A Slice of Local History


Frank Kamiya was part of Palm Beach State's first class. A group of three.


I confess.

I love history.

All kinds of history, but especially local history because it’s often ignored especially in places like Florida where so much happens and so much is new.

But Boca Raton and Delray Beach have a local history rich with great characters and stories.

So I was delighted to recently receive a publication celebrating 80 years of Palm Beach State College.

That’s right, the alma mater of Burt Reynolds and thousands of others first opened its doors in 1933.

Since then, the school has grown enormously in size and importance and today occupies a central place in the progress of Palm Beach County.

But when it comes to history sometimes it’s the hidden gems that grab you.

In the commemorative magazine, there was a story about Palm Beach State’s (then known at Palm Beach Junior College) first graduating class in 1936.

The class of ’36 featured three people, two women and a gentleman named Frank Kamiya, who happened to live in Delray Beach. Not only was Mr. Kamiya the only male in the graduating class, he was Japanese,  a rarity then in what was mostly a white student body.

Kamiya was born in 1915 in the famous Yamato Colony near Boca Raton. The Japanese immigrant colony was co-founded by Kamiya’s uncle Jo Sakai in 1905 and was well-known for its pineapples and vegetable farms.

Kamiya attended schools with other members of the Colony in Boca and Delray and a became a four year letterman on the Delray Beach High School basketball team graduating in 1933, when Palm Beach Junior College opened its doors.

While he received a basketball scholarship to Lakeland College, Kamiya turned it down and headed to the University of Florida. But financial hardship forced him to return home and attend Palm Beach Junior College. He would graduate with a teaching certificate  and a degree in health and physical education.

Mr. Kamiya had hoped to become a teacher, but a job as a cook changed his ambitions and he pursued a career as a chef, specializing in the delicacies of Italy.

It proved to be a wise move and at the height of his career, Kamiya was considered to be among the best Italian chefs in the southeast United States.

Just a little slice of local history that we thought we’d pass along. That’s how history stays alive.

5 Quirky Things We Love About Boca and Delray

The charming Blue Anchor Pub just may have a ghost

The charming Blue Anchor Pub just may have a ghost

With all due respect to the Chamber of Commerce, City Hall and the tourism bureau, sometimes the best things about cities can’t be found in a brochure.

In that spirit, we offer 5 quirky things we love about Boca Raton and Delray Beach.

In no particular order:

  1. www.bocasurfcam.com –this elegantly simple website provides a real time, easily refreshed, view of Boca’s beach. Images update every minute so you can see the waves and maybe even some of your friends playing hooky on a Monday morning. The same site offers a link to www.lakebocacam.com which is a beautifully picturesque view of Lake Boca with the Boca Resort in the background. The City of Boca Raton provides a cool view of South Beach at www.evsboca.com with up to the minute weather conditions. Depending on the time of day, you can usually see some pretty spectacular boats on the Lake Boca cam. A word of caution: viewing these cams while you work may lead to a strong desire to ditch the suit and tie and head to the beach.
  2. If you love local history (and we do) you may want to check out the Spanish River Papers, a scholarly publication produced by the Boca Raton Historical Society. The papers celebrate their 40th anniversary this year and offer a treasure of documents and papers outlining Boca’s rich history.

Printed back issues are available for purchase; our favorite is volume III published in 1975 which include lots of information about Frank H. Cheseboro (1850-1936) one of Boca’s first permanent residents who kept a daily diary of early Boca life. It seems Mr. Cheseboro and his sister Libby got lost for five days in the Florida “flatwoods” in 1935—when Mr. Cheseboro was 84 and his sister 81—an ordeal that was chronicled in local newspapers. Facing “buckets” of mosquitos and conditions equaled only by the harsh conditions of the Everglades, Alaska’s wilderness and Death Valley, Libby and Frank survived and lived to tell about it. Apparently they got lost on the way to Detroit after they left US 1 near Hobe Sound. Their tales and many others can be found online at www.bocahistory.org.

  1. Is the Blue Anchor Pub in Delray haunted? Absolutely, according to legend.

For a hundred years or more The Blue Anchor has been haunted by the spirit of a young woman called Bertha Starkey who was stabbed to death at the bar by her jealous seafaring husband after he found her in the arms of another man. Her footsteps and spine-chilling wails were often heard by employees after the pub closed for the night at its original location in England.

Even today, at its Delray Beach location, the haunting appears to continue.

Strange, unexplained events have been documented in a host of TV and newspaper accounts. “How do you explain the eerie sounds of footsteps in the ceiling late at night or the sudden shattering of a half-inch thick reinforced glass shelf behind the bar on the anniversary of Bertha’s gruesome demise? “asks British owner Lee Harrison. “And how do you explain table candles extinguishing themselves and then re-igniting seconds later? Or heavy kitchen pots lifting themselves off meat-cleaver size hooks and crashing to the floor? It’s all very creepy!

In fact, experts in the field of paranormal studies have told us they are not aware of any previous case where a ghost has travelled more than 4,000 miles to set up residency in another country.”  As they might say, only in Delray.

  1. Another only in Delray experience can be had at the Sundy House, 106 S. Swinton Ave. Once the home of the city’s first mayor, this meticulously restored property is said to be Delray’s oldest home and was built in 1902. But aside from its historic charm, there are a couple of quirky facts that make the Sundy House one of a kind. The restaurant and hotel is immersed in what is known as the Taru Gardens a tropical oasis that features several hundred species of plants and trees from all over the world. More than 100 of the species provide something that can be eaten, often at the restaurant. Back in 1998, before owner Tom Worrell purchased the property, the Sundy House featured a shell rock parking lot and a few trees. Since then it has been transformed into a completely unique environment that also includes a natural swimming pond. It simply has to be experienced to be believed. Free educational tours are given at 2:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays. The tour is a can’t miss experience.
  2. If you are an adventurous sort you may want to dive or snorkel the Delray Wreck. Located about 150 yards offshore on the south end of the beach, the wreck of the S.S. Inchulva has been intriguing divers from decades. The S.S. Inchulva wrecked after a vicious hurricane on Sept. 11, 1903. It now sits on the ocean floor in five pieces waiting to be explored by divers and other daring souls. Nine people out of a 28 member crew were lost in the tragic wreck, but a magistrate cleared the captain of all blame. The wreck of the Inchulva inspired entrepreneurs John and Jenna Ferber to create an interactive “movie” entitled “The Search for Linton’s Treasure”. Participants wander Delray looking for clues to the missing treasure. Visit www.delrayinteractivemovie.com for information and tickets.

What are your favorite “quirky” spots and activities in Boca and Delray? Send us a line and we’ll include them in an upcoming feature.