A Visitor from San Francisco

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

I LOVE EVERYTHING ABOUT CREATING AND SHARING “Mystery Dancer,” but one of my favorite aspects is the detective work. My husband is amazed by my research skills, and tells me I should work for the NSA. It’s true, I love watching a picture take shape and sharpen as I discover and connect the “dots,” but I think I’ll focus on Ursula for now.

While researching her time in Hawaii, I came across a curious if confusing news item in the July 15, 1928 Honolulu Advertiser.

Honolulu Advertiser clip

Was this news brief from the July 15, 1928 “Honolulu Advertiser” correct?

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 →

“O Romeo, Romeo…”

Thank you to everyone who took the time to participate in the Mystery Dancer Readership Survey. Your answers will be helpful as I consider how to improve the blog and create future projects. I was pleased to learn that the majority of respondents are extremely likely to recommend this blog to others. Please do! (There is a “Share” button over to your right, hint, hint.)

Ursula at age 1, with Mama Clara

Mama and 1-year-old Ursula

In the survey, readers also indicated that the aspects of the blog they enjoy most are history of period and place, antique photos and Ursula’s personal story. With other (paying) work demanding more of my time over the past month or so, I unfortunately have not been able to continue that story until now. Without further ado, here is a new, albeit short, post:

Over the next few years after her father’s death, Ursula excelled at her drama studies. In May 1916, the Los Angeles Times reported that 13-year-old Ursula performed in the banishment scene from “As You Like It” and as Juliet in the famous balcony scene from “Romeo and Juliet” at a special program presented by prominent Shakespearean drama teacher Florence A. Dobinson to the women’s Travel Club. Can’t you just imagine Ursula in her pretty ringlets, wondering aloud: “O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?…”

The balcony scene from film director Franco Zeffirelli's 1968 version of Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet"

The balcony scene from film director Franco Zeffirelli’s 1968 version of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet”

"Los Angeles Times," June 25, 1916

“Los Angeles Times,” June 25, 1916

In addition to her studies, the teenaged Ursula found time for fun with friends, as we learn from another LA Times article published the following month. Now 14, Ursula was among about “fifty or more of the younger set” who were invited to a surprise dance party for her friend Elizabeth Everhardy. I wish I’d found a picture of the party, but we’ll have to be content with the following description from the Times. It sounds like it was quite a shindig!

“…The lawn was strung with gay Japanese lanterns and a myriad of incandescents, and Navajo rugs and comfortable seats offered a charming retreat for rests. Refreshments were served from a rose arbor and beneath bamboo, and punch was dispensed from a side pergola off the library. Balloons, horns, serpentine paper and confetti lent a carnival spirit, the party being masked the first part of the evening…”

Did Ursula giggle with the girls and flirt with the fellows? Or was she shy and demure? Did she dance with Raymond or Wallace or Cecil? Or was she sweet on Jack Hammer? (Yes, there really was a boy at the party named Jack Hammer!) We’ll never know, but it’s fun to imagine her in such an elegant setting on a warm summer’s evening, drinking punch with her friends and dancing under the Japanese lanterns.