Martha Rapp’s Travel Diary, 1920-1921

by Rakashi Chand, Senior Library Assistant

“We here and now christen this book with the good old razor that Martie – and then Dick shaves with-
Signed ‘Martie’ Rapp ‘Dickie’ Bostwick. Oct 23 , 1920-”

First page of Martha Rapp's Travel Diary
Martha Rapp’s Travel Diary, 1920-1921

Martha A. Rapp was a young woman from Brockton who travelled to New Zealand in 1920-21 with her parents, Walter and Annie Rapp. The Rapp family traveled from Boston through Canada by train, and finally boarded the passenger ship S.S. Niagara in Vancouver, CA to cross the Pacific ocean with a quick stop in Honolulu, Hawaii. Martha was on a fascinating journey across the ocean to a very distant land, with so much to explore. Luckily, Martha kept a diary of the entire journey and included details of life on board ship, stories of fellow passengers, storms, and descriptions of the many places and people she met and saw in New Zealand. The diary transports you back to not only life on a passenger ship in the early-20th century (naturally the soundtrack of the movie Titanic is playing in my head) but also directly into Martha’s world of non-stop adventure and exploration. There are days that she did so much that I was exhausted simply reading about it! She was quite a spunky woman and her humor comes across in her words.

Below are excerpts from the diary to give a taste of Martha’s journey. Please be mindful that these are ‘rough and ready’ unverified transcriptions.

Two pages from Martha Rapp's travel diary
Martha Rapp’s Travel Diary, 1920-1921

Nov. 10

Reached here at 10, foggy so couldn’t see any of the place until noon when the sun broke thru- Believe me I got into a bath as soon as I could – Ye gads how I eat- received some mail- lovely long letter from Ros- took a walk in the afternoon- Edith H. came over at night. It will seem good to sleep in a real bed again – boat doesn’t come until Friday..”

Nov. 11

This is armistice day. At eleven o’clock traffic of all kinds were stopped for two minutes. A gun that works by electricity was fired- Had trouble with our waitress at breakfast- found a sweet tea room..”

Nov. 13

“Went down and looked the ship over- its surely a huge boat- saw our state room where I expect to spend many a sick hour…”

Nov. 17
Vancouver At Sea

Pushed off at 7:15- reached Victoria at one- drove around town-saw a wild [?] right near the street left at 5- 10- Boat started to roll quite a bit- have met a lot of people – at night Mrs. Augila and Mrs. Miller and myself walked a bit – some one has a vector so we listened to it for a while…”

Nov. 18
At Sea

“ye gad’s [?] this boat rolls- Not many up to-day – I slepted all afternoon – got up for dinner but shot down here afterwards. Man at our table is drunk all of the time. Thru up- I wish I was back home-“

Nov. 19
At Sea

“Stayed in bed until 10- went to the Library- Sat on deck with Mr. Miller and another man- fought the League of Nations with them- Played quoits after luncheon it was bed for me- the boat is like a cork it bounces so – mother still in bed-“

Nov. 20
At Sea

“Stayed in bed all day- we’ve been in a dreadful storm all day- Haven’t made any progress- just rode the waves- nearly everyone sick- Dad peaked his face in just long enough to say he wasn’t feeling so good – the waves look like mountains from my bunk- they bang against the port-hole with such force I’m frightened it will break- Sighs from mother – it’s the last sea trip she’ll take she says-“

Nov. 21
At sea

“Oh what a night- people yelling- women frighten and crying –

Got on deck today- sea is much quieter and we are going right along. Mother still under [illegible] at our table does not look so well-

Good time at night- crowd of us around a Vector …”

Nov. 22
At Sea

Enjoyed myself a great deal today – Played tennis three times also quoits- went to a sport meeting and was elected to the entertainment committee- like to get a hold of the one who did it – Calcutta (stales) on to-night – also DANCE- I never in my life saw such dancing – Maine has them stopped a while – In the smoking room with Mr. Dyer afterwards – lovely day and sea was very quite- I wish I was in New Zealand tho’

(Skipping ahead a few days)

Nov. 24   Wed

Sharks and boys diving

At ten we sighted land. Did my best to read my book but was pulled into quoits and tennis – after landing a party of eight of us went to the top of a mountain and such wonderful sights- this is a heavenly place – then we went out to the Mano hotel at Waikiki for dinner – Met Betty and two yanks god love em we went out on the water in a rig-canoe and rode the waves in – then danced and what heavenly dancers- the boys brought me lays-wreaths and flowers- kissed them all good bye- maybe I haven’t had a wonderful time

Hawaii page from Martha Rapp's travel diary
Martha Rapp’s Travel Diary, 1920-1921, Hawaii page

(Skipping ahead)

Dec. 6

Good lord what a day – awoke to find ourselves in a heavy fog with the old horn blowing for all it was worth- went way out of our way- got turned about and finally anchored as we were [?] into shallow water- rumor started we were stuck on a sand bank- that raised hell of course- finally got in at seven but did not get off the boat until nine [?] – Uncle Jack and Aunt Mary with us- [??]

Dec. 7

This morning Dad and I went to the boat- Bank of New Zealand- American Counsel Office-and P. Office- I bought some strawberries that are wonderful. This afternoon we took a ride all over – wonderful country- went to the race track and what beauty- grounds are kepted beautifully- tonight we went to a lecture on spiritualism by Sir Conan Doyle- he is a wonderful speaker- but he hasn’t converted us.

Dec. 8

Another busy day- spent the morning in the hair dressers- I [?] just as I was going to have my hair cut- had luncheon with the Mayor and his wife and a Mr. Buck- very nice- met a old friend of mother’s at 2:30 – at four we went to tea at Mrs. Roache’s house- her husband is a cousin of mother’s – stayed in at night- while writing this down one is playing [?]

Dec. 9

Went and did some shopping this morning- shot a movie this afternoon which was very poor- received a wire from Mrs. Davis asking us for the weekend- folks aren’t going but I am- leave tomorrow at noon- went to call on Aunt Mary’s people at night – very nice- wonderful old lady

Dec. 14

Up at 5:30 and away at 6:30 with Mr. Cheney for Auckland. The trains here are so funny- after fussing about Auckland a bit my train left for here at ten- Beautiful ride but eight hours on these trains isn’t my idea of a good time- Dad and mother met me- we’re staying at the Grand- very nice hotel- the poor (?) Mrs. Dadd is here – we walked over to the bath houses – Beautiful park- boiling springs and they say that they’re apt to go up in smoke anytime –

Dec. 15

What a day this has been- at ten which started off with a Mr. Simpson in our party to see Wairoa – Lake Tarawera and Rotomahana – this is all volcanic and we saw the remains of a hotel that the roof was carried 130 miles away when the Waimangu geyser crate blew out. Went over a boiling lake after we had walked three miles – the lake was once a sand flat- It’s 600 feet deep – It was all so weird and yet wonderful to see the hot steam coming out of the side of hills and to see the boiling rivers and pools

Dec. 19

Four of us took a long walk this morning- went for a motor ride this afternoon. After our return a fire broke out across the way and off we flew – girl fainted so I took charge of her – went down and watched the men fish- had to cross a swinging bridge- when we came back Clarice and myself went and got some whiskey for the Mrs- put the empty bottle in the door shed

Dec. 21

Up at 5:30 oh Lord and off once again down the river to this place – Poor dying Murai got on- her brother taking her home to die- very cold for a while – reached here in time for luncheon – great place – Mother sick- played cards walked this afternoon also had a tennis set with Clarice – she plays a wonderful game- we played cards and the piano till night- sleeping in Clarice’s room to-night-

Dec. 22

Ye Gad’s what a day up at 4:30 and on board the dirtiest old tub at 5:30 with a gang of Maori – hit a rock going down the rapid- broke two blades of the paddle and poked a whole in the bottom …”

Martha A. Rapp
Photo of Martha A. Rapp
removed from Travel Diary, unidentified photographer ca. 1920-1921

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