Interlude: All Hallows 2017

Interlude-All Hallows 2017

The Harvest Moon
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1807 – 1882

It is the Harvest Moon! On gilded vanes
And roofs of villages, on woodland crests
And their aerial neighborhoods of nests
Deserted, on the curtained window-panes

Of rooms where children sleep, on country lanes
And harvest-fields, its mystic splendor rests!
Gone are the birds that were our summer guests,
With the last sheaves return the laboring wains!

All things are symbols: the external shows
Of Nature have their image in the mind,
As flowers and fruits and falling of the leaves;

The song-birds leave us at the summer’s close,
Only the empty nests are left behind,
And pipings of the quail among the sheaves.

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It is that special time of the year when the pause between Autumn and Winter occurs.  The three days of Halloween (All Hallows Eve), All Saints Day and All Souls Day that take place from October 31st through November 2nd are filled with a special atmosphere for those who partake in the festivities and solemnities of the three days.

My late Mom and I used this time to combine the various elements into a personal time for seclusion, reflection on mortality and consideration of the life to come.  While Mom still lived with me, we would have an evening tea with cups of Darjeeling tea, tea biscuits filled with raisins and citrons by the light of a carved pumpkin with a candle inside.  Earlier we’d given out the treat bags filled with pennies and packaged candies to the little costumed children who rang the doorbell.  The quiet after sunset and the candle light in the kitchen provided a sense of being between the worlds.

We shared memories of our beloved departed.  No photos or keepsakes were brought out, just our words and the events we remembered were shared.  The next day we attended mass together before I left for work.  We refrained from TV, radio, newspapers and small talk during these three days.  None of this is required by the holiday but we willingly undertook abstaining from engagement with the outside as a way to recall as vividly as possible those who have gone on before us to the Greater Life.

I invite you to join me in prayer or in spirit as the time comes, as it does every year, to consider the cycles of life and the seasons of the year beyond what we see and delve into the deeper meanings behind it all.

–EmilyAnn Frances May
All Hallows 2017

 

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Poem is in the public domain.
Courtesy Poets.org
https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/harvest-moon
“Harvest Moon”
Photo-Public Domain
by C.E. Price
Wikimedia Commons
http://tinyurl.com/yabagdyz
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52b-Serrapede Family in America: The Great Depression-$120 a month (Part 1a)

Relationship Notes

Uncle Sammy and I have decided to simplify how we address our immediate family members in this and forthcoming blog postings.  To avoid confusing readers we will be using their first names.  Since the both of us are working on this blog it can become confusing if I say “My Mom Emily Leatrice told me…” and then Uncle Sammy’s contributions are phrased, “My Sister (Emily) did….”

At the start of each posting we’ll put a key describing our relationships to the people named in the posting.  This will help the narrative be easier to read.

In this posting is featured:

*Sam Serrapede:  Husband of Josie and father of Emily Leatrice, Gerald and Sammy.  EmilyAnn’s maternal Grandfather.

Our Family Stories, A New Feature in Our Family History Postings

This section will follow the research and any documentation presented in a posting and precedes the section where Uncle Sammy and I discuss and compare the results of our research with the stories and memories passed down in our family.

At the end of each family story will be given the source of the story and which one of us is now retelling it.

You may wonder how we can have so many stories and anecdotes to share.  Everything that happened in the lives of the Serrapede and Muro families became an opportunity to learn something.  During family gatherings or phone calls or casual visits, lessons learned were always shared from the experiences had in everyday life.  Since these lessons were often repeated to us they became part of our inner library to reference when it was time to think something through.

My Mom started this process with me when I was 4 or 5 years old.  She was not one to bring up the stories on her own.  I learned to seek her out.  By being patient and asking questions Mom began to assume the role of an expert story teller as she taught me lessons in life by this means.  In telling the stories of her family she’d leave off and pick-up on telling them at different times.  Mom would question me if I remembered what she told me previously before continuing the story.  In time I knew them as well, and sometimes better, than my schoolwork.  I was able to relate to her entire family without any difficulty because I knew all the intricacies of the relationships.

Uncle Sammy did not experience the telling of family stories in the manner I did.  He heard them during the times everyone gathered together for a special event.  Mostly his stories which we’ll share here are based on his own experiences.

Introduction

Josie Muro Serrapede left us a collection of over 250 photos of the family which span the years from the late 1920s through the 1960s.  The rest of the photos from the 1970s onward consist of Josie’s photos and ones given to her by relatives, my parents or me.  The photos that make up the Josie Muro Serrapede Collection are rich in detail.  As we study them we learn:

• The photographs of the family taken outside the apartments they live in help us identify the economic level of the community.  It was the section of Dyker Heights between 11th, 12th and 13th Avenues in the 60 Streets.  Here many hard working Italian immigrants lived.  The community was a combination of working class and modestly middle class residents.
• The family never looked hungry or gaunt.
• Their clothing was well cared for.
• Emily had many toys.
• There were many studio portraits of Emily and her baby brother Gerald.
• The Serrapede family shared happy times with their neighbors.
• There were many photos exchanged between Sam and his sister Philomena.

We will make use of these photos in future postings.

The photos show us that the basic needs were being met for housing, clothing and socialization.  Josie was very resourceful and a good cook so the family could be assured of something to eat at each meal.  For the reader the question arises as to how much money Sam made as a bootblack and if his salary alone supported the family.  There was not much information available about the average salary of a bootblack during the Great Depression.  We did learn a little about the history and have thought about some of the reasons why our immigrant ancestors might have found the work appealing.

For a married couple starting out $120 a month was considered a bare minimum to live on with a little left over for savings.  We’ll detail the sources of that info along with the budget in the next posting.  For this one we came away with the impression that if a bootblack worked hard enough and was resourceful he could get by.  Sam and Josie knew the Carnicelli family on 65th Street in Dyker Heights.  Joseph Carnicelli worked as a bootblack according to the 1930 and 1940 Federal Census records.  He was able to save enough money to become co-owner in a multi-family dwelling.  We still are amazed how the first generation managed to achieve so much even on a small salary.

The Shoe Shine Boy

In Western countries the profession of a shoe shiner or bootblack has been looked down upon.  In developing countries it is still the main source of income in some families.  Young boys get started in this line of work as a way to supplement or provide income in the family when the father is too ill to work.  In the U.K. a positive attitude is growing towards the shoe shiner.  Those who work in London’s financial district are knowledgeable about local events and willing to provide advice.  The clients look forward to the conversation as much as the shoe shine!

 52b-ragged20dick_zpsultjsjiz
Front piece from a “Ragged Dick” story.

The role of the shoe shine boy was the subject of a popular novel “Ragged Dick” by Horatio Alger.  The story depicted the rise of a young shoe shiner into the ranks of the middle class through honesty, hard work and sincerity.  The story was set in the late 19th century in New York City.  The front plate of one Ragged Dick book shows a luggage boy, two shoe shiners and a newsboy.  The book was published in 1895.  In a few years, Italian immigrant men would be among the adults competing with the boys for these jobs.

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52a-Serrapede Family in America: The Great Depression, Part 2

(This posting is a continuation of 52a-Serrapede Family in America: The Great Depression, Part 1)

Discussion with Uncle Sammy on Sunday, January 24, 2016

Topic:  What do you associate with the 1930s?

EmilyAnn:  First, I think of what happened on the day the Stock Market Crashed in 1929.  Mom told me that some investors were so shocked or ruined that they soon committed suicide.  Dad always said that as bad as things were that should never have happened.  People live through tough times by drawing closer to each other. Mom and Dad repeatedly emphasized this. With this in mind I wondered how people coped.

My parents and grandparents often told me that the movies offered a great escape.  I think of the Endicott Theatre that was located on 13th Avenue and 70th Street.  Mom and Dad shared many of their memories with me about their happy times at the Saturday afternoon matinees.  One of Mom’s favorite series of films came out towards the end of the 1930s.  She was a fan of Mickey Rooney and the “Andy Hardy” films he made.  Mom thought he was cute.  I couldn’t understand the appeal because as a child I knew Mickey Rooney as an older actor.  When I saw the photos of him as a teenage star I quickly understood how Mom, as a 6 or 7 year old girl, could develop a crush on him.

52a-mickey20rooney_zps7sddjag6
Opening credit for Mickey Rooney from 1939 film, “Babes in Arms.”

Continue reading

52a-Serrapede Family in America: The Great Depression, Part 1

Introduction

Josie Muro married Sam Serrapede on March 2, 1930. Their daughter Emily Leatrice was born on April 18, 1931. At some point after Emily’s birth the family moved from Bath Beach, Brooklyn to Dyker Heights. To better understand what their lives were like during the Great Depression, we are going to take a look at the everyday life of the 1930s using articles from The Brooklyn Daily Eagle in the postings after this one. Our goal is to see how family stories match up to the events reported in the news of the day. There is great benefit to using the newspapers of the time period under review: we get to “hear” the voices of the era. Since the publications of any time period lack the kind of filters a contemporary author might put in, we have a more direct contact with the past and the mindset of that time. We are also going to use reading material from current sources that provide additional information and insight into what we find in The Brooklyn Daily Eagle and our family stories.

What comes to mind when you hear the words, “The 1930s” or “The Great Depression of the 1930s”? Be honest as you think on this question. Uncle Sammy and I will share our thoughts after this brief overview on events leading up to the Great Depression.

Overview on what caused the Great Depression

The Roaring ‘20s are commonly thought to have been an era of great prosperity. They are depicted in movies as times when women and men mingled more freely than previous generations. Money was easy to come by and everyone had a good time. But that is what has come down in popular culture. The income inequalities and differences between the haves and have-nots were masked by the low unemployment rate throughout the decade.

There was hardship among farmers who lost their overseas markets at the end of WWI. Bad weather, drought and dust storms also affected the ability of the farmers to make a living. Food prices declined adding to the hardships they had to sustain. Continue reading