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4341Re: Bohemian Poet's Group in Hawaii?

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  • Cadia Los
    Mar 10, 2008
      Aloha, Yvette, and welcome to the group!

      The vibrancy of the Honolulu arts scene in the 1920s, and earlier,
      never ceases to amaze me. Artists, writers, musicians, thespians and,
      yes, the fourth estate provided a creative energy unmatched even by
      San Francisco and New York.

      It helps to remember that, at the time, Honolulu was a relatively
      small town; everybody knew each other and offered support and
      encouragement. Having read the Star-Bulletin inch by column inch for
      the period 1917-1928, I cannot say that I've ever come across a formal
      writers group other than a group of society matrons who dabbled at
      writing and, of course, the venerable Honolulu Pen Women and the Press
      Club. Theater, music and artists' groups abounded.

      But there were many opportunities for creative people to get together
      at each other's homes or studios and to work on various projects.
      Before 1920, Helen Alexander's Laniakea was a social and cultural
      focal point in Honolulu.

      Madge Tennent, who was English, arrived in Honolulu with her husband
      and sons in 1923, the same year that Don Blanding and Frank Moore
      founded Cross-Roads Studio. By that time, Blanding had pretty much
      covered all the arts bases and knew everyone who had ever lifted a pen
      or a paintbrush. So I have no doubt that he knew your gg-grandfather,
      Herbert M. S. Ayres.

      Offhand, I can't recall having seen Ayres' name in my reading of the S-
      B, perhaps because the sports pages are not where I would normally
      find Blanding. When the next batch of microfilm arrives (1917
      Advertiser and 1920 S-B), I'll pay closer attention. However, in both
      newspapers, stories with bylines are fairly rare.

      But the name "Shakespeare" rings a bell. For years, Howard C. Case
      wrote a humor column for the S-B called "Down to Cases." (Please
      don't even ask why a well-respected reporter and fine writer was
      reduced to contributing drivel on a daily basis!) While I made copies
      only of the items that mentioned Blanding, I seem to recall an
      occasional reference to "Shakespeare" -- Case liked to use nicknames
      to protect the innocent, so to speak.

      What else do I know about Herbert M. S. Ayres? Well, there's a
      January 12, 1902 item in the New York Times (p. 1, no less; datelined
      Kenosha, Wisconsin) that mentions his abrupt disappearance from New
      York, reappearance 3 years later in Wisconsin and subsequent return to
      Honolulu. In 1902, Ayres was once again publishing The Volcano, which
      publication got him "ejected" from Hawaii some years earlier.

      I can confirm via census records that a Herbert M. Ayres was living in
      Honolulu in 1910 and 1920. The latter year, he is listed as being 51
      years old (born abt 1871) and head of a large multi-ethnic, multi-
      generation household. His wife's name is Rebecca and the census page
      indicates a Chinese-Hawaiian wife as well. Likely the right Herbert?

      I think Keith's suggestion of a "group" hanging out at Madge Tennent's
      home is worth following up. You might want to contact Elaine Tennent,
      Madge Tennent's daughter-in-law and curator of the Tennent Art Gallery
      Foundation in Punchbowl. Perhaps she has some stories to tell!

      You might also contact the University of Hawaii or the state library
      to see if copies of The Volcano are in a collection.

      And the 1902 story out of Kenosha mentions that Herbert Ayres worked
      for the New York Daily Press prior to his "disappearance."

      Good luck in your research. I'll keep an eye out for Ayres' name as I
      index my accumulation of material from both Honolulu newspapers.

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