On this date in 1924, the Santa Ana Register published a frustrating human interest story under the tantalizing headline of “Science Restores Use of Legs To Seal Beach Boy.
According to the story, Miles Fandrey returned home with use of his legs partially restored after treatment at the children’s hospital in Los Angeles, and, even though Miles would have to use crutches in the short-term, the long-term prognosis was for Miles to be able use his legs completely without assistance. The article makes passing mention that medical science made this remarkable transformation possible for a boy whose legs were expected to remain useless. It also mentions that Miles came home with a collection of books, games, and other gifts from the hospital, but he happily set those aside when his “Seal Beach chums” showed up to celebrate his return home.
What is frustrating about this story is, while it tugs heavily on the heartstrings, it greatly lacks any substantial information. Who were the doctors treating Miles, and what did those treatments entail? Physical therapy? An operation? Drugs? We have no way of knowing at this point. The parents are not included in the story at all, and neither is any background on the boy’s exact disability. Was it due to an injury or had he never walked before? How old is the boy?
One is left with the impression that the nameless reporter of this piece had very little information and was vamping as best he could to fill a column space.
Further attempts to get more information about Miles Fandrey are equally frustrating. A newspaper database search for Miles shows only one entry — this 1924 Santa Ana Register story. You would expect there to be a follow-up story to chart the rest of his recovery or at least a hope-filled story about his going into the hospital for treatment, but, no, this is all we get.
Ancestry.com lists only one Miles Fandrey, and he would have been a youngster of eleven on February 15, 1924. Unfortunately, all the records for this Miles lists him as living in North Dakota in both the 1920 and 1930 census and also in the North Dakota census in 1925, A mere year after the Santa Ana Register story. Nowhere in the records for this Miles is there even a hint of a Seal Beach residence. There is a report of Miles’ father, Ira Fandrey, leaving for a trip to California in the November 26, 1903 Jamestown Weekly Alert, but this is a full nine years before Miles was born and there isn’t a clue about where in California Ira visited.
Perhaps the Jamestown Fandreys stayed in Seal Beach in 1924 when Miles was brought out to the west coast for a special medical treatment, but we’ll never know. North Dakota Miles passed away in 1997 at the age of eighty-four, so we can’t ask him.
– Michael Dobkins