Wednesday, February 29, 2012

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On Tuesday I bought a new pair of gloves. When I got them home, I decided I didn't like the color, so the next day I brought them back and exchanged them for a different pair. On my way back from the glove exchange, I decided on a whim to stop at a vintage shop in my neighborhood, where I came across this old jacket. I liked the cut and the fit, but I don't usually wear pale colors, so I wasn't sure about it. As I was trying it on, I felt something in one of the front pockets, so I reached in and pulled out a small wad of papers, all folded up. I didn't unfold them, but I could see that several of them had handwritten notes and appeared to be yellowed with age.

That was enough for me. I put everything back in the pocket and bought the jacket.

When I got home, I examined this new stash of ephemera, beginning with the check that's shown at the top of this entry. As you can see, it was written to pay a phone bill, but it bounced. It's not a report card, obviously, but it nonetheless feels very Permanent Record -- an old document of someone's personal details. How does this stuff keep finding me?

Naturally, I began searching for Ronald and Ann Marie Kroznuski. It turns out Ronald passed away just a few months ago in South Carolina, but Ann Marie is still alive. It feels odd to know that she bounced a check 36 years ago -- a small record of shame to which I'm privy (and now you are, too).

So what else was in the jacket pocket? For starters, a time card from Ronald's job:

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No indication of what the job was, which is semi-maddening. Would it have killed Ronald's company to put its name on the time card?

There were also two short grocery shopping lists. One of them was on the back of a small (2.5" square) Woolco sales slip:

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The other shopping list was on written on the flap of an envelope (hey, just like the Gettysburg Address, right?):


Next up, a receipt for a gallon of paint at Sherwin-Williams -- "Tivoli Green Accent 4492":

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That paint color corresponds to one of the hues on this swatch strip, which has some basic arithmetic on the back:

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Green, incidentally, has been my favorite color ever since I was a little boy -- another sign, if you choose to believe in such things, that this stuff was meant for me.

One final item -- a pocket calculator user's manual:

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Hmmm -- if the Kroznuskis had a calculator, why did they have to do math on the back of the swatch strip? Maybe the latter inspired the purchase of the former.

That's it.

Did the jacket once belong to the Kroznuskis? If so, had these cards and papers been sitting in the pocket for 36 years until I found them a few days ago? And what about the staff of the shop where I bought the jacket -- don't they go through the pockets of a garment before putting it out on the racks? Maybe they found this stuff in the pocket but decided to leave it there, thinking it might make a nice bonus prize for the jacket's new owner? Or maybe they randomly seed their vintage clothing with assorted detritus, just because it's fun?

Meanwhile, should I contact Ann Marie Kroznuski? Should I just pack all of this stuff into an envelope and send it to her, with a note explaining how I found it? Should I send the material back anonymously, with no note? Or should I just leave her alone and enjoy these latest artifacts to find their way into my orbit?

Finally, consider this: What if I had bought the right color of gloves from the start?

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Maibelle and Eugene Denegall

Meet Maibelle Denegall and her brother, Eugene Denegall. They're holding the report card of their mother, Mailbelle Palmer Denegall, who attended the Manhattan Trade School for Girls nearly 100 years ago. Two of her sisters and one of her cousins also attended Manhattan Trade (I have the student record for one of the sisters, Julliette Palmer Dudley), making them the Manhattan Trade-iest family I've encountered so far in the course of this project.

I had the privilege of spending a few hours interviewing Maibelle and Eugene earlier today at Maibelle's home (chalk up another gold star for volunteer researcher Samantha Bulgerin, who laid the groundwork for this one). They're wonderful people, and I look forward to sharing their family's story in an upcoming Slate article.

Speaking of which: The first installment of PermaRec 2.0 (i.e., a new run of articles on Slate) should appear in a few weeks. It will focus on 95-year-old Rose Vrana, who attended Manhattan Trade in the early 1930s and is still alive in Florida. She's the first -- and so far only -- living link to Permanent Record that I've found. It turns out that she's also a link to lots of other things, but I'll save those details for Slate. More soon.