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Entertaining the Bride-Elect, 1939

On Sunday, December 3, 1939 the Hilo Tribune Herald noted that “being a very popular bride-elect of the winter season, Miss Helen Henderson is being entertained at one party after another each week by her many friends and relatives in Hilo and the Big Island. The wedding will take place on December 16 at the Henderson’s beautiful Piihonua home, Moana Ke Ala.”

More details followed. The previous Tuesday, Mrs. George Glover presided over a small luncheon at the Hilo Yacht Club. On Thursday afternoon Mrs. H. V. Patten, Mrs. Gwynn Matthias, and Mrs. Gilbert Hay held an afternoon tea for two hundred guests. Who knew there were two hundred Hiloans of sufficient social stature to attend a social event where no fewer than five prominent women “poured” at the “beautifully appointed tea table” with its presumably floral “lovely mixed bouquet?” Decorations included baskets of anthuriums and a bowl of reeds in the rooms with coral and pink torch ginger flowers on the lanai.

I saw the article last Wednesday in a column called “This Day in History.” The column generally appears after the Daily Horoscope. Other items were from 1964 and 1989. I was intrigued. Who were these women, hidden behind their husbands’ names? I conducted an unscientific Google Search and uncovered the following wisps of Hilo women in 1939.

Bride-Elect Helen Henderson grew up in Hilo, though she left to attend Punahou School in Honolulu. Graduating in 1935, Henderson attended LaSalle College in Boston, completing a degree in Liberal Arts. The groom, who was not mentioned in the article, was Selden K. Buddy Chillingworth. After the wedding, Helen and Buddy made a life in Honolulu. The couple was married for 50 years.

According to the family placed obituary, Helen “enjoyed a good book, long walks on Kahala Beach, the lovely music of the Farden ladies, and evenings entertaining loved ones on the lanai at her home in Waialae Kahala- often ending in fried chicken ordered up from Rueben’s in Kahala Mall. Her reserved manner camouflaged an absolutely wicked sense of humor and a resilient, ever-young, and relentlessly positive spirit.”

Helen’s sister-in-law Dorothy Henderson was also honored at the tea. Dorothy had recently moved back to Hilo with her husband Harold.

Hilo Bay, 1907. Public Domain. Wikimedia Commons.

Mrs. George Glover’s given name was Marion. According to 1940 Census, at the time she hosted lunch at the Yacht Club, Marion was 33 years old. She had one daughter, Vivienne, age 13.

Details on the “Tea Ladies” are as follows:

Mrs. H. V. Patten’s given name remains a mystery. Her husband, Harold Vaughn Patten, was an officer for Hilo Electric Light. Mrs. Patten was probably a member of the Hilo Woman’s Club. Her contribution to the club’s 1937 cookbook was a recipe for Barbequed Short Ribs.

Mrs. Gwynn Matthias was married to the Treasurer-Manager of the First Trust Company of Hilo. Her son enlisted in the army in 1941 and was killed while training in Arizona.

Mrs. Hay didn’t appear on my Google search.

None of the women profiled here or listed in the full article worked outside the home. A few had Japanese housemaids. Most had children. Like their first names, these women’s lives are difficult to trace. Perhaps someday I’ll look for them in the archives.

Featured Image: Pedestrians on a Hilo Street, 1907, Public Domain. Wikimedia Commons

This Day in History 1939. Hawaii Tribune-Herald. Dec. 3, 2014, B5.

Helen Lamb Henderson Chillingworth. Obituary. Honolulu Star-Advertiser. April 6, 2011. Here.

“Hilo Youth Killed in Plane Crash.” Honolulu Star-Bulletin. July 27, 1943. Here.

Author Sandra Wagner Wright

Sandra Wagner-Wright holds the doctoral degree in history and taught women’s and global history at the University of Hawai`i. Sandra travels for her research, most recently to Salem, Massachusetts, the setting of her new Salem Stories series. She also enjoys traveling for new experiences. Recent trips include Antarctica and a river cruise on the Rhine from Amsterdam to Basel.

 Sandra particularly likes writing about strong women who make a difference. She lives in Hilo, Hawai`i with her family and writes a blog relating to history, travel, and the idiosyncrasies of life.


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