Welcome to Hawaii!

And now, back to Ursula in Hawaii. If you haven’t read the first couple of Hawaiian posts recently (or at all), you might want to do so now: Hawaii-Bound and Ursula’s Hawaiian Adventure.

Previously on Mystery Dancer: In January 1928, Ursula and her good friend Elizabeth Everhardy sailed together for six days aboard a luxury cruise-liner from Los Angeles, California to Honolulu, Hawaii. On the 20th of January, they and their fellow passengers stepped ashore on the Central Pacific Island of Oahu to a festive welcome: outrigger canoes and coin divers circling their ship, a throng of greeters festooning them with leis, and women dancing the hula to live Hawaiian music.

1928 Painting of Waikiki Beach

A 1928 painting of Waikiki Beach (with the Diamond Head volcanic crater in the distance) by D.H. Howard Hitchcock

Elizabeth had visited Hawaii four years earlier with her mother, but this was the first time Ursula had beheld this tropical paradise: crystal-clear waters, pristine white sand beaches, lush vegetation, warm ocean breeze, swaying palm trees, majestic mountain range and volcanic craters. It was also the first time she had traveled afar without her mother, Clara (who had accompanied her to Europe a few years before). Imagine Ursula’s excitement and anticipation! Oh, to be an independent, attractive, educated and talented young woman of means setting out for a Hawaiian adventure all her own!

Where did Ursula stay? What did she do? When I wrote the first two Hawaiian posts two years go, I had hit a roadblock, knowing nothing further about her time there. But now, after a little more detective work and new access to a couple of Honolulu newspapers, I have a better idea of where she and Elizabeth lived and how they might have spent their time. I say “lived,” because, judging from information gleaned from California, Passenger and Crew Lists, 1882-1959, Ursula stayed in Hawaii for a whole year—two months longer than Elizabeth!

Vintage postcard of Moana Hotel

A vintage postcard featuring the Moana Hotel, where Ursula likely stayed during her Hawaiian adventure

The world-renowned Moana Hotel, which opened in 1901 as the first large luxury hotel on Waikiki Beach, was likely their home base, at least at first. That is where Elizabeth stayed with her mother (also named Elizabeth) on their 1924 visit. It was also where the elder Elizabeth—Mrs. Everhardy—was slated to make a “stay of indefinite length,” beginning in mid-February, according to the Honolulu Star Bulletin (February 18, 1928). She would follow her daughter and Ursula to Hawaii just a few weeks after they had arrived.

Alas, the young women would have a chaperone after all—but only for part of the time. Almost as soon as she arrived, Mrs. Everhardy sailed out of Honolulu at 5 pm on February 23 aboard the S.S. President Grant, destined for “The Orient.” I’m not sure when she returned from her Asian travels, but Mrs. Everhardy left Hawaii again on March 16, bound for Los Angeles. She would cycle in and out of the Islands two more times that year, traveling back and forth from Honolulu to Los Angeles and San Francisco. All in all, aside from her February-March stay, she was in Honolulu for two months in the summertime and two months in autumn.

Royal Hawaiian Hotel early 1920s

Inside the luxurious Royal Hawaiian Hotel, which opened in 1927 on Waikiki Beach (Photo courtesy of Hawaii State Archives)

Although the even more luxurious Royal Hawaiian Hotel, dubbed the “Pink Palace” for its Moorish-style architecture and pink stucco exterior, had opened nearby in 1927, the Moana Hotel had long established itself as “ground zero” for the moneyed tourists (pretty much the only kind back then) who visited Waikiki. This beachfront neighborhood in Honolulu was described in a 1928 Honolulu Advertiser article as one of the most famous playgrounds in the world: “Its shading palms, protected beach, beautiful hotels…bungalows and tropical setting make it a district of romance and a swimmer’s paradise.”

Fashions from Summer 1928

A fashion spread featuring summer fashions and swimsuits of the day (From Exhibitors Herald and Moving Picture World, June 9, 1928)

What did Ursula and Elizabeth get up to there? Tune in next week for more of their Hawaiian adventure. In the meantime, I will leave you with this romantic description of the Moana Hotel, famous for its ocean-facing Banyan Court—an open-air patio towered over by a sprawling Banyan tree (from a 1928 Honolulu Advertiser article):

“Who has not carried away associations of lounging beneath the spreading banyan tree listening to Hawaiian singers while a moon-splashed ocean sent waves from beneath the southern cross to break upon the idle shore? Of dancing on the open lanais or strolling out upon the pier where couples lounged and beach boys played and sang?”

Moana Surfrider, A Westin Resort & Spa

The present-day Moana Hotel, now known as the Moana Surfrider, A Westin Resort & Spa, Waikiki Beach

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