1908: A New Year in a New City

Times Square ball drop rehearsal 1907

Seen in 1907, the Times Tower was in rehearsal for what would become its first New Year’s Eve time ball drop. (Photo from signindustry.com)

Happy New Year! It’s hard to believe another year has passed and we are now in 2014 — 106 six years after our Mystery Dancer story left off! In Ursula’s world, it is January 1908, a year of firsts: The first Times Square Ball drop ushered in the new year; the world’s first airplane passenger flew with the Wright brothers; and the first Ford Model T made its debut. It also was the first year of the Cheshires’ new life in Los Angeles, California.

And what better way to start a new year than with a party? On January 29, 1908, the Los Angeles Herald’s “Society” column reported that a “do something” party had been given the previous day in honor of “Mrs. Alfred Dudley Cheshire, late of San Francisco, who will, with her husband, make her home in Los Angeles.”

Ursula Cheshire society column

The Los Angeles Herald reports on a party held in honor of Mrs. Cheshire, who had just moved to LA with Mr. Cheshire and “little Ursula.”

What is a “do something” party, you might ask? It actually sounds like fun: guests are asked to participate in a “do something” program by presenting an original story, poem or musical performance. At this particular party, Ursula’s mother, Clara, played one of her own compositions on the piano, while other contributions included an impersonation of a “young lady on a street car”; a humorous account — in rhyme — of “an experience in a Turkish bath”; poetry, and more. The partygoers then enjoyed a buffet luncheon under a bower of pepper boughs in a sun parlor festooned with pink carnations.

There was no information on the back of this photo of Ursula (on Mama's lap). Perhaps she was tuckered out after a party like the one at which she greeted guests in January 1908.

There was no information on the back of this photo of Ursula (on Mama’s lap). Perhaps she was tuckered out after a party like the one at which she greeted guests in January 1908.

The newspaper report also includes the first mention of Ursula in a “Society” column. At 5½ years old, she was one of three children who greeted guests at the door and acted as pages during the party, as was common at afternoon events in those days. I have a feeling we’ll be reading a lot more about Ursula and her mother in the society pages of Los Angeles!

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