August 3rd, 2020 / posted by paularath

Heidi at two months old.

Jerry and I love our cats. We have had one or two or three cats throughout our entire life together. But when Scrimshaw (better known as Scrimmy) passed away two years ago at the age of 21, we decided we would not adopt another cat.

We were traveling so much and it wasn’t always easy to find house- and cat-sitters.

Tiny Heidi goes to her private home gym.

Then along came COVID-19 and the quarantine.

Jerry and I love spending lots of time together, but we began to miss having a pet. We tried to make our household geckos fit the bill. We named them and gave them cocktails during cocktail hour (for Cointreau and Vodka) and their favorite foods (for Cookie, Avocado and Peanut), but they aren’t exactly soft and cuddly, and although they did seem to have their own personalities, they simply were not ideal substitutes for cats.

A favorite peek-a-boo place, in my office, right behind Daddy’s photo.

So one day a few weeks ago, I started looking at the kittens on the Humane Society website. After several days of love-struck looking on my part, we decided to go to the Humane Society and visit the Kitten House.

“We will only bring home a kitten if we truly fall in love with one,” we agreed.

She doesn’t quite get the purpose of the post yet. But who cares?

It was a good day for kittens, as there were lots of them just begging to be adopted.

One frantic ginger kitten was disrupting the little house and picking a fight with every kitten she could. She was quite threatening and we steered clear of her as she went wild.

In the midst of the chaos, a tiny little gray-and-white kitten walked up to me with her big beautiful eyes, just waiting to be picked up. It was all over. She was coming home with us.

Playing peek-a-boo behind her scratching post.

We named her Heidi because she has an uncanny ability to discover places to hide that are just about impossible for us to find. She spent her first night in the back of our guest room vanity, behind a drawer in a teensy spot we still don’t know how she fit into.

She is an akamai little kitten and has already wrapped us around her little paws. She is crazy about playing, and everything in the house becomes her plaything, from wads of newspaper to shoelaces and purse straps.

I made her a lovely linen bed, but she has no interest in it. Jerry built her a scratching post, and she loves it, but she thinks she is supposed to climb up on it, not to scratch it. (But of course she gets a treat no matter what she does.)

She has a polka dot tummy – very fashion forward! She loves my lap when the mood strikes her.

Heidi is relaxed and happy with us and we are over the moon with our precious little kitten. And today we were able to trim her tiny claws without a problem. Now THAT’s a sign that Heidi belongs with us.

-Paula Rath

July 16th, 2020 / posted by paularath

Streetcars were a popular mode of transportation in 1905 Honolulu.  Photos from Hawaii State Archives

I often wonder what it was like for my grandparents, Ragna Helsher and James Arthur Rath, when they arrived in Honolulu in 1905. So I did a little homework, and here are some random observations regarding that time:

  • The city of Honolulu wasn’t incorporated until July 1, 1905.
  • King Street was a muddy, unpaved road traveled mainly by carriages and ox carts.
  • There were hitching posts for horses on most Honolulu streets.
  • Ala Moana and Waikiki were mainly duck ponds and swamps.

The Moana was one of very few hotels in Waikiki in 1905. Or was it the only Hotel in Waikiki in 1905?

  • Population in the Palama area was mainly Hawaiian and Chinese, but within half a mile of Palama Settlement, nine languages were spoken.
  • There were no shopping centers. Retailing was confined to mom-and-pop shops in an area bounded by Fort, Hotel, King and Nuuanu Streets.

A postcard of Central Union Church circa 1905.

  • Women were covered from head to toe, wearing long-sleeved dresses with bustles.
  • Kapahulu was dairy farms, Manoa was vegetable farms and the area now called Hawaii Kai was pig farms.

No supermarkets existed in Honolulu in 1905, just mom-and-pop shops.

  • There were no bridges across Nuuanu Stream – the only way to cross was on a wooden plank.
  • There were fewer than 100 motor cars in Honolulu.
  • The most common form of transportation was the street-car. Honolulu Rapid Transit & Land Co. reported that nearly seven million passengers traveled by streetcar each year on 23 miles of track.

– Paula Rath



July 10th, 2020 / posted by paularath

The Rath Building at Palama Settlement today. It was named after James Arthur and Ragna Helsher Rath.

To follow up on my last blog, how did my paternal grandfather, James Arthur Rath of Madras, India, end up in Honolulu, Hawaii?

Well, after completing his education in Madras, he followed in his father’s footsteps, serving in the British Army from 1888 to 1900. At first he served in the Revenue Police of India (as a sort of tax collector) but hated “this man-hunting” and transferred to the regular Army and took part in the uprising of Chitral in 1895. He was later given a clerical job in Burma (now called Myanmar). In Mandalay, Burma, he contracted malaria. After months of hospitalizations, he was medically discharged from the Army.

Feeling somewhat at a loss, he got a job in the Bombay YMCA, and his interest immediately turned to social work. He was quickly recognized for his potential in the field, and was recruited by the International YMCA College in Springfield, Massachusetts. His plan was to graduate with the credentials required to open and manage a YMCA somewhere in India. So he sailed halfway around the world in hope of a brighter future and better health.

James Arthur Rath

While studying social work, Grandfather made quite a name for himself through lectures and editorials on social issues in several East Coast states.

In 1903, Grandfather met and married Ragna Helsher Rath, a school teacher from a Norwegian family in Concord, Mass., and they prepared for a move to India. But to their dismay, there were no YMCA executive positions available in India at the time, so he took a job with the Lynn General Electric Company, hoping that something in India would open up.

Just as they were settling into life in New England,  Grandfather received a letter from Central Union Church in Honolulu, informing him of a job opening at Palama Chapel in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Nana wrote that they went to the library to look up “Sandwich Islands,” and all they could find was the location, climate, vegetation and “a limited description of the natives.” They courageously decided to travel 5,000 miles on trains and boats to Honolulu “to stay for five years only.”

My grandmother, Ragna Helsher Rath, at her 100th birthday party. She lived to 102.

Well, they stayed a bit longer than five years. Together, they raised five children in  Honolulu and worked tirelessly to create and maintain Palama Settlement, which is poised to celebrate its 125th year in 2021.

Grandfather was the Head Worker (now called the Executive Director) at Palama Settlement until his death in 1929, of heart problems, complications of a life lived with malaria. Nana remarkably lived until 1981, passing away at 102 years old.

I was fortunate to have Nana live with my family for many years. Later, I walked to her little cottage near Punahou after school, where she taught me to sew and embroider. She was a force of nature in a tiny frame. She was 88 when she wrote her 500-page book about Grandfather and their life at Palama Settlement.

Please watch for my next blog, about the earliest days of Palama Settlement. Much of my research comes from Nana’s book.

  • Paula Rath
July 8th, 2020 / posted by paularath

The cast of Beecham House on PBS Masterpiece Theatre           Photos courtesy PBS

“Beecham House,” currently playing on PBS Masterpiece Theatre on Sunday nights, has captivated me. Not because of Tom Bateman, who plays John Beecham (although he is quite divine to look at) and not because of the costumes (which are also eye candy) or even the sumptuous palaces and textiles that light up the screen – but because of my family roots.

The Rath family has a long history in India, dating back to when my great grandfather, James Rath, enlisted in the British Army and was sent to India in 1837. Although he was a cobbler by profession in Birmingham, England, then Werford, Ireland, he apparently had a falling out with his family and wanted to get as far away as possible. India fit the bill.

So east he went, with his Irish wife by his side. She died of disease soon after arrival, but he remarried, again an Irish wife, who was able to stay the course in India.

As my grandmother, Ragna Helsher Rath, whom we called Nana, wrote in her book “James Arthur Rath and Palama Settlement,” great grandfather served in the British Army’s Artillery Division during the Indian Rebellion of 1857, as well as in Afghanistan and Burma (now Myanmar).

This is only a few decades after the period portrayed in “Beecham House,” so there may have been many similarities to the time my family lived there.

Tom Bateman, heartthrob of “Beecham House” on PBS

My great grandfather served in the Army’s Madras Division, so this is why my grandfather was born in Madras.  His military job title was “Assistant Apothecary,” which seems to be similar to a Physician’s Assistant, or perhaps a pharmacist, today. Nana wrote that he was a skilled diagnostician, and had “Patients coming from miles away to be examined by him.”

Pallavi Sharda, who plays Chandrika on “Beecham House” on PBS Masterpiece Theatre. My grandmother had a few beautiful saris, but they weren’t as lavish as this!

There are many pukas in the family history, such as great grandfather’s name. It’s time I tried to learn more. But I do know a great deal about my grandfather, James Arthur Rath.

So how did Grandfather happen to travel from Madras, India, to Honolulu, Hawaii? Why was he asked to serve as the Consul General for India in Honolulu? Why is Indian curry the most traditional dish in the Rath family of Honolulu?

Well, you’ll have to read my next blog to learn more.

  • Paula Rath
May 19th, 2020 / posted by paularath

During the past couple of weeks I have been enjoying interviewing prospective scholarship candidates for our Palama Settlement student scholarships. (Sadly, we’re on Zoom this year.) It’s always one of my favorite times of year, as I get to catch up with students we have been helping the past year, as well as meeting new students who need a little assistance.

I inevitably well up with tears when I hear them talk about their lives. Many have GPAs I didn’t know exist, such as 4.25. They are an ambitious, often driven, group. Most come from the Palama neighborhood and many grew up in nearby public housing. They are often the first person in their family to attend college, and they are out to prove themselves. They are future accountants, social workers, mechanical engineers, physical therapists and pharmacists.

It’s really inspiring, and that’s why my family is now sponsoring The Rath Family Scholarship. Perhaps you would like to help? Just go to

So what does that have to do with my blog headline? Well, this year some of the students turned the table and asked the interviewers what we are doing during the COVID-19 crisis. I became tongue tied and couldn’t think of anything I am doing creatively.

But that’s not really true. I am doing some creative projects, though not as many as I “should” be doing. I am making curtains, getting back into a painting style I haven’t tried for many years, and creating my one-of-a-kind greeting cards.

Hand-dyed shibori indigo silk organza with Italian interiors fabric and a special button.

As I sit down at my sewing machine to assemble the fabrics, ribbons and assorted notions for the cards, I think of a reason for each card to exist. Here are a few:

An invitation for a chat and cocktail with a friend you haven’t seen for too long:

A great card to invite a friend for a chat and a cocktail!

In lieu of sending flowers to a friend who may need a little blossom:

Layers of silk organza over a skeleton leaf.

Just a little nudge to say “Hey, thinking of you”!

Buggy for art

A reminder of a day long ago when you swam in the ocean and sat on the beach with a friend or loved one:

Hand dyed indigo shibori with a little fish swimming through.

Honestly, though, some of the best cards are sent for no reason at all. I have been sending cards to friends “just because” since the shutdown started, and have learned that they are much appreciated.

  • Paula Rath