One thing I love about doing this blog is the historical research tangents I go on. While learning about the lives of Ursula and her parents, I am also discovering the history of such things as the San Francisco real estate market in the early 1900s, the early days of Golden Gate Park and fraternal organizations in California. If I wanted to, I could simply and fairly quickly find out the facts of Ursula’s life, write a short biography and call it a day. But that would be no fun for me nor, I think, for my readers. Thus, it may take a while for us to learn the story of Ursula—Did she become a star? Did she marry? Did she have children?—as we follow various paths along the journey.
Today’s detour takes us to Hawaii, where Ursula’s parents, Clara and Alfred, and her aunts, Clara’s sisters Mathilde and Jeanette Uphoff, vacationed for nearly four weeks starting in late July 1906. Just three months earlier, the great San Francisco earthquake and subsequent fire devastated most of the city, but the Cheshires’ home at 715-717 Baker Street was spared; I can’t help but wonder if this trip was taken in the spirit of celebration of their good fortune and understanding that “life is short, live it up while you can!”
At that time, Ursula was four years old, and her name is not listed among the passengers of the steamships her family traveled on to and from Hawaii. Perhaps she stayed with her grandparents in Grass Valley, California while her folks visited the U.S territory. Or, perhaps the young woman her parents sought to hire in 1904 for “general housework and plain cooking” cared for her.
In any case, Mr. and Mrs. Cheshire and the misses Uphoff boarded the Oceanic Steamship Company’s liner Alameda in San Francisco that summer, arriving in Honolulu on the island of Oahu on July 27, 1906, as noted in the “Shipping Intelligence” column of The Hawaiian Star. As a family of means, they likely booked first-class cabins (I can’t picture Ursula’s family traveling in steerage) for their Pacific voyage, which would have taken about five days.
At some point during their stay in Honolulu, the gang embarked on the steamship Mauna Loa bound for the island of Hawaii. According to an article in the American Marine Engineer, the S.S. Mauna Loa—named after the Hawaiian mountain peak and commanded by a Captain Simerson—was a coal-burning, “first-class passenger and freight vessel carrying 50 first, 20 second and 152 steerage passengers,” along with bags and bags of sugar.
On Hawaii, the Cheshire-Uphoffs stayed at the Volcano House, a hotel situated on a bluff overlooking the Halema‘uma‘u Crater at the summit of Kilauea, one of the world’s most active volcanoes and home of Pele, the Hawaiian volcano goddess.
(A version of the Volcano House exists today—you can stay there starting at $250 a night.) Kilauea is adjacent to Mauna Loa, the largest volcano on earth. In March 1906, a Hawaiian newspaper ran a funny, tongue-in-cheek article about the idea of designating Kilauea a national park, which it later became in 1916. The piece described the volcano’s crater at the top of its peak as a boiling, seething lake of molten lava.
How exciting and exotic for Clara and Alfred! What stories they would have for Ursula upon their return. Perhaps they would even dance the hula or sing a Hawaiian music song for her—like “Honolulu Hula-Hula Heigh,” a hapa haole tune written in 1906 by J.K. Aea.