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.

Samuel sailed from LA (Wilmington, CA) to Honolulu in March 1927

Born in 1904 and raised in Smithfield, VA, Samuel was 24 years old to Ursula’s 26. His parents—physician father Samuel and dietician mother Virginia—had divorced by the time young Samuel was about 15. A 1967 article in the Smithfield Times noted that his mother lived for many years on a large sugar plantation in Hawaii after serving in World War I. The first mention of her that I can find in a Hawaiian newspaper is in 1931, as a resident of Puunene, Maui. I don’t know for sure (but do suspect) that she was living there at the time Samuel was in Hawaii; it would explain how he ended up in the Islands. Samuel, who had lived in Norfolk, VA and attended William and Mary College in Virginia (but apparently did not graduate), had sailed from Los Angeles to Honolulu aboard the S.S. Calawaii in March 1927, settling temporarily in Honolulu, Oahu.

Circus elephants 1928

The “Honolulu Advertiser” billed the big-top event as the “first real three-ring circus ever brought to Hawaii,” running January 28-February 8, 1928

What was there to do for fun dates in Honolulu besides, swim, surf or sightsee together? If Ursula and Samuel had met by early February 1928, they might have shared peanuts and popcorn while watching horse-riding stunts, flying trapeze artists, high-wire walkers, lions and tigers and elephants (oh my!) and more at the first three-ring circus ever staged in Hawaii. Sponsored by the Elks Club, the Al G. Barnes circus, which ran for 10 days, was the second largest circus in the world at the time, behind the Ringling Brothers-Barnum & Bailey Combined Shows. Some of the circus equipment had even sailed with Ursula from California to Hawaii aboard the City of Honolulu ocean liner.

For something different, they could have attended a Japanese motion picture theater, where, as a 1932 Honolulu souvenir pamphlet explained, “the interpreter’s reading of the titles, laughing, crying, groaning, etc. make vocal the ‘silent drama.’”

Theaters showing American movies also provided regular entertainment. In March of 1928, the couple could have caught silent film darling, “It” girl Clara Bow in “Get Your Man” at Honolulu’s Princess theater, or William Powell in “Time to Love” at the Hawaii theater, “where it’s always cool.” (At the time, these theaters boasted of air conditioning, a modern convenience that was introduced to the public in 1925 and made the cinema particularly attractive in warm climates.)

Movies in Honolulu 1928

Movie theaters offered several silent films each week in 1928 Honolulu. Third person from left is Clara Bow in “Get Your Man.”

As an automobile salesman, Samuel probably had use of a car. Maybe he and Ursula toured the island together, or packed a picnic lunch and portable phonograph for a romantic afternoon in the country.

1928 Willys Knight

I can imagine Ursula posing with a papaya on the roof of her beau’s car. (But his would have been a Buick, not a 1928 Willys Knight as shown here.) (Photo courtesy of Hawaii State Archives)

They might have partied back at Ursula’s hotel. Prohibition was in effect then, but, according to the 1931 book “Only Yesterday—An Informal History of the 1920’s,” when dances were held in hotels, it was customary to have private parties in hotel rooms, “where reliable drinks could be served in suitable privacy; guests of both sexes lounged on the beds and tossed off mixtures of high potency.”

At the Moana Hotel, the two may have danced to Johhny Noble’s orchestra playing a blend of Hawaiian music and jazz in the courtyard under the sprawling banyan tree. As described in an Islands Magazine article, the band:

“…performed sassy numbers like ‘Hawaiian Vamp,’ with lyrics that hinted at the insouciance of the time…As the couples moved gracefully across the dance floor…sand tracked onto it from the nearby beach produced a sh-sh-sh sound under their shoes.”

I don’t know how serious Ursula and Samuel’s relationship was at the time; I’m sure Ursula did not lack for suitors. From what I can tell, their Hawaiian romance was relatively short lived. They went their separate ways after Ursula left Hawaii—but several years later, their paths would cross again.

[Update – I later found Samuel’s mother listed as Mrs. Virginia Reddick (a misspelling) in the 1928-1929 “Directory of Honolulu and the Territory of Hawaii.” The entry confirmed that she was a resident of the central Maui community Puunene, and worked as a dietician at Puunene Hospital. It also confirmed that she was, indeed, living in Hawaii during Samuel’s time in Honolulu.]