quick to

point it out.

He played billiards with a man in Boca Raton. He had red

and white billiard balls made of ivory. Nobody, but nobody,

was allowed to touch the balls. Masuko does not know what

happened to the billiard balls.


Papa had an alligator suitcase made from an alligator he

killed. Masuko does not know what happened to the suitcase.

He wore Florsheim shoes, which were very expensive at the

time. He was driven around (later when he was in the real

estate business) by a white chauffeur named Jim.

Papa kept fancy goldfish in the pond in the Japanese garden--

all colors and patterns, including ones with pop eyes.

He opened a bank account for each child, but all the money

was lost in the 1929 crash.

Papa spoke good English; Uncle (Don) Oishi too. Uncle Don

was Mama's brother. Masuko remembers that Uncle Don had

beautiful English handwriting.

Father eventually moved to the Los Angeles area to be near

his eldest daughter Masako (before World War II), was evac-

uated to an assembly center, then a relocation center

(which one?). He moved back to the LA area after the war,

then went to Japan to live. He returned to the Miyazu area

where he was born, remarried and died there. His remains were

cremated; the ashes are partly in Japan and partly in a

cemetery in West Palm Beach.



Her mother, Masuko thinks, was from the Miyazu area.

She was a kindergarten teacher in Japan (according to

Uncle Don Oishi) before she married and cameto the United

States. She taught the Kamiya children Japanese songs.

Masuko remembers the song'Hato Po-po' (Pigeon Song).

Mother played the piano; she played children's marches

and had the children march around.

She taught the two older daughters, Masako and Mishi,

Japanese reading and writing, but by the time Masuko

was old enough the lessons were abandoned.

Mother was a quiet person, very busy, a good cook. Masuko

remembers her round ball cookies. Mother did all the

housework except scrubbing of the kitchen floor and the

laundry, which were done by Aunt Dinah and later by

Dinah's daughter Pauline. They made their own soap.

Editor's note: Mrs. Kamiya died prior to World War II,
probably in the mid 1930's. It was after
she died that Mr. Kamiya went to the Los
Angeles area to live. She is buried in a
family plot in West Palm Beach.



The Kamiya home had a grandfather clock, furniture with

glass and clawfoot legs and a piano. Papa had a roll-top

desk. Mother played the piano and Masa and Mishi took

piano lessons.

The family kept chickens, pigs and a cow. They also kept

pigeons for squab. They kept the chickens mainly for eggs.

Masuko remembers a breed called Rhode Island Reds.

They used milk from the cow and also sold milk to other

families; they also enjoyed homemade ice cream.

Each child had a mango tree while they lived at the house

on the Dixie Highway. After they moved to the old Sakai

house (about 1926) avocado trees were planted.


Japanese Culture

Meals were a mixture of Japanese and American menus. They

ate a lot of fish, primarily because it was easily available

(from fishing) and plentiful.

The Kamiyas sold rice in 100 pound sacks at the general store.

New Year's was celebrated in the Japanese manner with special

food bought from New York. Masuko remembers kazunoko (fish

roe which has a brittle texture and is quite salty) and

kamaboko (steamed fish cake which has a smooth firm consistency).

The children learned Japanese children's songs from Mother.

The parents subscribed to newspapers and magazines in the

Japanese language.



Both parents were Christians, but Mama stayed home while

Papa took the children to Sunday School in Delray and

attended church himself. Masuko was baptized at Cason

Memorial Church, a Methodist church. All the Kamiya

children attended Sunday School.


Masuko remembers going to the one room school in Yamato.

They walked to school in bare feet. In fact they usually

ran around in bare feet. She does not remember exactly

when it closed--the date should be available from the

archives. After the Yamato school closed they rode the

school bus to Delray.

The only teacher she remembers is Bly Davis (Smith), now

living in Lake Worth, FL. She remembers her only from



Indian Mound

Masuko remembers the Indian Mound near the Yamato School.

It was the site of Easter egg hunts for which the big prize

was a chocolate covered Easter bunny.

Later someone put a building in front of the mound and

made a commercial venture out of it. They brought in artifacts

from outside and, although there was no admission charge,

there was a box for donations. The last time she saw it was

on a trip to Florida about 1964. She does not know if the

commercial venture (or the mound) still is there.

Behind the Indian Mound was a favorite huckleberry picking

area. The huckleberries were put to good use: Mother made

huckleberry pie; Father made huckleberry ice cream using a

hand grinder freezer. The cream came from the Kamiyas' cow.

Mama also made guava jelly from a guava tree in the back yard.


Montgomery Family

An Irish family (very Irish) lived across from the Kamiyas

on the Dixie Highway. The mother ran their store. One

of the sons, AnryMontgomery, was in Masu's class.

Andy's brother Willie did not go to school. Willie had one

arm, the other arm having been lost when his brother accidentally

shot him. Willie came to the Kamiya house often to play cards

with the children. He liked to drink. One day the Kamiya

children persuaded him to go with them to the Methodist

Church. The sermon that Sunday happened to be on the evils

of alcohol. Willie accused the Kamiyas of setting him up.

The Montgomerys bought milk from the Kamiyas. It was while

delivering milk to the Montgomerys that the Kamiyas' second

son Rokuo had his fatal motorcycle accident. He was in his

teens at the time.


Natural Disasters

Natural disasters occurred from time to time. Masuko

remembers being in a school bus when a twister (tornado)

turned the bus over with the children in it. Nobody was

hurt. She does not even remember being frightened.

Later after they moved to the former Sakai house a hurricane

caused a flood. There was so much water they needed a boat

to go to the house next door.



Masuko attended Florida State College for Women in Tallahassee

and graduated with a major in English.

New York World's Fair 1939-1940

Masuko applied for a job at the New York World's Fair from

Florida but was unsuccessful in this effort. She accompanied

her Uncle Don Oishi and his bride, who were then on their

honeymoon, to New York.

One week before the Japanese pavilion was to open she heard

there was a need for a guide. She applied for the job in

person and was hired. She worked both years, 1939 and 1940,

and enjoyed the work very much.


She met her husband, Herbert Minoru Suga, while working at

the New York World's Fair. They were married at the Japanese

Methodist Church in New York City in 1940.

Herb's family were pioneers on Long Island in the early 1900's.

The area where they live now on Long Island was rural countryside

when the Sugas first settled there, relatively isolated from


other Japanese. They have their share of stories to tell

about the hardships of pioneering and war-time (World War II)



Herb and Masuko Suga have three children.

As of summer 1982:

1. Barbara Toshi

2. Ronald Kiyoshi

3. Stephen Kazuo

- works for a radio station in Los
Angeles (KFCA?) selling advertising
time. She lives there with her
husband Douglas Grimm, whom she
met in New York City.

- is a teaching adviser for the
Massachusetts Teachers Association.
He lives in Braintree, MA, with his
wife and three boys:


- is a photographer who works for a
graphics studio; he recently opened
his own studio and will quit his
job when he can make it on his own.
He is married but the couple has
no children. They live in Redondo
Beach, CA.

Kamiya 17


Herb/ retired a few years ago from his job as a dental

technician. They sold their house in Babylon, Long Island,

New York, and moved to the Los Angeles area in September

1982 to be near two of their children, Barbara and Stephen.

Masuko has no desire to return to Florida to live. That

is in the past. Now they are looking toward the future.

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