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. (Part 3 will be published on November 27.)

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!
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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 →

A Bridge to Friendship in Honolulu

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

AS URSULA AND ELIZABETH settled into Honolulu life, they began to socialize with other young women who lived and worked in the city—both newcomers like themselves, as well as at least one longtime Honolulu resident who was a “frequent flyer” in the local newspapers’ “Society” pages.

"Society" news

Bridge parties that Ursula attended featured in Honolulu newspapers’ “Society” pages

On the evening of July 12, 1928, Ursula and Elizabeth traveled several blocks from their apartment to visit the home of their new friends Betty Schlarb, Marie Harbor and Anita Osberg for a bridge party. The trio had decorated their two-bedroom Haulani Court cottage—one of a group of 14 rental properties right on Waikiki Beach—in a color scheme of orange and green for the occasion. The hosts and their 18 guests, all women, vied for game prizes reserved for the highest scorers.

Originally from Washington State, Betty, Marie and Anita had sailed from Seattle to Honolulu in mid-April of that year. It’s not clear if Betty and Marie, who were Beta Phi Alpha sorority sisters at the University of Washington, knew Anita beforehand or had become friends with her on the cruise ship.

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Settling In To Honolulu

1930s Hawaii tourist brochure

Cover of a 1930s Hawaii Tourist Bureau brochure

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

A HAWAII TOURIST BUREAU BROCHURE published not long after Ursula traveled to Hawaii boasts, “Visitors are learning rapidly that Hawaii is too beautiful for only a cursory visit, and many of those in circumstances to linger have willingly allowed a casual visit to melt into an endless sojourn.”

This seems to have been the case with Ursula. I don’t know how long she intended to stay in the U.S. territory when she first set out. Perhaps she planned to return to California after a couple of months, but found the Islands so alluring, she felt compelled to settle in indefinitely. I do know that after living at the Moana Hotel for several months, Ursula and Elizabeth’s circles widened beyond beach-going, sightseeing, and hotel reveling; they started to integrate their lives into Honolulu as residents rather than tourists. Continue Reading →

A Hawaiian Romance

At some point during her Hawaiian adventures, Ursula met a young man named Samuel B. Riddick. I don’t know how they met, but I like to think it was at the Buick car dealership, where he worked as a salesman. It’s possible that Ursula’s friend Elizabeth bought her Buick sedan or had it serviced there, and perhaps Ursula accompanied her, catching Samuel’s eye.

Buick salesmen Honolulu 1928

Samuel B. Riddick worked for a time in his early twenties as a Buick salesman

And why wouldn’t she? She was a beautiful, stylish, vivacious and confident young woman of independent means who was intelligent and well traveled – from Europe to the Grand Canyon. A couple of future news articles (to be revealed in a later post) would mention that they had met and had a romance in Hawaii around this time. Continue Reading →