Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Most of the Manhattan Trade School report card files consist of four or five individual five-by-eight-inch cards. But some of the files have additional paperwork: notes from the school staff, letters from social workers, and, as you can see above, notes from doctors. These extra documents -- sometimes still tucked into their original envelopes -- are among my favorite aspects of the Permanent Record project, because they introduce a new set of voices to the chorus of schoolmarminess that's found throughout most of the report cards.
I also love that these notes and letters are often printed on lovely old stationery. In the case of the letter shown above (which was in the file of a student named Florence Gattusa), I was intrigued by the address on the letterhead. Second Aveneue between 7th and 8th Streets -- I know that block. It's in the East Village, and I've walked on it countless times over the years. In fact, I used to walk on it a lot on my way to See Hear, the now-defunct fanzine shop on East 7th Street.
Hmmm, I thought, could there still be an optometrist's office at 124 Second Avenue today? A quick check of Google Maps reveals that the address is now a convenience store. But is it the same building where Florence had her eyes examined by Dr. Rubin in 1931? Probably not -- the oldest certificate of occupancy on file for that address with the city's Department of Buildings (or at least on the department's web site) is dated 1973. This isn't definitive -- sometimes there are older records that aren't available on the web -- but the likelihood is that the old building was torn down and replaced by the current one.
That's part of the fun, and sometimes the sadness, of Permanent Record -- getting to see how New York has transformed and reinvented itself over and over in the years since the students attended Manhattan Trade.
A few other quick notes about Florence:
• Her teachers absolutely loved her. Check out all of the glowing comments on her report card.
• The school placed her in a sewing job with a downtown operation called Progressive Underwear. That's one of the many excellent business names scattered throughout the report cards.
• Here's something I hadn't even noticed until I began working on this blog entry: At one point Florence and the other workers at Progressive Underwear apparently went out on strike. I can't recall seeing any other references to organized labor actions in the report cards; then again, I didn't even notice this one until just now, so I may have to take a closer look.