Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A Pass to Visit Nome

Photo from

One of the great things about Permanent Record is that sometimes I'll write about something evocative — a report card, a photo I.D. badge, or whatever — and a reader or commenter will do follow-up research to help tell that object's story. Something similar happened to the Alaska novelist Dana Stabenow when she came across the 1945 military pass shown above, for a soldier named Norman Rambo.

Stabenow found the pass in an old copy of Ernie Pyle's book Here Is Your War, which she purchased at a local Salvation Army thrift store in Homer, Alaska. She was intrigued enough by the pass to blog about it on her website but didn't take things any further than that.

But one of her readers, Bobbi Schirado, did. She posted the following comment on Stabenow's blog post:

Checking on there were at least three and maybe four possible Norman Rambos — but using several other sources I’ve narrowed it down to this one:

Norman E. Rambo was born in 24 March 1915 in Iowa, enlisted at Ft. Lewis, Washington, graduated from high school, was single and as a civilian worked as a clerk. He was a resident of King Co. Washington. In 1930, he lived with his parents, Haven H. and Pauline Rambo at 8119 Latona St. in Seattle. His father was a policeman and his mother a saleslady in a department store. His SSN death record shows he died 19 May 2001. He played football and graduated from Ballard High School. A family marriage record indicates he married Marjorie Lou Christie in Nome, Alaska on 30 June 1946. A divorce was asked for by Marjorie L. from Norman E. Rambo in 1965. In 1970 the Seattle Times says Norman had a wedding license to marry Rita M. McSharry.

Newspapers from the 1950s thru the 1970s show that he sang tenor and was very active with the Seattle Chorale.

And it gets better. Just yesterday a new commenter chimed in on Stabenow's blog post. His name is Doug Rambo, and here's what he had to say:

Norman E. Rambo was my dad. How cool that you found something from his youth which I now found on the internet. He and my mother were married in Nome at the end of the War.

Now that's cool. I've had a few similar experiences during the course of Permanent Record, and I can tell you that they're amazing. Congrats to Dana on her find, and to Doug for following the trail of breadcrumbs that led him to connect with her.

(Big thanks to PermaRec reader Maureen Wynn for letting me know about this one.)

Monday, November 17, 2014

Student of the Week: Genevieve Palisi

For all of today's images, you can click to enlarge

As I mentioned last week, I'm planning to feature one Manhattan Trade School student per week here on the site. Last week we looked at Katherine Gausser, whose student file included a rather snippy letter from her mother. This time around we're looking at Genevieve Palisi, whose student record includes some unusually pointed commentary about her demeanor.

As you can see above, Genevieve was born on Nov. 21, 1905 (so in the unlikely event that she's still alive, she'll be turning 109 years old this Friday). Her family lived in Brooklyn (first in Borough Park and then in Bay Ridge), and her father, Joseph, worked as a stevedore. The "Operating" notation at the top-right corner means that she Genevieve's chosen trade was sewing machine operation.

Genevieve was apparently a solid if unspectacular student, consistently receiving grades of "G" (good) or "F" (fair) for her school work:

3 2

Genevieve, like all Manhattan Trade students, had a job arranged for her by the school. The first of these, which you can see listed as the first entry on this next card, was a position at the H.E. Verran Co., where Genevieve worked from Nov. 5 through Dec. 24, 1920 — a period of seven weeks:


Why did Genevieve leave this job? The answer can be found on the following card. The first entry, in black, is from the school's job placement secretary; the next section, in red, is from the employer:


Here's a transcription of the black handwriting (I've spelled out some abbreviations and filled in some missing words for the sake of clarity):

[Girl is] in office. Very insolent. Evidently a bad influence for M. Cline and N. Bonica [apparently two other students who were working at the same company — PL], who were with her. After five weeks on weekly work at $14 [per week], she was put on piece work. Earned $4.23 on aprons in one week. "It was an awful place, so we left today." KE [the placement secretary — PL] asked why no report had been made before. Called Miss Mather.

Miss Mather was apparently Genevieve's work supervisor at the job site. The red notations that follow are what Miss Mather told the job placement secretary:

Girl is a ringleader. Can do good work when she wishes but seldom wishes to. She is a born leader, and this morning she had the whole workroom upset when she let. She is insolent and impudent, and trades on the fact that she does not need to work.

Wow. It's worth keeping in mind that Genevieve had just turned 15 years old when this discussion took place.

Now we're back to black ink, so this is the placement secretary talking:

Miss Marhsall [Manhattan Trade's principal] and KE [the placement secretary] spoke to girl about this report, and it was decided ot give her one more chance. Warned about making prompt reports.

As you can see from the next entry, Genevieve's next job also ended on a bad note. The entry is in red, meaning it's from the employer:

Girl left without notice. The girls in the workroom say she told them she was going to work with her sister. If it was a question of money, I think she should have spoken to me before leaving.

Interestingly, despite these difficulties, Genevieve stayed in touch with the school's job placement office for several more years.

• • • • •

You may have noticed something new about today entry: It has a headline. All previous entries on this site have been headline-free. I no longer remember exactly why I chose not to use headlines when I started the blog in 2011, but for some reason they seemed superfluous and I thought the site looked cleaner without them. Unfortunately, this has also made the site a bit harder to navigate, and has also made the site fare a bit worse in search engines. So I've decided to use a headline today.

I don't plan to go back and add headlines to all of the previous entries, and it's possible that I may end up going back to the headline-free format — we'll see. For now, let's consider it an experiment. Your feedback is welcome.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

For all of today's images, you can click to enlarge

Permanent Record began as an inquiry into the stories behind the nearly 400 old report cards from the Manhattan Trade School for Girls that some friends and I found in a discarded file cabinet back in 1996. Over time, the project has expanded to include coverage of other found objects with interesting stories to tell, and it's now been quite a while since I've written about the report cards.

That's going to change, at least for a bit, beginning today. There are still hundreds of report cards that I haven't written about or investigated. I don't have the time these days to track down and interview the students' descendants, but the report cards still offer a wealth of information that's worth documenting and sharing. So my plan to is choose at least one student per week and take a closer look at her school record, and whenever possible I'll choose students whose records have some particularly interesting documents or commentary. I'll still include coverage of lost class rings, messages in bottles, and all the other stuff that has become part of PermaRec over the past few years. But I want to get the report cards back into the project.

We're beginning today with Katherine Gausser, whose main card is shown above. As you can see, she was born in 1898 (which means she's now either deceased or setting some seriously longevity records) and lived on East 108th Street in Manhattan. Her father was a leather finisher. She began attending Manhattan Trade in July of 1912, when the school was still at its original location — a townhouse on West 14th Street. Katherine was 14 at the time, pretty much the standard age for the school's enrollees.

The "Department: Novelty" notation at top-right means Katherine's chosen trade was decorative novelty box making — one of the "glue trades" that the school taught. Most students went with one of the needle trades (dressmaking, sewing machine operation, millinery), which tended to pay better. Those who chose the glue trades often did so because they weren't sufficiently handy with a needle and thread. It's not clear if that was the case with Katherine, or if she simply preferred box making.

This next card shows Katherine's grades and teacher comments:


Katherine's grades were mostly "G" (good) and "F" (fair). In additional to "Novelty," she also took a class in another glue trade, "Sample Mounting," which involved pasting fabric swatches and other samples into catalogs. A note at the bottom commends her "excellent class work and attitude."

The next card shows Katherine's work record. Many of the school's students used the school's job-referral service to procure many positions over the course of several years, but Katherine apparently only obtained one job via the school — a "Nov." position (again, this refers to novelty box making) that she held for only six days:


Why did Katherine leave the job so soon after starting it? A hint is offered on the next card, which has commentary from the school's job placement office:


That handwriting is hard to read, so here's what it says for the entry on Oct. 7, 1913 (the day after Katherine's last day on the job). I've spelled out some abbreviations for the sake of clarity:

Miss [illegible] criticized some of her work (which on the whole was not bad). She told bookkeeper she was not coming back. Said nothing to anyone else. Wrote [to] girl for explanation.

A week later, on Oct. 14, there's an entry that's harder to read because the ink has faded, but here's what I can make out:

Did not get along well because place [several illegible words]. It took her all day to make one little box.

As you can see, Katherine was later told that she would not receive a diploma because she "failed to report an additional experience." This was because the school required students to perform adequately in the workplace before earning their diplomas, and Katherine's six-day position apparently did not meet that standard.

But here's the kicker: Katherine's file also includes a letter from her mother. It was written on Oct. 12 and received on Oct. 17 — right in the midst of the placement office's inquiry as to why Katherine had left her job:

5 6

Again, the handwriting can be difficult to read, so here's a transcription (I've once again spelled out some abbreviations and made other minor edits for the sake of clarity):

Dear Miss Adams,

Katherine left the place for the simple reason that they let her sit idle for several hours a day. There isn't much money in that. And when she asked for work, why it was too much bother, or "Oh, are you finished again?" Very encouraging, is it not? And the Manhattan Trade School, that is very little credit to a girl in that place, and I dare say it won't be, to my estimation, anywhere. So I have fully decided to take Katherine out of the business entirely.

Mrs. E. Gausser

Wow — that's a doozy of a letter! It's rare to find something so critical of the school in any of the student files. It's a shame that Katherine's relationship with Manhattan Trade ended on such a down note, especially after she was commended for her class work.

That's all I have for Katherine, but many more students' records await. Stay tuned.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

The beautiful needlework sampler shown above was recently acquired by the Seattle Art Museum. Its provenance is listed toward the bottom:

Liberated African
Charlotte Turner
Aged 10 years
Bathurst Sierra Leone 1831

Who was Charlotte Turner? Does "Liberated African" mean she was a freed American slave? What was she doing in Sierra Leone? What became of her?

All of these questions are addressed — and most of them answered — in a sensational new article by the art critic Jen Graves, which recently ran in the Seattle alt-weekly The Stranger. It tells the story of British missionary settlements in Sierra Leone, where children rescued from illegal slave ships were often trained to make needlework like Charlotte's, which were then sold to sponsors back in the UK to raise funds. The sponsors were granted the perk of renaming the African children whose needleworks they were purchasing, so "Charlotte Turner" was likely named by a wealthy Britisher she never knew. It's also possible that Charlotte never even existed, and that she was simply fabricated by one of the missionaries to raise money.

All of this, and a lot more, is explained in greater detail in the Stranger article. Check it out here.

Friday, November 7, 2014

In 2002, a woman named Fawn Fitter bought box of old letters, photos, and related memorabilia from a flea market vendor. She soon realized she'd stumbled upon the chronicle of one family's life, beginning with a series of 1940s love letters documenting the courtship of the man and woman who formed the family's foundation.

Fitter decided to track down the family and was surprised to discover that the man who wrote the love letters was still alive. The family welcomed her inquiries and she soon became the family's de facto historian, or even something like an unofficial family member.

All of this, and much more, is explained in greater detail in this excellent article. Fitter is also documenting her research on this blog. It's all very, very Permanent Record, and highly recommended.

(Special thanks to my friend Gina Duclayan — at whose 1996 birthday party I found the Manhattan Trade School report cards that formed the basis for Permanent Record! — for tipping me off to this one.)

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Click to enlarge

The negative and the resulting photo shown above were taken at a prison in Iowa. They're part of an excellent-sounding project recently brought to my attention by reader Matt Miller. I'll let him explain it in his own words:

My cousin's name is Mark Fullenkamp. He's an amateur photographer and also a technology geek who's interested in genealogy and history. He's from West Point, Iowa, not far from the Iowa State Penitentiary in Fort Madison, which has been in use for 150 years. My aunt (Mark's mother) worked at the prison in the early 1960s and actually ordered the rope for the prison's last two hangings. A few of our cousins work there.

The penitentiary is preparing to move to a new facility. When Mark had heard about the move, he wanted to see if he could take some photos of the old prison while it still housed prisoners. In addition, he said he had heard rumors of old glass plate negatives still laying around from the prison's early days. These were old prisoner intake photos, taken as the person was committed to the prison. He eventually was able to get his hands on the negatives and has now completed scanning over 11,000 of them and inverting the colors.

He has also come across old prisoner records, at least some of which have prisoner numbers on them. Most of the photos have prisoner numbers on them as well [see above], and he's now in the process of matching up the photos and the paperwork. I know he plans to make the images and I believe the whole project available online and possibly in book form, but so far I've heard no details about those plans.

Faaaaaascinating. Fullenkamp calls this endeavor the Iowa State Prison Memory Project. You can learn more about it in this Des Moines Register article, and you can see Fullenkamp and his research assistant, Gemma Goodale-Sussen, discussing the project in this video, which is definitely worth watching:

I hope to be in touch with Fullenkamp soon to learn more about his project, and of course I'll share what I learn here on PermaRec. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Photo by Julie Jacobson, Associated Press

After our recent PermaRec posts about time capsules, I found myself with lots of questions, so I got in touch with Nick Yablon, associate professor of American Studies at the University of Iowa, who's become something of a time capsule authority (and is shown above, reading the headlines from a 1914 edition of The New York Times that was contained in a recently opened time capsule). He agreed to do an email interview with me, which went like so:

Permanent Record: Notwithstanding ancient examples like Egyptian tombs and such, what's the history of the time capsule? Do we know when/where was the first one was buried (or stowed, or whatever)?

Nick Yablon: At the risk of sounding academic, it depends how you define "time capsule." If you define it loosely to refer to the burying or sealing of certain items in the hope that someone will find them at some point in the future, then this is clearly a very old practice. Americans have been filling cornerstones of buildings and monuments since at least the late eighteenth century. And they borrowed this practice from the masons who constructed Europe's cathedrals of the Middle Ages.

But if you define time capsules more narrowly, as a deposit of artifacts and messages to be opened on a specific date in the future, then that is relatively recent. After researching its origins for 5 years, I can safely say that nobody thought of doing that until 1876.

As for who can take the credit, that's also complicated. In 1876, several people seem to have come up with the idea independently, although not all of them followed through immediately. But, if forced to choose the winner, I'd go for Anna Deihm, a magazine publisher from New York City. She displayed a specially designed bank safe at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, and announced her plan to fill it with signatures and photographs of politicians (including the President), judges, scientists, inventors, and other leading Americans. It was eventually sealed for a hundred years in the U.S. Capitol.

PermaRec: Is there a period that could be considered the "golden age" of time capsules?

Yablon: I think time capsule buffs would probably identify the mid-twentieth century. The Westinghouse Corporation's time capsule at the New York World's Fair in 1939 brought the idea to a much larger public. It was for this exhibit that the term "time capsule" was coined, by Westinghouse's PR guru, George Edward Pendray. This time capsule — and a second one buried next door to it at the New York World's Fair of 1964 — captured the nation's imagination with the types of objects chosen, their missile-like design, and their long timespan (thousands of years). But by the 1970s, critics were complaining that time capsules had become solipsistic and banal.

Having said that, I would personally declare the late nineteenth century to be the real golden age. Because there was no standard protocol or even name for them, time capsules were more varied and experimental in that period. People were literally inventing a new tradition, and making it up as they went along.

PermaRec: Have time capsules been more prevalent in certain parts of the country?

Yablon: Nowadays, you would find them all across the country, and even in small towns (there are several in my adopted hometown of Iowa City). But in the late 19th and early 20th century, they were very much an urban phenomena. They cropped up in cities all across the country (although I've yet to find any in the South), and were generally launched by mayors, newspapers, churches, or philanthropists.

PermaRec: Are time capsules largely an American phenomenon, or have they been common in other countries?

Yablon: Yes, in the early years, this was a uniquely American tradition. Beyond the U.S., the earliest time capsule (defined as a deposit with a specified opening date) that I've found was one sealed in the basement of the Paris Opera House in 1907. Very Phantom of the Opera!

PermaRec: The term "capsule" brings to mind a specific shape — something round-ish and/or cylindrical. But most time capsules that I've seen have simply been boxes. How did the term "time capsule" originate, and was there a time when the capsules were more truly capsule-like?

Yablon: The first time capsule, as I mentioned, was a specially decorated bank safe. Thereafter, they tended to be small, plain boxes, made of iron, steel, lead, or wood. The one just opened in New York was unusually ornate: a bronze chest with legs in the shape of lion's paws, handles resembling ropes, and a finial crowning the lid. In the 1930s, Westinghouse introduced the capsule or missile shape — a brilliant way of conjuring the sense of a vessel hurtling through time. The capsule shape also evoked the streamline aesthetic of that decade. They were re-designing all sorts of objects to make them look more aerodynamic, even pencil sharpeners and toasters!

PermaRec: I've seen you quoted to the effect that "disappointment is the most common response to time capsule openings." Could you elaborate on that point?

Yablon: The fact that they have been sealed for so many years naturally stimulates all kinds of speculation about what is inside. In the case of the 1876 time capsule, there were even rumors it might contain gold or a skeleton. So the opening of a time capsule is bound to disappoint. Another issue is that the depositors' sense of what is interesting or worth preserving are inevitably different from what a later period might consider interesting or valuable.

PermaRec: Any other good time capsule anecdotes?

Yablon: The most bizarre thing I've found in a time capsule was a matchbox containing a human tooth. Even more bizarre was that the label claimed it was the molar of the French revolutionary, Robespierre. Sounds like a hoax to me.

PermaRec: Maybe I'm just spoiled by being a journalist working during the information age, but is there really much suspense regarding time capsule openings? I mean, hasn't someone left a list of what's inside the capsule, or maybe the list was published in the local newspaper back in the day? Doesn't that pretty much eliminate the element of surprise?

Yablon: You're right. People did compile inventories of their time capsules, and left copies of them in local libraries — or as you say, printed them in the local newspaper. I've often wondered why they did this, because it does kind of spoil the suspense! Perhaps it was to leave a clue to the existence of the time capsule, to prevent it from being forgotten — a common fate of many time capsules.

PermaRec: I'm also puzzled by instances of time capsules being "forgotten" and "rediscovered." My impression is that the capsules are usually buried/sealed/etc. with great fanfare. Do they really fade so readily from a town's (or business's, or museum's, or whomever's) institutional memory?

Yablon: Yes, it is surprising how often this has happened — and a reminder that even the grandest ceremonies are quickly forgotten. For instance, the very first time capsule was removed from Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol, and consigned to a storage space under the outside stairs. It was only rediscovered a few years before it was due to be opened. In an early science fiction novel, one author came up with an ingenious solution: miniature cylinders containing a message about the time capsule were sent out across the country.

PermaRec: Related to the above: It seems to me that the appeal of time capsules is rooted in a sense of wonder that's increasingly difficult to maintain in a technologically sophisticated, hyper-documented era. With that in mind, I find it interesting that time capsules are still being created today for future generations to open. So what is the current state of time capsules? How common — or, I guess, uncommon — are they today?

Yablon: The celebration of the millennium did renew interest in the phenomenon. The most widely publicized time capsule from that year was probably the one organized by the New York Times. I'm sure people will continue to deposit time capsules — and to come up with new ideas for time capsules — for some time to come. In fact, I would say that the instantaneous, electronic availability of vast amounts of information has increased, not decreased, our fascination with chests and troves that are inaccessible. Kind of like how the omnipresence of digital music has sparked interest in vinyl records.

PermaRec: I understand you've written a book about time capsules. When is that going to be published?

Yablon: The book is now about 70 percent completed. I'm hoping it will be out in a couple of years. Or maybe I should seal the manuscript in a box for a hundred years? Actually, that was an idea I read about the other day: a project to enlist one novelist each year to submit a book that would remain unpublished until 100 years from now. It's called the Future Library project, and Margaret Atwood has agreed to be the first contributor.

PermaRec: On balance, do you think time capsules have lived up to intended function of teaching future generations about the past?

Yablon: Well, I would say that they can tell us much about the past, but not necessarily what the depositors wanted us to know. In other words, they tell us much about the implicit hopes, fears, and prejudices of certain groups in the past. And in particular, they tell us that, since 1876, people no longer trusted the traditional forms of memory, such as libraries, monuments, or orally transmitted stories. The time capsule represents a modern, somewhat artificial way of transmitting our legacy to future generations.


Great stuff. Big thanks to Nick for sharing his time and expertise. You can learn more about him at his website.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

A few days ago I did a post about time capsules, so my ears perked up when I was listening to All Things Considered today and heard a report about a century-old time capsule that was forgotten about, rediscovered (inside the head of a lion statue, as you can see ablove), and just opened in Boston. Here's the audio of that segment:

It's straightforward enough, but I hate how the reporter, Audie Cornish, concludes the report by saying, "Stay tuned, history nerds." For starters, that's really condescending. More importantly, I've always thought that the whole point of time capsules is that they make history accessible and appealing to everyone, not just "nerds." Lazy, kneejerk remark by Cornish.

Anyway. Here's some video of that capsule being removed from the lion's head:

Meanwhile, I expect to publish an interview with time capsule expert Nick Yablon shortly — stay tuned.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Toyota recently launched a new six-commercial ad campaign for the 2015 Camry, and one of the spots (a screen shot from which is shown above) is very PermaRec-ish.

Before you watch the commercial, check out the script, which is delivered as a first-person narrative:

Started my Camry
Went to the auction
Won a storage locker
Found an old guitar
Tracked down the previous owner
Reunited them
Hit the jackpot

Now, if you've ever watched the TV show Storage Wars, you know that the people who bid on abandoned storage lockers tend to be professional salvage dealers, not random Camry owners, so it's rare for a "normal" person to win one of those auctions. It's even rarer for the lockers to contain anything of value. And it's well-nigh impossible for that thing of value to be connected to a famous person such as — here, just watch the commercial and see for yourself:

Pretty cheesy, right? Still, the impulse to reunite an object with its original owner is certainly one I can appreciate. And as aspirational fantasies go, the urge to investigate an item's past is certainly better than car advertising's usual fantasy, which is that the car will give you status and get you laid. Fortunately, as we've demonstrated many times here on Permanent Record, you can turn the "Let's find out who owned this" fantasy into reality without bidding on a storage locker — or driving a Toyota Camry, for that matter.

• • • • •
Site Upgrade: If you look in the right-hand sidebar, you'll see that all of the site's entries are now tagged by category. I hope this will make the site easier and more fun to poke around in — enjoy.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The top photo shows a 100-year-old sealed bronze time capsule that was recently opened in New York. The lower photo shows some of the capsule's contents -- newspapers, journals, yearbooks, a world almanac, and so on.

According to a New York Times article, the capsule was sealed on May 23, 1914, and was supposed to be opened 60 years later, on May 22, 1974. But before that could happen, the building that housed the capsule was demolished, and the capsule ended up in a storage warehouse. The 1974 unsealing was forgotten, as was the capsule itself until 1998, when it was rediscovered. It was finally opened last Wednesday at the New-York Historical Society (yes, they spell it with the hyphen). Some high school students who've been interning at the Society then presented the objects that they'll be placing in a new time capsule, to be opened in 2114. Those objects included the following (click to enlarge):

Time capsules have always struck me as sort of a big fuss over nothing. I get how they're supposed to be intriguing and all, but isn't there usually a list or other documentation of what's inside the capsule (like the photos of the contemporary objects shown above), and doesn't that pretty much eliminate any element of suspense of surprise? Couldn't you get a more interesting sense of the past just by poking around at a flea market or antiques shop?

I'm about to pose those questions (and others) to Nick Yablon, an academic who's something of a time capsule expert and has written a soon-to-be-published book on the topic. He's agreed to do a PermaRec interview, which I'll be posting here on the site shortly — stay tuned. Meanwhile, what do you folks think of time capsules? Post your thoughts in the comments.

Monday, September 29, 2014

At first glance, the drawing and photograph shown above are nothing remarkable. They show a fashion illustration and then a finished ensemble. It's not clear which came first — were the clothes based on the drawing, or the other way around? — but it's obvious that they show the same outfit.

Lurking beneath these clothing designs, however, is a fascinating story that's very, very Permanent Record.

Here's the deal: In 1997, a Milwaukee man named Burton Strnad was cleaning out his parents' house after having moved his mother to an assisted-living facility. He found a number of interesting artifacts, including a 1939 letter from his father's cousin, Paul Strnad, a Jew who at the time was in Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia. The letter asked if the Milwaukee family could sponsor Paul and his wife, Hedvika, as they sought to immigrate to America. Hedvika was a dressmaker, and the letter was accompanied by eight of her drawings, to show that she was talented. The letter was also accompanied by this photo of Paul and Hedvika:

Unfortunately, as it turned out, Paul and Hedvika were unable to leave Czechoslovakia and perished in the Holocaust.

Burton Strnad — the man who found the letters and drawings in his parents' house — donated them to the Jewish Museum Milwaukee, where they became part of the museum's permanent collection. It wasn't until more than a decade later that the museum staff came up with the idea of bringing Hedvika Strnad's designs to life by actually making the clothes she had drawn and using them as the basis of an exhibit. That exhibit, called "Stitching History From the Holocaust," opened a few weeks ago and will run through next February.

The museum enlisted the Milwaukee Repertory Theater's costume department to create the clothing. The costumers did research to ensure that they were using period-appropriate fabrics that would have been available to Hedvika at the time. In an inspired touch, they also created a labeldesign featuring a "Hedy" signature, based on the handwriting shown on some of Hedvika's drawings:

And so this dressmaker's designs have finally been brought to life, seven decades after she herself died. To learn more about this fantastic story and see more of the drawings and dresses, check out this article and the exhibit's website.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Today is a special day. It was 18 years ago today — Sept. 28, 1996 — that I attended my friend Gina Duclayan's 30th birthday party in the gymnasium of the old Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan. It was during that party that I stumbled upon the file cabinet full of old Manhattan Trade School report cards that were about to be thrown out. My friends and I decided to rescue some of the cards (we ended up with about 400 of them, which I'd guesstimate to be about 10 percent of the total), a decision that has changed my life in several ways and led to the creation of the Permanent Record project. If you're not familiar with that story, you can learn more about that 1996 evening here.

That's Gina above. It's fitting that she's posing with a pineapple, the symbol of hospitality, because Gina's one of the most hospitable and gracious people I've ever known. She's also from Hawaii, the land of pineapples.

So happy birthday, Gina! And happy birthday to Permanent Record.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Photos by Rachel D'Oro, Associated Press

If you're into Nazi memorabilia — and a lot of people are — you might be interested in an auction taking place this weekend in Anchorage, Alaska, where they plan to sell off some Nazi armbands, a Hitler propaganda booklet, transcripts from the Nuremberg trials, and a letter that signs off, "Heil Hitler!" They were all found in a trunk that was discovered in a long-vacant house that was about to be listed for sale.

The house and the trunk belonged to a woman named Maxine Carr, who apparently died at least 10 years ago. She worked on the International Military Tribunal staff in Nuremberg back in the 1940, which is presumably when she acquired the Nazi mementos.

Carr's trunk also included paperwork relating to her job performance prior to going to Nuremberg. A supervisor gave her a rating of "Fair" in 1944, but Carr appealed to the Civil Service Commission, writing:

I performed a great deal more work than any other girl assigned to the same type of position, and I certainly believe that I should receive a higher rating than "Fair" for work completed, especially considering the unfavorable circumstances under which I had to work.

Paperwork found in the trunk indicates that her appeal was denied, with the Commission ruling that Carr "had not altogether convincingly rebutted" her supervisor's assessment.

You can read more about this here. Meanwhile, here are a few more photos of items found in Carr's trunk:

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Photos by Bob Luckey,

The woman shown above is Alicia Collier, who lives in Old Greenwich, Connecticut. She's holding a postcard that was recently arrived at her address in the mail. Just one problem: The postcard wasn't for her — it was for a previous inhabitant of her house. That's because the postcard was mailed and postmarked in 1948 (click to enlarge):

As you can see, the postcard was addressed to Linda Benner. It's hard to read the message because it's sideways, so here's a transciption:

Dear Linda

This is where we are staying Thursday night. Look for the x and that marks our window.


It's not clear why the postcard took 66 years to be delivered. Collier, the woman who received it, did some research and determined that Linda Benner, the card's intended recipient, was five years old when the card was mailed in 1948. Here's how she looked around that time:

Unfortunately, Linda and her mother, who sent the postcard, are both now deceased. But one of Linda's sisters is still alive, and Collier plans to deliver the postcard to her soon. You can read more about this here.

I learned about this story from PermaRec reader Cliff Corcoran. He's the stepson of Linda Benner's living sister — the one to whom the postcard will soon be returned. Small world.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Speak of the devil: Small Town Noir, the excellent mug shot-centric site I wrote about just a few days ago, is going to be featured tonight as part of a documentary being aired on the Canadian cable channel TVO. Further details here.

Unfortunately, my cable package doesn't include TVO. But for you Canadian folks, this looks highly worthwhile.