The short version: My name is Paul Lukas. Fifteen years ago I came upon a discarded file cabinet full of incredible 1920s and ’30s report cards from a defunct girls’ vocational school. I took as many of the cards as I could carry and then spent the next decade-plus wondering what to do with them. At some point in 2009 I decided to track down some of the students — or, since most of them were likely deceased, their families — and see how their lives had turned out. I’ve spent much of the past two years doing that. This has led to, among other things, numerous instances of calling people up and saying, “Hi, you don’t know me, but I have your mother’s report card from 1929. Would you like to see it?”
The result is Permanent Record, a five-article series that will be running on Slate during the week of Sept. 19. It will tell the stories of some of the students whose report cards I found, the remarkable school they attended (it was called the Manhattan Trade School for Girls), and my own experience connecting the dots between the cards and the students’ families.