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!
Continue Reading →

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 →

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 →

Ursula’s Hawaiian Adventure Continues

1923 female surfer

Illustration of a female surfer in a 1923 issue of “Judge”—five years before Ursula visited (and possibly surfed in) Hawaii

Beyond enjoying live music and dancing at her luxury hotel and checking out the waterfront activities on Waikiki beach, Ursula would have ventured further afield to experience more of Oahu, her host island.

Sutherland Oriental Shop logoShe might have walked down the street from her hotel to the Sutherland Oriental Shop in the new Waikiki business district to find her mother a special gift, like silk embroidery, handkerchiefs or a kimono. Or perhaps she stopped at the new restaurant nearby—Barbecue Inn—to try their toasted barbecued sandwiches, frogs legs, and Japanese tea. Continue Reading →

Hanging Out in Waikiki

Waikiki Beach in 1928

Waikiki Beach in 1928

Why did Ursula go to Hawaii? Unlike with her travels in Europe, I don’t have her own words to tell us her reasons, what her experiences were like or what she thought of the U.S. territory. There are only a few concrete details of her time in Hawaii; the rest must be left to our imaginations, based on her own life history and the events, music and culture of the day. Continue Reading →