38a-Muro Family in America: Horses, trolleys, trains and automobiles


As the Industrial Revolution progressed, the populations in urban areas swelled leading to congestion. With the increase in people, came an increase in the use and demand for horses. They were needed for personal and business related transportation. At the turn of the 20th century, the horse could no longer serve as the chief method of transportation.

There were many reasons why urban planners in major cities around the world sought for ways to bring order into the streets. First, horses were unpredictable. Even a good rider on horseback or a skilled coachman might not be able to rein in a frightened horse in time. Horses are skittish and any shock can send them out of control. Second, the streets were used by horses and pedestrians at the same time. There was no thought of where children should play or where people should walk. Pedestrians, horse drawn carts and people on horseback all moved around at the same time in the streets. Third, the increase in the amount of horse manure and urine on the city streets had exceeded the ability of cities to clean up fast enough. The results were large open lots where the waste matter was disposed of. This brought flies and disease in its wake. Fourth, horses were expensive to maintain. Business owners who used them for transportation worked them as hard as possible and put them down when they got sick or collapsed.

As the automobile came into usage, people at first considered it a very risky form of transportation. As improvements were made people began to consider it as a preferred alternative to the horse. Unlike the way we view cars as a major source of pollution today, the automobile was considered a cleaner form of transportation than the horse. By 1920 America had begun what is now called “the love affair with the automobile.” Changes in pedestrian behavior were affected by public awareness campaigns and motorist safety courses offered by such automobile clubs as AAA in the early 1920s. People learned that it was better to walk on the pavement and leave the streets to the cars and trolleys that were now dominant forms of transportation in the big cities and medium sized towns.

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37-The Towns of Turtle Creek Valley: Pitcairn


Uncle Sammy and I decided to include brief entries whenever possible about the towns near Wilmerding. During our visits to Pennsylvania we sometimes went to visit these towns because relatives lived there. The towns were very close and at times it seemed like one flowed into another. This was because of the closeness the relatives maintained and the frequency of their visits.

The towns of Turtle Creek Valley: Pitcairn


Pitcairn Street Scene, circa 1910.
Public Domain. Image courtesy of Monroeville Historical Society.


 Map of Pitcairn, circa 1901

Pitcairn started as a village where a railyard was constructed near Turtle Creek.   It was incorporated as a village in 1894. The town had a major switching yard for the Pennsylvania Railroad. Population peaked between 1910 through 1940. After this time there was a decline in the ability of the railroad yards and shops to provide employment.

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Coffee Break: Change in posting schedule

Greetings to all readers and subscribers of “Through the Byzantine Gate”.  After a long, hot summer it’s good that Autumn is here.  We’ve resumed our weekly research and discussion sessions.  There will be many, many more chapters to the Muro and Serrapede family history forthcoming.

To accommodate our work and travel schedules the frequency of posting will change.  We’re moving to a twice monthly posting rather than a weekly posting.  This provides more time to proofread and tweak the drafts created in the past.  My Uncle and I are roughly 6 months ahead in our progress.

As we near the 1940s, the availability of Federal Census records ends.  With the end of available census records a change in our approach is needed.  The question under consideration is how to move the narrative forward and keep our readers engaged.  We intend to continue looking at the story from the family perspective as well as the bigger picture.  It is our purpose to always provide a take-away for the reader.

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36-Muro Family in America-Nick and Letizia’s children go to school


The Summer Break of 2016 is over and we’re resuming our family history postings.  In the last posting before our break we reviewed events in the news related to public school education and community activities in the state of Pennsylvania during the time Nick and Letizia’s children began their school years.  We continue on the topic of public school education, this time focusing on the information available about schools in Wilmerding in the same time period (circa 1915 through the 1920s).

The Muro family passed on to their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren a love of learning, reading and ongoing self-improvement through education. To better understand the roots of this influence we are continuing our readings and discussions of the public school education which the Muro children received in Wilmerding, Pennsylvania.

We have learned that “The Wilmerding Times” has not been digitized at the Library of Congress. We will continue, therefore, to research news articles of the period 1912-1920 in other Pennsylvania newspapers available at the Library of Congress. Our focus concerns changes that were made to public school system on a local and state wide basis in Pennsylvania. This will, in some ways, give us an overview of what forces were at work throughout the state and the influence on the Muro children.

We have also researched public domain images and found some wonderful vintage postcards that offer us a view of the parts of town where the early Public Schools were located. We also found a map that gives us an idea of where the Muro family lived in relation to the nearest school their children might have attended.

Meet Letizia and Nick’s children

Nick and Letizia Muro’s first child, Giuseppa, was born in Agropoli on November 1st, 1909. After coming to the United States everyone called Giuseppa Josie.

The next five children were born after Letizia and Josie joined Nick in Wilmerding in 1912. They are:

Peter James, born June 3, 1913
Louis, born July 4, 1914
Philomena, born November 21, 1916
Ernest, born February 17, 1919
Rosie (Rose, Rose Marie), born March 20, 1920

The children were not only close in age but also close in their relationships to each other throughout their lives. As they matured and married some moved to Brooklyn, NY (Josie, Philomena and Rosie) and others Ohio (Louis). Peter moved to Baltimore in the early years of his marriage during the 1930s but returned to Wilmerding around 1937. He remained close to his parents all his life. Ernest died as the result of an accident which we will cover in another posting.

The Neighborhood School in relation to where the Muros Lived 


1897 Planning Map of Wilmerding.

We located a very helpful planning map dated 1897 at the Library of Congress. At first it appeared more like a vintage postcard. In the center is the Westinghouse Air Brake Company. In the foreground are the many homes that were first built in the main part of town facing the front of the factory. Here many of the management and executive level employees lived.

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36g-Staycation 2016: Simple Abundance in Brooklyn, Part 2


My Simple Abundance Cliché Collage.  This was how I envisioned the perfect hostess to be as I became aware of all the work my Mom, Grandmothers and Aunties put into their home entertaining. These  perceptions were fed by television and advertisements of the mid 1950s through 1960s.

The weather here in Brooklyn continues to be hot and humid.  My mood is to continue, a little longer, with the easier and lighter readings suitable to a break.  Autumn with it’s cool, crisp, clear skies and breezes still has to arrive and awaken us from the sleepy, dreamy pace of summer.  For these reasons I’m continuing with the postings about my Staycation 2016 activities.  Many of them focus on the Serrapede family history and also bring in some memories about the Torregrossa family which is my paternal line.  I think one memory that we all share, across all cultures, is that of the family coming together at a holiday to enjoy a home cooked meal at the house of one of our matriarchs.  She could be our Mom, Grandmother, Auntie, Godmother, or even a beloved Cousin.  Whoever she is she has created a celebration that in turn sustains us in future times when we need to recall that memory and the values it affirms.

One of the Simple Abundance collages I started in the Spring and completed over my Staycation is called a Cliché Collage.  It is one of the first collages Sarah Ban Breathnach has the reader create.  The Cliché Collages help me clear my mind of ideas I acquired from outside sources.  After creating a Cliché Collage, it is easier for me to assemble the images I need that reflect more accurately my true feelings on the topic.  .  For this entertainment cliché collage I discovered one of the reasons why I found the idea of home entertainment so burdensome when I was a child and young adult.

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36f-Staycation 2016: Simple Abundance in Brooklyn, Part 1



From top going clockwise:  Simple Abundance workbook, Gratitude Journal, a small Peter Pauper Press Notebook used for the Conversation Journal, and the Simple Abundance Day Book.

Summer of 2016 was too hot and too humid for me to want to go anywhere.  Rather than fight the way in which the weather slows everything down, I just went with the flow.  Work was very busy throughout this time which was very good for all of us.  Since I had to keep my energy and focus on work I found different ways of coping with the heat.

One was to get up very early in the morning and resume my work on the Simple Abundance program.  Writer Sarah Ban Breathnach worte the Simple Abunance Daybook in the early-mid 1990s when the world economy was in a recession.  Her message of finding happiness in a life aligned with joy, harmony, order and simplicity still resonates for many harried women today.  My late Mom used the Daybook on and off until the time she had to go live in a residence because of the advance symptoms of Parkinsonism.  The focus she brought to our daily  lives bore her own interpretation of Simple Abundance and created a chapter in the last years of our household that were creative, productive and life enriching despite sickness, unemployment and financial difficulties.  Together we realized these things can be problems that overwhelm us or they can be looked at as challenges we would overcome.  A great deal of the enjoyment we got each day  came from such such simple activities as walks, planning a tea time, selecting a muffin mix, feeding the squirrels and birds in the park.  Seeing programs on PBS such as “As Time Goes By” and “Keeping up appearances” was another way we slowed down and enjoyed ourselves at home.  Following soap operas like “All My Children” or renting DVDs of Hollywood Classic films was another activity we enjoyed at home.  We also shared and supported each other’s creative projects such as latchwork, sewing and journaling.  These are just some of the ways we were able to focus on the present.  The rush to the next thing we felt compelled to do was controlled and we regained our ability to slow down.

During the Summer of 2016, I worked through the program using the Gratitude Journal every night.  Having to write down five things to be grateful for every evening was not as difficult as I thought.  I found that the Daily Conversation Journal, used each morning, complemented the Gratitude Journal at night.  At first I started to complain in my journal about the weather each day.  At night the Gratitude Journal contained negative entries with comments like “Another hot day over at last!”  After a few days like this I was bored with myself and wanted to find something happy and spontaneous to enter to the journal.  What happened was that my mind recollected many happy memories.

Concentrating on simple enjoyments like a juicy orange or piece of watermelon, a smooth and frosty ice coffee, along with memories of childhood visits to my Grandmothers made the staycation days a journey to other times and places long gone but not forgotten.  These memories helped me create collages for another book I’m using in the Simple Abundance program:  the creation of a visual autobiography through the creation of collages.  The workbook offers guidelines for the creation of each collage but the focus and results spring up from a place deep within.  I was amazed at how the pieces came together using clip art, printouts of vintage illustrations, stickers and text.  Each collage flowed out a little at a time and during certain sessions when I created them I was so delightfully involved that the heat, humidity and noise outside were forgotten.


One theme for a collage centers around what activities kept one amused and happy as a child.  I created two collages over the summer.  One each focusing on visits for my paternal and maternal Grandmothers.  Visiting Grandma Josie Serrapede was always a very relaxing and happy time for me.  I loved to take naps after Sunday afternoon supper  at her house.  Another favorite nap time was early on a Saturday morning at home.  After starting  first grade my naptime took place only on weekends.  Sometimes I retreated to my room at home and made a sort of ritual out of the time I spent before going to sleep.  I loved to look through my Mom’s childhood story books with beautiful illustrations.  Having all my toys around me also felt very good.  Playing with paper dolls in my room or using the little chain stitch sewing machine Grandpa Sam and Grandma Josie gave me also helped me relax.  When I finally went to sleep I had happy dreams and awoke ready to play with Tressy, Tammy or Barbie.

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36e-Made in Italy (Part 2)


Aunt Kathie and Uncle Sammy surprised me with a beautiful gift from Italy.  I never expected to get a cameo that has my initial.  I love the mix of modernity and tradition it has.  Now I’m thinking of getting a new white blouse to wear with it.  I may even have a jeweler put a gold loop through the hole so I can replace the cord with a short gold chain.

Cameo by APA

This cameo was made from a sea shell.  The artisans have to go through several layers in the shell to reach the darker background that provides the contrast.