Who Was Ursula Cheshire?
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Life, and Farewells, in Honolulu

If you’re new to Mystery Dancer, welcome! The best place to start is at the beginning and go from there.

Yankees sweep the 1928 World Series

As the drama of the shocking crime and its aftermath faded from the headlines in autumn 1928, routine life resumed for Ursula and her fellow Honoluluans (with the exception, I’m sure, of the Jamieson and Fukunaga families). By October 9, the day after the young murderer was sentenced to death, media attention had shifted to a more benign drama: The New York Yankees had swept the World Series in game 4 with “a record shattering orgy of home runs, three of them by Babe Ruth.” (Honolulu Star-Bulletin)

Three weeks later, Ursula said goodbye to her good friend and roommate Elizabeth Everhardy, who was setting sail for San Francisco aboard the steamship Wilhelmina to meet up with her mother in the continental U.S. But Ursula still had her new Honolulu pals Betty, Marie and Anita, who lived nearby in a house at Waikiki Beach. Continue Reading →

Paradise Lost, Part 3

If you’re new to Mystery Dancer, welcome! The best place to start is at the beginning and go from there…Please note: Below is Part 3 of a three-part post. Need to catch up? Read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

AS OF THURSDAY AFTERNOON, SEPTEMBER 20, 1928, following the discovery of 10-year-old Gill Jamieson’s body just blocks from Ursula’s apartment, the search for his kidnappers turned into a manhunt for a murderer.

Some front-page headlines in the September 22, 1928 issue of the “Honolulu Star-Bulletin”

Though several suspects were in custody, none of them panned out and the police were short on clues. They appealed to the public, as well as merchants and service stations, to study every $5 bill that came into their possession and compare its serial number with the list of numbers published in Friday’s paper identifying the 800 $5 bills paid in ransom money. Continue Reading →

Paradise Lost, Part 2

If you’re new to Mystery Dancer, welcome! The best place to start is at the beginning and go from there…Please note: Below is Part 2 of a three-part post. Need to catch up? Read Part 1 here.

ON THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 20, 1928—two days after 10-year-old Gill Jamieson was kidnapped from his Honolulu school—the entire city was on pins on needles still awaiting news of his fate. A house-to-house search had begun that morning, and people hoped and prayed the kidnappers would be caught and the boy would be returned safely to his family.

Ursula Cheshire

Ursula Cheshire

It’s possible Ursula was in her Waikiki home early that afternoon (I’m not sure when she started her job at the local business college). If so, she would have heard the commotion in the neighborhood and learned the terrible news before the papers had time to broadcast it in their “Extra” editions: Shortly before noon, high school student Carl Vickery, who had been hunting for Gill with some friends near the Ala Wai Canal, discovered the body of a young boy lying under dense brush in a small, secluded glade between the canal and the rear of the Seaside Hotel property (opposite the Royal Hawaiian Hotel)—just four or five short blocks from Ursula’s apartment. Word quickly spread that the community’s worst fears had been realized: little Gill Jamieson had been murdered!
Continue Reading →

Paradise Lost, Part 1

If you’re new to Mystery Dancer, welcome! The best place to start is at the beginning and go from there.

2018 Lei Day

The 91st annual Lei Day celebration at Honolulu’s Kapiolani Park, May 1, 2018. (Photo by Yi-Chen Chiang / Shutterstock.com)

This is Part 1 of a three-part post. 

MAY 1 OF THIS YEAR MARKED HAWAII’S 91ST LEI DAY, a celebration of the “aloha spirit.” American poet and journalist Don Blanding proposed this holiday in 1928, the year Ursula lived in Honolulu. The public loved the idea, and May Day was selected as the official date for giving flower necklaces to one another as an expression of friendliness and the joy of living in Hawaii.

On that first Lei Day, throngs crowded to the Bank of Hawaii for a program of Hawaiian music, the crowning of the Lei Queen and her court, and presentation of prizes in a lei contest. According to subsequent news reports, smiles came easily to Honolulu residents on that festive day; nearly everyone—no doubt, including Ursula—wore a lei of some kind, and “throughout the city the spirit of happiness reigned.”

First Lei Day (“Honolulu Star-Bulletin,” May 1, 1928)

Four and a half months later, the entire city would unite again—but this time in shock and horror, as well as sympathy. On the morning of Wednesday, September 19, 1928, Ursula could not have missed the bold, black front-page headlines splashed across the width of The Honolulu Advertiser and Honolulu Star-Bulletin, respectively: “GILL JAMIESON, 10, KIDNAPED” (sic), and “POSSE SCOURS OAHU FOR KIDNAPPED JAMIESON BOY; SEEK ABDUCTORS.” Continue Reading →