A Big Move

Ursula Cheshire young woman 2

Ursula Cheshire in her late teens or early 20s

Shortly before Ursula’s father, Alfred Cheshire, died in June 1913, he deeded to his wife, Clara, three real estate properties he owned in San Francisco, including their former residence at 715-717 Baker Street. I discovered this information in the July 8, 1913 issue of the San Francisco Call, which listed the property transfers as “gifts.” No doubt anticipating his impending death in the wake of a long illness, Alfred made sure his wife and daughter would have a home and, presumably, rental income after he was gone.

For five years following Alfred’s death, Clara and Ursula continued to live in Los Angeles at 1422 Malvern Avenue (which they rented) while Ursula studied voice, acting and dance at the Egan School of Drama. The LA Times’s “Society” column was quiet on Mrs. and Miss Cheshire during their last couple of years there, until July 25, 1918, when the paper announced:

“Mrs. A.D. Cheshire and her daughter, Miss Ursula Cheshire, have gone to San Francisco to make their home, Mrs. Cheshire having large property holding there. Miss Cheshire, who has been popular with the younger set here, will attend the University of California next fall.” (Ed. note: “Next fall” meaning autumn of the following year, 1919.)

Tarzan of the Apes poster

The first-ever Tarzan movie made its debut in 1918, the year Ursula and her mother moved back to San Francisco

The year of their move back to Baker Street was a tumultuous time for the country. January saw United States troops engage in a skirmish with Yaqui Indian warriors in the Arizona Battle of Bear Valley, which marked the very end of the so-called American Indian Wars. Mississippi became the first state to ratify the 18th amendment, beginning prohibition’s march to passage into federal law. Most significantly, just the year before, the United States had entered the Great War and now, in the summer of 1918, was sending 10,000 new soldiers to France every day. The country would sign the armistice with Germany later that year at “the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.” Oh, and “Tarzan of the Apes,” the first Tarzan film ever made, premiered at New York’s Broadway Theatre.

It was a time of personal upheaval for Ursula, as well, as she left her familiar LA surroundings, friends and teachers to start her senior year at Lowell High School, then located at Hayes and Masonic Streets in the Haight-Ashbury section of San Francisco. Founded in 1856 as the Union Grammar School, Lowell was the first public high school in California, and is still in operation today as a public magnet school noted for its academic excellence.

I don’t have any information about Ursula’s year at Lowell High School, other than that she was a member of the class of 1919, which I learned via a brief alumni note in a 1922 issue of the school’s newspaper. In my “Mystery Dancer” photo album, I did find two lovely pictures of Ursula as a young woman that look to be from around that period or a little later. In the first, which is enclosed in a photo studio folder, she tentatively, yet playfully, models a gorgeous embroidered, loosely belted, somewhat shear dress with a triangle-edged hemline. In the second —a loose photo (at top of post)—she poses for a more serious, seated portrait, wearing the same gown and a gentle smile. Our baby’s growing up!

Ursula Cheshire young woman

Fashion plate Ursula Cheshire in her late teens or early 20s