July 9, 2012

Driving Fund

Filed under: early history — susanwoodland @ 6:16 pm

One of the agencies that came into the Federation family in the first year of Federation’s existence had the name, “Crippled Children’s Driving Fund”.  When I first saw that name, after registering shock at how much has changed in terms of political correctness, I was confused at why, or how, children with physical disabilities would be learning to drive.

1917 report of receipts and expenditures

The file is in the Finance and Budget subseries, and contains correspondence and budgetary information on this agency.  Above is the financial report for the year ended December 31, 1917.  From a dry financial report, however, it is possible to learn a bit about how they used the funds they received from Federation.  In fact, the children were not learning to drive, they were being taken out to drives on days when they had medical appointments.  Drives in Central Park, with a caretaker to accompany them, and loveliest of all, milk and crackers as a snack.

From another financial document in the file, shown below, more details are revealed.  There is a Supporting Schedule that explains the $268.59 (listed above) that was spent on the milk and crackers.

Supporting Schedule, elaboration on the milk and crackers

Handwritten is this note: “The above item is based on the expenses for several years past for milk and crackers supplied by the Sheffield Farms Co. and the National Biscuit Co., respectively.  Milk and crackers are being supplied regularly to the children on the drives in the park.”  At the bottom, in a different hand, is this: “We pay for milk at the regular price.  The Nat’l Biscuit Co. furnishes us crackers at practically half price.”

The drives and the refreshments were undoubtedly a welcome break in what was probably a bleak life for these children.  We have processed financial files for this fund for 1917-1920.  This week we expect to bring in more financial files, including the 1920s, and I’ll make a point of checking to see how long the fund remained in existence, or at least how long it was funded by Federation.

Perhaps the National Biscuit Company was approached for a break in the cost of the crackers because their factory was local.  Located between 15th and 16th Streets and 9th and 10th Avenues, the factory building now houses Chelsea Market.  Between the 1930s and the 1960s, an elevated train track ran alongside the building at the height of the 3rd floor; today this train track is part of the High Line Park.  This park now provides fresh air and exercise for all of us.  And it’s a short walk from the park into Chelsea Market to pick up a fresh bottle of milk from Ronnybrook Farm Dairy.

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