Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Student of the Week: Fannie Panio

For all documents, click to enlarge

Our latest Manhattan Trade School student is Fannie Panio, who was born in 1910 and attended Manhattan Trade in the mid-1920s. As you can see above, her father did not work (his occupation is simply listed as "Home") and her mother worked with flowers — we'll be referring back to that information shortly, as it relates to a bit of drama that's documented in Fannie's file.

Fannie's student record is particularly interesting because she was was in line to receive financial aid from the school. So her record packet includes the following card, which lists the Panio family's income and expenses:


As you can see, the Panios lived in a four-room apartment with a monthly rent of $15 (!). Fannie's brother Sam was the family's biggest breadwinner, earning $15 per week as a bootblack.

The back of the card explains why Fannie was recommended for financial aid — she needed dental work done and couldn't afford it:


Here's a transcription of the notes at the bottom of the card (as usual, I've spelled out some abbreviated terms for clarity):

March 20, 1924: Miss Franc [a teacher] referred the case. Fannie should have teeth fixed, and as father does not work, Miss Franc feels the family probably cannot afford to have this attended to.

March 21, 1924: Talked with Fannie, who says her father has not worked for five years (has sore in side). Mother makes flowers. Brother is bootblack. Fannie works on bead work from 4:30 - 8 p.m. Unable to afford dentist — suggested Dental Clinic. Promised to visit house. As neither Mr. nor Mrs. Panio speak English, suggested Secretary come at noon or after 3:30, when sister, 11 years old, is home.

And sure enough, someone from the school visited the Panio home four days later, on March 25. The next card tells the story of that visit:


The card reads as follows:

Visited — family lives on first floor of a shabby Italian tenement house. The rooms themselves were clean and neat. Mr. Panio was playing cards with another man. Mrs. Panio was hanging up the wash on the roof. She showed Secretary the fancy flowers she makes, for which she gets 85¢ a gross, and also some bead work which Fannie does, for which she earns $2 or $3 weekly. The brother works at the bootblack parlor in Grand Central Station. He earns $15 [per week], which he gives to his parents, and tips, which he keeps for himself.

Mrs. Panio would like to have Fannie's teeth fixed but can't afford to do this. Mr. Panio is ill — he has a growth in his side, which he should have removed — he is afraid, however, to have an operation. He has not been able to work for five years.

Secretary said it might be possible for us to send Fannie to the Dental Clinic and pay for this after Committee Meeting. — Reported to Miss Franck [whose surname was spelled "Franc" on the previous card but appears as "Franck" hereafter — PL]

And how did things turn out with Fannie's teeth? The next two cards tell the tale, which includes a new wrinkle regarding the Fannie's and her brother's work activities. Apparently they did not have working papers:

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Those two cards read like so:

April 3, 1924: Committee decision — pay for necessary dental work and refer to proper agency regarding children in family working illegally after school. Reported to Miss Franck — sent for Fannie and told her to go to Miss Cutting [another teacher] on April 7, 1924, regarding a pass for Dental Clinic and to bring estimate of work to Secretary.

April 8, 1924: Consulted Mrs. King [of the] C.O.S. [Charity Organization Society], who advised referring case [regarding the illegal child labor] to Jefferson District Office.

April 9, 1924: Reported case to Jefferson District Office.

April 10, 1924: Miss Spence (Charity Organization Society worker) visited Manhattan Trade School regarding case. Explained situation to her.

April 28, 1924: See letter from Charity Organization Society.

April 29, 1924: Miss Spence (from C.O.S.) at office. Reported to her regarding working papers — child can work Saturday but must stop at five other days.

April 28, 1924 [listed out of chronological sequence, so date may be wrong — PL]: Sent for Fannnie. She will go to dentist the following day.

May 12, 1924: Telephoned Miss Franck. Fannie will go after June 1st, as Dental College is having examinations now.

June 10, 1924: Fannie is to go back Saturday for estimate of work and then report to Secretary. Will take out summer working papers.

Nov. 11, 1924: Fannie attending school regularly. Did not need assistance.

Wow — there's a lot to process there. One thing at a time:

1. So the school agreed to pay for Fannie's dental work, but did that even turn out to be necessary? The last entry reads, "Did not need assistance." Hmmmm.

2. The whole bit about the school arranging an intervention because of the children working illegally was interesting and unexpected, no? Here are two documents that appear to be related to this, both involving the school's contact with local social service agencies:

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I haven't seen documents like these in any of the other students' files, so I'm not sure what to make of them or how they fit into the larger storyline of the school and its students.

3. The April 28 entry refers to a letter from the Charity Organization Society. That letter, which was apparently written by the Miss Spence who's referred to in several of the preceding entries, is included in Fannie's file. It's typewritten, so I'm not going to transcribe it. You can just click to make it large enough to read — and it's definitely worth reading:


Wow. So according to Miss Spence, the family could probably have afforded Fannie's dental work all along, and Fannie was just playing a ruse to avoid going to the dentist! Well, who among us hasn't resorted to semi-desperate measures to avoid the dental chair?

Finally, you may have noticed that I haven't yet included Fannie's grades or employment record. Here they are — I left them for the end because they both unremarkable:

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That's all I have for Fannie. If anyone knows what became of her, please get in touch. Thanks.

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