The Autobiography of Tsujita: Part 8 of 8-part blog series

This digital transcription is a small portion of Usaburo Tsujita’s autobiography describing his time at Bok Tower Gardens in 1955 and is part of the Nellie Lee Bok archive. The Bok family employed Tsujita at the turn of the century, and he would later create the Peace Lantern as a gift to honor his mentor, Edward Bok. This historical account begins with his first visit to the Sanctuary accompanied by Edward Bok’s son, Curtis Bok, and his wife, Nellie Lee Bok.

The next day, accompanied by Justice Bok, I went to see the former winter house of the Boks. The Boks sold the house after the death of Edward Bok and it is now owned by Mrs. C. Prevost Boyce. I had asked Justice Bok in advance that I wanted to see the house when I arrived in Florida, and he made the arrangement without any reluctance.

“Mrs. Boyce is a very obliging lady, and she graciously consented to our visit to the house. So, let’s go,  Tsuda,” urged Justice Bok. Thus, I climbed into Justice Bok’s car in haste.

Why I wanted to see the house so much which is no longer owned by the Boks? It is because the house stores a number of dear memories which I can never forget till my death.

Justice Bok seemed to have taken a wrong road, and we had a long way about to come to the entrance of the house. After a survey around the house , however, we discovered that the old road to the entrance had disappeared and a new road had been made on the opposite side. There used to be a fairly big bamboo grove in this direction, which grew out of the bamboos planted by Edward Bok. But that grove was no longer there.

We left the car at the side of the entrance and rang the door-bell. The outward appearance of the house or approach to the entrance showed no change. The dear old memories welled up in my mind.

Mrs. Boyce, who happened to be just inside of the entrance door in order to go out, opened the door and ushered us in.

After an exchange of the greetings and Justice Bok’s brief explanation of our visit, Mrs. Boyce said to me with a smiling face, “I am just going out, but please look around just as you please.”

We crossed the hall and looked at the inner court. There was a fountain and the big lawn spread beyond it just as they used to be in the olden days.

The guest room on the right side of the hall still had the atmosphere of the olden days, but the dining room (which we used to call the breakfast room in Edward Bok’s days) has undergone a considerable change.

The lawn in front of the dining room is the place where I used to spread feeds for quails every morning. Edward Bok used to take his breakfast watching the lovely quails that gathered there to pick the feeds. I could still see him in that posture in my mind’s eye.

We passed the kitchen and came to where my room used to be. This part of the house has been entirely remodeled and had no resemblance of the bygone days.

I was trying in those days to my mother’s teaching “Do what you have to do at once and with a smile” into practice in my daily life. Edward Bok discovered my effort for it in my conducts and that discovery was made in this very house. It is just about this spot where I now stand that I used to write to my mother how happy I was and how much I appreciated her kindness. All these memories make this place very dear to me.

We crossed the hall again and climbed upstairs. The room on the right side used to be occupied by Edward Bok. The furniture was completely changed and the room had no resemblance of the olden days. I could see in my mind’s eye his desk near the window opened to the east and his figure sitting and writing at the desk. He must have worked over his ideas of construction of the Sanctuary and the Singing Tower in this room. My respect for Edward Bok was renewed, and my yearning toward him and this house filled my mind. I understand that the end of his life of 67 years came also in this very room.

Although Edward Bok is no longer in this world, I believe that his soul will live forever and help to make this world more beautiful.

I refreshed my cherished memories of thirty some years ago, and I was as if I were in a dreamland with a thousand emotions crowed on my mind.

We left the house shortly after. I take this opportunity to express my gratitude for Mrs. Boyce’s generosity and kindness for letting me see the house to my heart’s content.

Photos below are from our archives and include images of Valentino, the Bok’s home in Mountain Lake.