Kamehameha reunion inspires poetry


POSTED: Sunday, May 31, 2009

Kamehameha Schools launches alumni week today, with many reunion-goers checking into campus dormitories for one week. Alumnus J. Arthur Rath III, class of 1949, wrote this reflection as he prepared to return to the dorm he lived in 65 years ago.

The schools picked just boarders,
Recruiting each island,
“;Pu'a”; they selected
Made a varied garland.
It was such a small school,
Serving poor kanaka,
“;Cash it in,”; critics said:
“;Your estate 'no mattah!'”;
“;Won't sell the Princess' land,”;
Trustees told The Big Five,
“;Though land-rich and cash poor,
Her dream needs to survive!”;
Girls moved to Boys' campus
(Wounded soldiers used theirs).
But invisible threads
Prevented co-ed “;shares.”;
The class of 'Forty-three
Seventeen girls, one boy—
Matched against other schools
We seemed a little toy.
Five-foot tall footballers,
120-pound linemen,
“;Quack,”; who walked like a duck,
Ran for us around end.
Coach pled with recruiters:
“;Judge boys by appetite;
We need to grow a team!
We'll feed eaters just right!”;
Coach Mountain (sic) looking down
On Bishop Museum,
Saw new Kalihi Prep
He smiled, for this reason:
“;Not room for more boarders?
Put those Preps on our bus
Let them come here daily:
Live at home—no big fuss.”;
“;Pauahi's will be done;
Day scholars are in it,
Let them share in the fund
Enlargen' and admit!
“;Visit the junior highs,
With welcome mat on view:
'Greetings Honolulu,
Pau'ahi loves you, too!'”;
“;Days”; brought new excitement,
Increasing our stature:
“;A football championship!”;
Being “;bigger”; was grander.
Now, our lei of flowers
With all islands' pu'a
Glowing radiantly
With lots of ilima.
Still, our numbers stayed small,
This class' boys: sixty-five;
Same class at St. Louis:
One hundred eighty-five!
Abraham, Benjamin,
Joseph, Solomon, James
Our class sounds Caucasian—
No Hawaiian first names!
Had our own “;Joseph Smith”;—
Don't shake your head askance;
All this was true back then,
Before “;The Rennaisance.”;
Boys in school uniforms
Blue work clothes and khaki,
For “;dress-up,”; girls wore white,
Symbol of purity.
“;Followed the middle road
No left or right byways,”;
Believed what teachers told,
Not doing things “;My Way.”;
Puberty challenges
Say, faced in Miloli'i,
Somewhat different than ones
Girls have in Waikiki
“;With hilltop discipline,”;
Dr. Frederick observes
“;'Days' aren't different than 'Nights';
I'll fix their learning curves.”;
School shops made us ready for job demands:
Auto, weld, machine, electric work hands.
The girls' experience of sharing,
Made them creative and caring
Senior Cottage girls learned that marriage is not heaven;
Plan, cook, entertain, baby care “;24/7.”;
Each girl sewed her own graduation gown:
A “;Finishing School Lady”; of renown.
Our school had us ready for goals of the time,
Have a job, run a home—in our repressive clime.
For most, “;college”; wasn't an option then:
Scholarships went just to athletic men.
There weren't any student loans,
And some had to help at home.
Boys and girls learned to march,
Follow an honor code,
If America's, challenged
We are forward and bold.
A salute, veterans,
Patriots all you be,
The Great Generation
Of God, Home, Country.
We've followed the school pledge
Throughout all our long lives:
... Respecting our founder,
... Meeting our potential,
... Behaving responsibly
... With dignity and pride.
We Believe in Yesterday!

J. Arthur Rath III, class of '49, is a member of the Kamehameha Schools Hall of Fame and a Hawaii-based author. Reach him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).