15a-Station Break: Sunday Afternoon Dinner in an Italian-American household

In North Boston, Wednesday is Prince Spaghetti Day (1969)

When this commercial was made, Uncle Sammy and his first wife Annie lived in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, New York. I attended New Utrecht High School and lived at home on 79th Street in Dyker Heights. The predominant ethnic group was Italian-American but the customs were not like those depicted in this commercial. Wednesday was a weekday. Children had to do homework and get to bed early. Parents had to clean-up and get ready for the next day. Meals were never so elaborate during the week. The scenes depicted in this commercial were more typical of dinner during a Sunday afternoon amongst the families we knew in our part of Brooklyn.

Relationship Notes

Sabato Serrapede was the son of Gennaro and Emilia (nee Pappalardo) Serrapede.  Josie Muro was the daughter of Nicola and Letizia (nee Scotti) Muro.

Jose and Sabato married in 1930. They were:

–Sammy’s parents
–EmilyAnn’s maternal Grandparents

My Memories of Sunday Afternoon Dinners

Sunday was the day when all the stores were closed because the Blue Laws were still in effect. These laws required certain places of business like bars to be closed because it was the Sabbath day. There were restaurants that were open but little else. There was a sense of stillness and a suspension of the routine we lived during the rest of the week.

Among the people I knew, families went to church if they were religious.  Others got into their cars early for a drive to someplace like Shore Road where they’d relax and enjoy themselves.

In the Italian American community the Sunday afternoon dinner was the main social event of the day. Preparations began on Friday . Shopping was done between Friday and Saturday afternoon. The tomato sauce was started Saturday night in some households or early Sunday morning in others.

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14-Growing up Italian-American: Attitudes about dating

A busy street in Rome, summer of 1976.

Introduction

This posting focuses on the culture shock I experienced during the first week in Rome in the summer of 1976. My maternal grandparents and I were in Italy to visit relatives in Rome and our ancestral hometown of Agropoli. I was not prepared for the flirtatious nature of the men in Rome. I was even less prepared for the conservative attitudes about women who wanted to be out and about on their own.

Rome 1976: A young woman needs to be accompanied when she goes out

Our first week in Rome brought me into contact with many good looking men of all ages. They flirted and winked when Grandma Josie, Italia and I went out sightseeing and shopping. “Bella, Bella!” they often said. Grandma Josie was amused. Italia was not.

I had expected Italians to be more liberal in their attitudes about dress and interactions on the street. In Dyker Heights many girls wore short-shorts and halter tops when going out on a hot summer day. An attractive girl would be rated by young men driving down the block. They’d honk the car horn a few times. Sometimes they’d open the windows and go “Hey, Hey, Hey!” This was followed by a thumbs-up as they drove past.

Italia spoke very animatedly to Grandma Josie. She explained that it would not be acceptable for the older generation to see me only in shorts once we got to Agropoli. If we were going to the beach they were acceptable. Otherwise it would be best if I wore lightweight cotton slacks or dresses with the longer hemlines that were becoming the rage in Europe.

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13-Serrapede Family in Agropoli: A Mother’s Influence on Her Sons

Introduction

In the previous series of letters to Great Grandmother Emilia Pappalardo Serrapede, I presented  reflections about how I have drawn closer to her in spirit. I based my reflection on getting to know her by remembering observations I made of her daughter and granddaughter.

On January 18, 2015 Uncle Sammy offered the results of his recollections of his father (Sabato) and Uncle Funzie (Alfonso). They were, respectively, Emilia’s oldest and youngest sons. Uncle Sammy told me that a mother’s influence carries on to her sons, as well. We considered the habits of Sabato and Alfonso and after our discussion agreed that these are the kinds of habits learned at an early age from one’s mother.

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12d-Emilia Pappalardo Serrapede-A Letter to my Great-Grandmother (Part 3)

Introduction

This letter is the last in a series about my maternal Great Grandmother Emilia Pappalardo Serrapede.  As a way to get to know her I recalled her daughter and granddaughter with whom I stayed during a vacation in Italy in 1976.  I believe that we inherit patterns of behavior from our parents.  In turn some of those behaviors have been transmitted from earlier generations. When a pattern consistently recurs within a family we can think on it and draw closer in spirit to the past.  We might even be able to better understand our ancestors as people and not just names and dates on the family tree.  This is made possible when we have family stories and factual data to add to our time spent in reflection.  After considering certain similarities between Great Aunt Italia and Cousin Italia I did feel closer to Great Grandmother Emilia.  When I think of her now I also recall the roses outside of Great Aunt Italia’s window and the warmth of the summer afternoons in Agropoli.

Relationship Notes

Emilia Pappalardo Serrapede was the wife of Gennaro Serrapede. She was my maternal Great Grandmother.

Great Aunt Italia: Daughter of Emilia and Gennaro. Mother of Cousin Italia. Sister of Grandpa Sam.

Cousin Italia: Daughter of Great Aunt Italia. Niece of Grandpa Sam. Wife of Antonio. Mother of Stefania. She is my First Cousin 1X Removed.

Great Aunt Filomena: Emilia’s oldest child and the favorite sister of Grandpa Sam.

Grandpa Sam (Sabato): Son of Emilia and Gennaro. Brother of Great Aunts Filomena and Italia. My maternal Grandfather.

Grandma Josie: My maternal Grandmother.

Letter No. 3

January 9, 2015
6:45 p.m.

Dearest Great Grandmother Emilia,

Cousin Italia worked very hard to make Grandma Josie, Grandpa Sam and I comfortable during our visit.  I’m sure you are proud of your lovely Granddaughter.  While we were in Rome she shopped everyday for fresh food which she prepared into simple and tasty meals.  She set a beautiful table even at breakfast.  She was always dressed in a crisp cotton blouse and skirt.  Grandpa Sam, Grandma Josie and I would wake up to find her at work making the café au lait, toast and getting fresh fruit arranged on a plate for us.  It was a different kind of breakfast for me.  I grew to like it very much, especially the fresh oranges and figs.  Continue reading

12c-Serrapede Family in Agropoli: A Letter to Great Grandmother Emilia (2 of 3)

Introduction

This letter continues the series of postings about reflections on my Great Grandmother which started in posting 12b.  In the second letter I consider the kindness shown to me by Great Aunt Italia.

Relationship Notes

Emilia Pappalardo Serrapede was the wife of Gennaro Serrapede. She was my maternal Great Grandmother.

Great Aunt Italia: Daughter of Emilia and Gennaro. Mother of Cousin Italia. Sister of Grandpa Sam.

Cousin Italia: Daughter of Great Aunt Italia. Niece of Grandpa Sam. Wife of Antonio. Mother of Stefania. She is my First Cousin 1X Removed.

Great Aunt Filomena: Emilia’s oldest child and the favorite sister of Grandpa Sam.

Grandpa Sam (Sabato): Son of Emilia and Gennaro. Brother of Great Aunts Filomena and  Italia. My maternal Grandfather.

Grandma Josie: My maternal Grandmother.

Uncle Sammy (Sabbatino): Son of Grandpa Sam and Grandma Josie. My maternal Uncle.

Second Letter

January 8, 2015
6:39 p.m.

Dearest Great Grandmother Emilia:

I love to look at the photos of the vacation in Agropoli so long ago.  They bring back memories of the sunlight shimmering over the sea while we walked to Great Aunt Italia’s in the freshness of early morning.  Grandpa Sam stayed behind on the day Cousin Italia, Grandma Josie and I went to visit members of the Scotti family in the Old Town.  It was on that morning I saw the house where Grandma Josie was born.

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