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Miss SchaefTer, one of our workers who is interviewing all the
tenants in connection with a survey, came in to talk to me about Mrs.
Marcus. When she called on her today, Mrs. Marcus, evidently need-
ing someone to talk to, confided that she was extremely unhappy.
She related that both of her children had died in the first few days
of their infancy and that she had developed deafness because of this
great misfortune. She would like to see a doctor about her condition
but could not afford the expense. Meanwhile she was sure that people
laughed at her and talked about her because she could not hear. When
Miss Schaeffer suggested going to Mr. Goldfeld, Mrs. Marcus drew
back, saying that Mr. G. had once remarked to her husband, "Why
did you marry this deaf woman?"

I talked over Mrs. Marcus' attitude with Mrs. Cooper and suggested

The Diary 1927-1930 93

that she be very friendly to her, and we might be able to help her
overcome her feeling of persecution.

[Eventually, Mrs. Marcus willingly came to me for advice. I told
her that I did not know where she got the idea I had talked about
her. I referred her to Mt. Sinai. The examining doctors found
she was in need of considerable mental and physical treatment.
It developed that her deafness had started in her early girlhood
and that nothing could be done about it. As part of the treat-
ment, we gave Mrs. Marcus the job of supervising the baby-room
and she was very happy with the work, which lasted for about
three years. In 1933, after a long period of unemployment, her
husband deserted and she left Lavanburg to live with her mother.]

JUNE 22, 1930

While I was having a conference with three fathers, Mr. Krentzman
burst into the office greatly excited. He complained loudly about
finding his radio wire cut and about someone tampering with his mail.
I inferred that the latter complaint arose out of the fact that there are
three Krentzmans living in his hall- way and that he considers such a
distribution of tenants as unintelligent.

As he became more and more worked up, his voice raised to a
shout. He threatened to inform the main office about the manner in
which the house is managed.

When he had finished his uninterrupted tirade, I told him quietly
that the mail problem could be easily adjusted at the post office and
that the three Krentzman families were put in the same building only
because vacancies happened to occur in that section. Further, that
any tenant would receive courteous consideration in the office at
any time providing he controlled his temper. That for the time there
was nothing further to discuss, and that Mr. Krentzman was free at
any time to go to the main office.

JUNE 23, 1930

Mr. Krentzman dropped in nonchalantly as though nothing had
happened. He soon started to talk in a loud voice again. I told him I
could do nothing unless he controlled himself. This seemed to bring
him up sharply. His attitude changed immediately and he explained
that he meant no offense in raising his voice as that is his usual manner
of talking. He also said that he did not mean what he said yesterday.
After a little talk, he agreed that things could be adjusted quietly.

94 The Diary of a Housing Manager

[I have often noticed that many of the men raise their voices,
without intending anger, not realizing it might be offensive to

JUNE 30, 1930

Plans are now ready for the summer play school. Four teachers
have been appointed by the Board of Education to help conduct the
activities. This summer, for the first time, we have playground equip-
ment on the roof including see-saws, slides and swings. A large
awning provides shade over a considerable space.

Mrs. Menshevitz in and very angry because she has been requested
to pay 75 cents for damage to the apartment below caused by her
negligence. She had used the shower for one of her children without
the curtain. I told her that since tenants were responsible for damages
due to carelessness it would be necessary for her to pay the cost. She
paid but made it evident that she did not like it.

JULY 17, 1930

Big party on the roof last evening. The Arrangement Committee
obtained a band that helped the affair considerably. I was told that
everyone had a very enjoyable evening. The Roof Association is
carrying on activities with little assistance from me, which is a good
indication that its members are taking their responsibilities seriously.

JULY 24, 1930

A meeting of the Loan Fund. The report announced that the Fund
has about $100 and that $25 has been loaned. I was asked to print this
story in the next issue of the News. A good idea, as the tenants will
know the Fund is functioning, and it will make the fathers realize
that a strict accounting of the money must be kept.

JUNE 25, 1930

On June 26, Mrs. Silberbery was served with a dispossess because
of her refusal to discontinue keeping a roomer in her apartment after
several notices from the office. The case was tried in court on July
2 and today we were notified by our attorney that he had agreed to
give the family two months time in which to find another apartment.

[Following this, Mrs. Silberberg frequently called to see me,
pleading for permission to remain and promising that she would

The Diary 192 7-1930 95

abide by the house rules. After indicating a great deal of resist-
ance, I finally agreed to reconsider the dispossess if she paid a
fine of $25.

This money was turned over to the Loan Fund. Since there are
no secrets in our building, the punishment became known to the
other tenants. There has been no more trouble over boarders or

AUGUST 7, 1930

The effects of the depression and unemployment are becoming
very evident. Several families are constantly in arrears with their rent.
One is as much as nine weeks behind and three are four weeks in

[These were the first signs of the depression at the Lavanburg
Homes. Later it affected a large number of our families. In 1935,
80 families owed rent for 1041 weeks.]

AUGUST 14, 1930

Great to-do over the escapade of a group of boys who climbed into
the leaders' office and helped themselves to lolly-pops and soda water
which had been stored there. Since these refreshments belonged to
the Roof Association, the boys were made to pay a quarter each for
what they took. Punishment was probably also meted out in their
homes for their mothers soon learned of the incident.

AUGUST 2O, 1930

Am still sighing with relief over an accident on the roof last night,
which we narrowly averted.

By chance I was in the neighborhood in a car at about 9 o'clock.
As we rode by I noticed that the electric lights on the roof were out.
Knowing Amateur Night had been planned, I went to the roof to
investigate. I was horrified when I viewed the scene. The roof was
packed with over 400 people huddled under the awning in complete
darkness except for one flashlight which was focused at a child singing
on the stage. I edged my way through the mass of people dreading
less the sound of a frightened child's scream might send the crowd
charging for the narrow exits. When I had reached the front, the
leader told me that when the lights first went out, she held everyone
on the roof as she was sure they would be fixed very shortly. But that

96 The Diary of a Housing Manager

was over thirty minutes ago and now she did not know what to do.
Very briefly I spoke to the people, reassuring them, and as simply
as possible directed them in details off the roof. There was no mis-
understanding and everything clicked. As the last few filed safely
down the stairs, one woman stopped me. She shook her head, fully
realizing what might have happened. "Lavanburg," said she, "looked
down from heaven and sent you here tonight!"

AUGUST 25, 1930

Our carriage room is approached by a short flight of stairs and the
mothers find the strain of raising the carriages to the sidewalk very
severe. I thought of building a run- way in place of the stairs, but was
informed that building regulations do not permit it. The length of a
run- way must be seven times the depth of the decline, and we do not
have enough space.

SEPTEMBER 15, 1930

Rounding out plans for winter activities. We need new games,
better lighting for the South Hall, a new stage curtain, linoleum in the
basement, and a different type of membership card. Last year's cards
wore out very quickly and the children found it necessary to buy
cards very frequently. Because of the short life of the cards, some of
the children thought the office wanted them to spend their money
this way. Also, we need more leaders. Am going to try advertising in
The Nation for young men and women volunteers.

SEPTEMBER 1 6, 1930

Mrs. Golden in. She told me she was an expectant mother and asked
if her family couldn't get a larger apartment. I assured her that her
request was reasonable and that she would get larger quarters to suit
the needs of her family. I told her also that she would have to wait a
while as there were no vacancies available at the moment.

[Increase in the size of families created a constant demand for
larger apartments. As few of our tenants move it was not easy to
satisfy these demands and thus a vexing problem was presented
which was hard to meet. The management made every effort to
cooperate with growing families, knowing how undesirable it is
for maturing children to sleep together, and attempting to pre-
vent crowding in the project.]

The Diary 1927-1930 97

SEPTEMBER 19, 1930

Last year the leaders on several occasions needed reference books
on club work. A small library of selected books dealing with games
and the psychology of children would be very useful. Will start
building up such a library in the leaders' office.

The basement from now on will be known as the Lavanburg Social
Center. The word "basement" seems unattractive, especially for
people not very familiar with our activities.

SEPTEMBER 22, 1930

A porter reports that children make a great noise skating on the
sidewalks in the evening. As soon as cold weather comes, this seasonal
problem disappears.

SEPTEMBER 25, 1930

Miss Schaeffer in the office to report on her questionnaires. I was
very much interested to read the following interviews:

"Mr. Holland is a burly taxi driver, emotionally very sensitive, and
with a struggling intelligence. His wife is a dark, attractive woman
who appears to be unusually intelligent. Both are leaders in the adult
clubs. They have three children, Harry, 6, Helen, n, and Martin,
13, all of whom partake in the activities.

"Both of the parents are very happy to have their children take part
in the life downstairs since the children enjoy it so much. Mr. Holland
said, 'It keeps them off the streets and they even learn things while
they play down there. I think it is a wonderful opportunity for them.'

"Their children were never before members of organized groups
and school clubs, nor had they attended the movies in the evenings.
They used to go to the movies three afternoons a week but now they
go only once. The afternoons, before coming to Lavanburg, they
spent playing on the streets; now they do their school homework in
the afternoons in order to be free to go to the Center in the evening.

"During the summer the children have always, as now, gone to the
country for ten weeks. The parents remarked that at Lavanburg their
children give more attention to personal neatness and cleanliness. The
children find the shower so much fun that they have fallen into the
habit of taking one every night before going to bed.

"Concerning their own activities in the Fathers' and Mothers' Clubs,

98 The Diary of a Housing Manager

the Hollands were most enthusiastic. Both Mr. and Mrs. Holland find
the lectures interesting and though they never before had attended
any, they take care not to miss any of those held in the building. They
especially enjoyed the lectures on child guidance which opened for
them new ways to train their children.

"Both do volunteer work at supervising the children. This activity
they have found is a source of much pleasure. Mr. Holland summed
up his feelings about his life here in this way: 'Before, when I came
home from work, I just flopped down on the bed and went to sleep.
Now, my wife and me, we both work in the same activities and here,
when we are home together, we have that to talk over together. So
my wife says I am more of a companion to her because we discuss
the things we do instead of me just coming home to sleep.' "

Excerpts from another interview: "Mr. and Mrs. Koch were inter-
viewed at the same time. They were most cordial and willing to talk
over the details of living at Lavanburg. Mrs. Koch is an attractive
middle-aged woman. She talks rapidly and jerkily, and complains
often of her health and her nerves. She started off by saying that she
would like to move to a part of the city which would be nearer to
her husband's work except that she was afraid she would miss her
friends here. Her husband interposed, saying that although she had
lived in this section all her life, she had scarcely any friends at all,
that she kept almost entirely by herself. Mr. Koch is a quiet man, a
laundry truck driver of pleasing appearance, who seems to be trying
his best for his wife and children. He is troubled about his wife's
nervousness and constantly reminds her not to work too hard when
she complains of how much she has to do. She mentioned that he had
come home that night to clean the rugs and the house. This couple
does not partake of any of the house activities because they do not
wish to mix with the foreign element. However, their two children,
Walter, 9, and Sally, 6, do attend the activities. Their parents approve
because the children enjoy themselves so much.

"Before coming here, Mrs. Koch and the children went to the
country every summer. Now, Sally stays home because her mother
believes that the summer play facilities make a vacation in the country
no longer necessary. Walter goes to camp for two weeks every year.
Both children used to be very careless with their spending money.
However, since the organization of the Lavanburg Bank they save
their pennies and spend less on candy and ice cream. Mrs. Koch re-

The Diary 1927-1930 99

marked at this point, 'It has done the children a great deal of good
to live here. Before we came, they were inclined to be unsociable and
to play by themselves. Now, because of the games downstairs, they
mingle with other children and are much more free in their play.'

"Both parents attend the house lectures though they never before
had listened to any. They enjoyed especially the lectures on child
guidance. They have utilized a number of the ideas expounded by
Mr. P., such as encouraging the children to do small household daily
chores in exchange for an allowance.

"Mrs. Koch feels extremely grateful toward the office for the help
it extended in getting medical treatment for her son. Walter, up to a
short while ago, had persisted in wetting his bed every night. She
carried her problem to Mr. Goldfeld who recommended the Child
Guidance Clinic. The treatment was very helpful; the child has
overcome the bed-wetting habit and a highly nervous condition has
become somewhat relaxed. He has acquired more confidence in him-
self and his work at school and at home has improved.

"Mrs. Koch asked whether a young married men's and women's
club could be formed for the American-born living in the house."

Another interview with the mother of two children disclosed
several interesting things:

"Mrs. Leeman is an unusually heavy woman. She has an aggressive
mien. Her first complaint was about the difficulties of living on the
sixth floor. She said that climbing the stairs has caused considerable
trouble with her feet.

"This mother favors house activities, declaring that the children
learn from whatever they do and also that they are kept off the
streets. 'However,' she remarked, 'some people in the house think
activities keep children from doing homework but I believe if they
weren't busy with their activities they'd be in the street and they'd
not get their homework done anyhow. I believe the social part is a
good influence for the children.' She also mentioned that many
husbands and wives feel that their mates spend too much of their
time at these activities to the neglect of their own affairs.

"Mrs. Leeman's family used to spend their whole summer in the
country. Now the children spend just two weeks away from home,
because they find summer so comfortable here. Mrs. Leeman said, 'I
don't believe it is necessary to take my children away. The roof is a
vacation. I have no reason to spend the money.' "

i oo The Diary of a Housing Manager

[Unfortunately, after completing about twenty of these inter-
views, Miss Schaeffer was unable to continue the work. The
survey was never fully made.]

OCTOBER 9, 1930

Mrs. Milstein notified me today the family is leaving because of
financial difficulties. They have taken over a candy store and will live
in the two small rooms in the rear. She wept because she "hated to
leave such nice rooms," and asked me to promise her an opportunity
to return whenever she could afford it again.

OCTOBER 20, 1930

Due to the amount of time the children spend at the Center, some
mothers claim the activities affect their children's school-work. Others
do not agree. It would be helpful to find out the true state of affairs.
Will ask Mr. Rineberg to inquire of every mother her feeling about
the activities in relation to her children, and also to make a study of
the school records of all the Lavanburg children.

[After a study of the scholastic standing of the Lavanburg
children had been concluded, we learned that only a few children
were backward. These few, however, were not especially active
at the Center. All of those who took a strenuous part were either
average or above average. The attitude of the majority of the
mothers was in favor of their children playing at the Center.]


Mrs. Menshevitz in office very upset. Came to see whether I could
do anything about the late card-playing in the Fathers' Clubroom. I
had already heard of it, and I told her I would be glad to take the
matter up with the fathers. When she further pressed me to urge her
husband to spend more time at home, I reminded her that since that
was a family problem, she herself would have to handle it.

NOVEMBER 12, 1930

Porters reported that a three weeks' old baby was found in the C
hallway at 4: 30 A.M. Infant was turned over to the police.

The rent situation is becoming worse. There is an ever-growing
group of tenants who have difficulty paying their rent. This week 14
tenants owe for 56 weeks. Of course, the delinquencies are due to
unemployment and not because the tenants do not want to pay. I

The Diary 1927-1930 101

learned that a number of the wives have gone out to work at odd
jobs, and some have taken on night work as charwomen in office
buildings. We have helped some of the needy fathers and mothers
with part-time work about the building and in the Social Center.

NOVEMBER 17, 1930

Visited Mr. Bing of the board and went over the recent financial
report of the project with him. He thought that our expenses were
normal and even below the average. He said that considering our
large number of children, the repair bill was unusually low.


Took up with the directors the problem of rent arrears. It is obvious
that during the depression there will have to be a set policy about
accepting part-payment of the rent. Personally, and I hope the direc-
tors will see it my way, I think we should help the tenants in this
period. All of them previously paid on time and as yet I do not know
of anyone who is taking advantage of the existing situation.

[The directors concurred with my recommendation and as the
need arose, I adjusted the tenant's rent. Occasionally, as tenants
became re-employed, arrears were met. In 1933 a summary of
the rent situation showed the following:

27 families paid between 91% and 100% of standard rent






i family
4 families










A number of changes in club leaders. Some who had come in re-
sponse to our advertisement gradually dropped out. Whether this
was due to lack of time or the inconvenience of getting here, I do not

DECEMBER 2 6, 1930

The tenants met together to commemorate the third anniversary. I
addressed them on our three years' record, pointing out that there

102 The Diary of a Housing Manager

have been but twelve changes in tenancy and that no families were
ever dispossessed. Three of the fathers related how much they had
gained by living here. Mr. London emphasized his improvement in
public speaking due to his activity in the Fathers' Club and how that
had given him greater confidence in himself. There were other testi-
monials voiced in praise of living at the Lavanburg.

All was calm until one tenant took as a personal insult the remarks
made by one of the speakers. He jumped to his feet and made an
excited reply. The two men began to argue. However, in a few
minutes it all blew over. I saw them later walking together arm-in-

During her recital of a testimonial, Mrs. Mannheim expressed a
wish for new shades. This led to a discussion of the financial situation
of the Homes. Without mentioning names, I cited the fact that a
number of tenants were not paying full rent, and pointed out that we
must be careful with expenditures, because we incur a deficit even
when full rents are paid.

About seventy-five fathers and mothers attended the meeting and
all cliques were represented. The affair was well-conducted. With
the exception of the one tiff, everything ran smoothly.



The Fathers' Club has continued. The members still bicker end-
lessly over such details as whether the financial or recording secretary
should send out notices. One of the chief subjects for debate today
is how to bring pressure on members delinquent in dues.


The Mothers' Club confines itself chiefly to raising money for its
Camp Fund with which one child of all members in good standing is
sent away each year for a vacation. As many as thirty children bene-
fited during one summer. The American-born mothers have broken
away to organize their own club. They meet once a week to play
bridge or to go to the theatre. A bit of rivalry exists between the two

The summer activities on the roof attract a large number of adults
as well as children.

The interest of the adults in their clubs rises and falls through the
years. New families, who moved in during the last three years, helped
to revive the adult group and sustain the interest.


The Social Center program continues to be conducted by a
recreational director employed by the Foundation. In the last three
years he has been assisted by WPA workers. Several tenants, who pay
a part of their rent with this work, make up the rest of the staff.

The children still form an impatient line at opening time every
evening. About nine-tenths of the juvenile population of the Homes
and some two hundred from the neighborhood participate in the

The focus of communal life is either on the roof or at the Social
Center. During the winter of 1936 there were twenty-five different
group activities going on, ranging from the simple playroom for
children of four and five to a history-study club for boys of high


1 04 The Diary of a Housing Manager

school and college age. The house newspaper is published at irregular
intervals, written and edited by boys and girls of from eight to
twenty. A cooperative store, capitalized and managed by a group of
ten-year-old boys for the sale of candy, marbles and the like, paid
dividends. A bookbinding group, under the leadership of an unem-
ployed father whose trade is bookbinding, has charge of recondi-
tioning our library.

The "commissioners" and deputies have fallen in the rise of Lavan-
burg City. Now there is an elected mayor, a board of aldermen, com-
missioners of education and sanitation, in the pattern of the New York
City government. Control of our City's administration is effected
through a two-party system consisting of the Golds and the Silvers.
Nominated candidates make every effort to win the hotly-contested
elections. Their posters read, "Vote for the Golds! We stand for more

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