Grand Canyon Or Bust, Part 2

(This is Part 2 of a two-part post. Need to catch up? Read Part 1 here.)

Trails and Automobile Drives in the Grand Canyon

This tourist brochure, published throughout the 1920s, guided Ursula and Clara through the Grand Canyon.

When I first thought of writing about the photograph of Ursula and Clara at the Grand Canyon, I wasn’t sure how much I’d have to say about it. My excitement grew, however, after scanning the photo into my computer and zooming in on the piece of paper Clara held in her left hand. After rotating the image 180 degrees so I could read the text right side up, I made out the word “Drives,” with the letters “a-n-d” and some broken type above that. I thought the area obscured by her index finger might say “Trails and.” So, to Google I went.

Eureka! I found a picture of a Grand Canyon tourist brochure entitled “Trails and Automobile Drives.” Its illustration and graphic design matched the one Clara held exactly. With a little more digging, I discovered some photos of the inside of this brochure, which the Fred Harvey Co. published nearly every year from at least 1923 to 1931. I was looking at and reading the same brochure that Clara and Ursula consulted on their southwestern adventure!

The brochure offered tourists a variety of chauffeured automobile trips along the rim, excursions to Navaho and Hopi Indian Reservations and mule-back or horseback trail rides into the Canyon. It also spurred me to see if I could identify the lookout point where mother and daughter stopped to view the Canyon’s splendor and pose for the photo. Continue Reading →

Grand Canyon Or Bust, Part 1

(This is Part 1 of a two-part post.)

It feels good to be back, focusing on and sharing Ursula’s life story once again. As noted in my previous post, before continuing with Ursula’s 1928 Hawaiian adventure, I’m going to backtrack to a trip she took with her mother, Clara, to the American Southwest.

While preparing to dig back into Mystery Dancer, I looked through the antique maroon velvet album again to reacquaint myself with the Cheshire family photos, and came across this gem:

Ursula and Clara Cheshire in the Grand Canyon 1926

Ursula (left) and Clara Cheshire tour the Grand Canyon in 1926.

On the back is scrawled, “Grand Canyon…1926.” Continue Reading →

Ursula Honored at Friend’s Party

LA Times article on Everhardy luncheon

The “Los Angeles Times” reports on a luncheon thrown by Ursula’s friend Elizabeth Everyhardy (March 27, 1927)

The next news we have of Ursula since her singing on KFWB radio comes from the “Society” column in the March 27, 1927 issue of the Los Angeles Times. Apparently, Ursula was a guest of honor at a luncheon and bridge party given by “Mrs. and Miss Everhardy,” who were longtime friends of the Cheshires. The first mention I found of them in my research was when Ursula’s parents attended a party at their house in February 1909. In June 1916 when Ursula was 14 years old, she was among about “fifty or more of the younger set” who were invited to a surprise dance party for her friend Elizabeth (“Miss Everhardy”).

Sixty-four people were invited to the 1927 luncheon, described as “one of the lovely affairs of the month.” Ursula’s mother, Clara, assisted the hostesses with the party, which included prizes for card games.

Light on fact checking, the news article noted that Ursula had “just returned from several years in Paris, France, where she has been studying voice culture…” As we know, Ursula did study voice culture, but it was in Southern France, and she was abroad just from May 1924 through June 1925, possibly returning to Paris briefly in 1926 to appear in divorce court.

Held at the Elks lodge in Los Angeles, the Everhardys’ event featured lovely décor:

“A spring motif was charmingly carried out in the table decorations, and the tall blue tapers were tied with fluffy bows of yellow tulle, following out a blue and gold color motif, while the place cards were hand-painted sketches of spring maids in all the dainty French colorings.”

Elks Temple 99

The Elks lodge where Ursula attended her friend’s party

Constructed just two years earlier, the Elks’ Art Deco building was later transformed into a luxurious hotel, the Park Plaza, which, according to its website, still stands but is used “exclusively for events and filming.”

Until next time…

Ursula Cheshire, Hollywood Singer

The precursor to the iconic "Hollywood" sign was erected in 1923

The precursor to the iconic “Hollywood” sign was erected in 1923

Given Ursula’s dramatic and singing activities in Los Angeles in 1926 and 1927, I assumed she settled there after she and her mother, Clara, returned from Europe. Now I have proof: A 1926 voter registration list showing her address as 1967 North Bronson Ave., situated in L.A.’s Hollywood neighborhood, the world’s “film capital” at the time. That year, studio newcomer Greta Garbo starred in her first silent Hollywood film, Torrent, a Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) production.

Poster for Greta Garbo's first silent Hollywood film, "Torrent," released in 1926

Poster for Greta Garbo’s first silent Hollywood film, “Torrent,” released in 1926

Registered as Republicans (can you imagine what they would think of Donald Trump?!), Ursula and Clara lived together at that address at least through 1934, according to voter registration lists from subsequent years. Clara’s occupation was listed as “housewife,” while Ursula’s was “singer.”

1926 Los Angeles voter registration list, noting Mrs. Clara Cheshire and Miss Ursula Cheshire

1926 Los Angeles voter registration list, noting Mrs. Clara Cheshire and Miss Ursula Cheshire

That is no surprise, given her studying voice in France with opera star Emma Calvé and singing on the radio in L.A. But now we know that Ursula thought of herself as a “singer.” I didn’t know it at the time I started this blog, but apparently “Mystery Singer” would have been a more apt title (although it doesn’t have quite the same ring and intrigue as “Mystery Dancer”!).

Fun fact: The original “Hollywood” sign actually said “Hollywoodland” (erected 1923) and was an advertisement for a new suburban housing development. If you’re interested in this iconic sign’s history, check out this nifty website.

A Sad Day in L.A.

3-month-old Ursula and her parents

Alfred D. and Clara Cheshire pose with daughter, Ursula, on September 14, 1902, when she was age 3 months, 5 days

Paging through the photo album a while back, I found a newspaper clipping that reported on an upsetting, life altering change for Ursula and her mother, Clara. The timing wasn’t right to share it on Mystery Dancer then, but our story calls for it now.

June 19, 1913 was a sad day for Ursula and Clara. Ursula’s father, Alfred Dudley Cheshire, had been ill for several months and died on that day, just 10 days after Ursula’s 11th birthday. Even though Ursula lived more than a hundred years ago, and I didn’t know her (duh!), I feel so sad for her losing her father at such a tender age.

According to the article that appeared in The Morning Union (a daily newspaper covering Grass Valley and Nevada City, California between 1908 and 1945), Alfred was born in Hamilton, Canada, and emigrated to the United States “when a mere youth.” I know from census records that he was born around 1853 and would have been about 60 years old at the time of his death.

Alfred Dudley Cheshire, husband to Clara Uphoff Cheshire and father to Ursula Cheshire

Alfred Dudley Cheshire, husband to Clara Uphoff Cheshire and father to Ursula Cheshire

Alfred first settled in Michigan and became an expert cabinet maker before relocating to San Francisco in 1830. There, he began a career in undertaking and eventually came to own the California Undertaking Co., which he sold “in splendid advantage” around 1903. Alfred and Clara married in 1899.

The newspaper reports that:

“Everyone who knew Alfred Cheshire esteemed him as a man of the strictest integrity and honorable in every sense of the word. He made friends readily and always retained them.”

The full article appears below. Rest in peace, dear Alfred.

Alfred-Cheshire-Obituary