Was Ursula in the Movies?

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

Ursula Cheshire in 1926

Ursula in 1926, a couple of years before her time in Hawaii

Ursula had originally planned to go back to Hawaii and her job as a typing instructor at the Honolulu Business College after a month’s visit in California. But something made her change her mind. Maybe she decided teaching was not for her, or perhaps she enjoyed being back home among her friends, mother and other relatives so much that she chose not to return to the Islands. Or perhaps the lure of Hollywood was too strong to ignore.

By 1929, the year Ursula returned to Los Angeles, California, the movie business was in full swing. The economic downturn that started that October did not initially affect the film industry. With 20 Hollywood studios in operation by the end of that decade, an average of 800 films were released per year and the demand for movies was stronger than ever, according to AMC Filmsite. Continue Reading →

Anchors Aweigh: Here’s Wishing Ursula a Happy Voyage Home!

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Calawaii passenger list January 5, 1929

The “Honolulu Advertiser” confirmed that Ursula left for Los Angeles from the Port of Honolulu on Saturday, January 5, 1929 aboard the Calawaii

ON JANUARY 5, 1929, URSULA BADE FAREWELL to Hawaii from the Port of Honolulu, where she boarded the luxury cruise-liner SS Calawaii bound for Los Angeles. This time she was sailing on her own; her previous shipmate and dear friend Elizabeth had left the Islands a couple months earlier. I wouldn’t be surprised if Ursula made some new friends along the seven-day journey home. Her fellow passengers hailed from as far as England and Australia and as near as Pasadena and San Francisco, and included a large group of polo ponies.

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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!
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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 →