Christmas Day, December 25, 2017


Tammy got a promotion to Manager of the Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, NY office of Through The Byzantine Gate.  She’s on winter break enjoying time with her little dogs Fabia and Julietta. 

We wish you a Christmas filled with love, peace and happiness and a Happy New Year.

With best wishes,

–Sammy Serrapede, Jr.
–EmilyAnn Frances May


Vi auguriamo un Natale pieno di amore, pace e felicita e un felice Anno Nuovo.

Con i migliori auguri,

–Sabbatino Serrapede
–Emilianna Francesca May








Christmas Break 2017: The Dyker Heights Lights

Christmas 2017

Every year I return to the neighborhood where I grew up.  As I walk up and down the blocks to the heart of Dyker Heights many memories come back.  Some happy, some sad.  Overall I still admire the beauty, the seclusion and the sense of continuity that flows through the area.  This is especially true when I return at Christmas.  As I get closer to the area between 80th to 84 Streets between 11th to 13th Avenues, the entire landscape transforms into an electric Christmas wonderland.

This year the lighting displays were more subdued.  There were no animated figures or loud music.  The crowds were absent, too.  This made this year closer and more intimate for me.  Small groups of people, many with children, congregated in front of the mini-mansions for fabulous photo ops.  As soon as the flash went off, though, they moved on and as a result the sidewalks were easily navigated.

The mini-mansions looked beautiful and grand this year.  What I liked the most was that the smaller houses, similar in size to the one I grew up in, also had a chance to shine with well thought out ornaments, displays and lights.  I decided to take pictures of these homes with just a few of the mini-mansions.  I hope you enjoy this short tour of the neighborhood where I grew up.  In the year ahead you will learn more about Dyker Heights as the story of the lives of my Mom and maternal Grandparents continues to unfold.

The photos I took may be reused freely.  A link back to this blog would be a great way to say “Thanks!”

Dyker Heights Christmas Lights 2017







Christmas 2017: Update on Mike, Katy and Jake


Christmas 2017-Jake

Jake Lingle, December 21, 2017.

Uncle Sammy and Aunt Kathie are headed for Baltimore, Maryland today.  They will spend Christmas with the Knipp and Lingle families.

Aunt Kathie anticipates more hugs and cuddles with her grandson Jake.  Jake was born in February 2017 to her son Michael and daughter-in-law Katy.

Michael sent the latest photo of Jake.  I think I see a little of Aunt Kathie in that bright smile!

Merry Christmas to the Knipp and Lingle families!


Previous Posts about Michael, Katy and Jake

Michael and Katy’s Wedding, Baltimore, MD, June 11, 2016

Baltimore June 10-12, 2016

41e-Baby Lingle is coming February 2017!

Interlude: Jake’s First Halloween




Christmas in Agropoli 2017

Cousin Michael Muro is spending the Christmas holiday in Agropoli.  His flight was late due to falling snow.  This necessitated Michael flying from Pittsburgh to Newark.  From Newark he flew to Toronto.  Then from Toronto to Rome.  He arrived safely in Agropoli this past Tuesday.

Michael told me via email it was raining when he first arrived.  He wasn’t able to get too many photos but I think the ones he sent give us a glimpse into how the town is decorated for the holidays.  I was very surprised to see the inflatable igloos and Santas that have been placed along some of the ancient streets.  We have similar inflatable displays here in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, New York, too.

Michael is staying with the Carnicelli family and plans to spend some time with Giuseppe and Vincenzo.  If time and schedules permit he will also visit other relatives.

Thank you, Michael for sending us these photos.  Merry Christmas to you, the Carnicelli family and all our extended family in Agropoli and Calabria.

–Sammy, Jr.


Michael is visiting the Carnicelli family.  From right to left:  Gerardo Carnicelli, zio Antonio Carnicelli, Maria and daughter Danielle(friends of Gerardo).


Michael is in the center of this large, lighted gift box in the Piazza of Agropoli.


Christmas tree made of lights in Piazza of Agropoli.



Christmas market in Agropoli.


Inflatable igloo and Santa’s helper located on one of the streets of Agropoli.


Another inflatable outdoor display forms an arch over one of the streets in Agropoli.



52d-Station Break: Shopping Lists and Rented Rooms in “Dime a dance”

Special Note

This is our last posting before going on winter break.  We’ll stop in during the next two weeks to exchange holiday greetings with our WordPress friends.  Regular posting will resume around the second week of January 2017.


Uncle Sammy and I did not plan to post about a Pre-Code 1930s film as part of our family history.  The scenes from “Dime a dance” complemented the discussion we were having about how much food and rent cost during the 1930s.  The difficulties of a young couple struggling on $160 a month in this film resonated after our research on this topic.  We hope you will enjoy the synopsis of this film along with some screen shots from the movie.

Synopsis of “Dime a dance” (1931)

In “Dime a dance” Barbara O’Neill (Barbara Stanwyck) is a young, single woman working as a taxi dancer.  She is in love with Eddie Miller (Monroe Owsley) whom she meets at the boarding house where they live.  Eddie comes across as a shy, sensitive guy who just needs a break in life.  There is another contender for Barbara’s affections.  Suave, wealthy businessman Bradley Carlton (Ricardo Cortez) is struck by Barbara’s honesty and independence.  Despite the gifts and tips he gives her at the dance hall Barbara remains unmoved.

Barbara marries Eddie after he makes her leave her job.  Life does not go well as he constantly needs money.  Less than a year into their marriage, the couple is in debt and Barbara learns Eddie is not the man she thought he was.  In her troubles she turns to Bradley for help.

I won’t spoil the rest of the story since I think it’s worth checking out this Pre-Code film.  A very young Barbara Stanwyck gives a good performance.  She’s still developing her style but you’ll see the actress of substance she was to become shortly before the end of the film.

What is a taxi dancer?

The term taxi dancer is a descriptive way to define the relationship of the dancer to the patron of a dance palace.  Patrons bought tickets for ten cents each dance.  The dancer took one ticket for one dance.  In a way, it is like going into a taxi cab.  Once the drive starts, the meter is on for the rest of the trip.  To continue on with the same partner for another dance, the patron has to have another ticket.  This gave rise to the phrase “dime a dance girl” to describe the women who worked as taxi dancers.

Taxi dancers lived a very precarious existence.  They were paid a nickel off of every ten cent ticket they took in.  Assuming a dancer took 5 minutes for one dance, she could make 60 cents an hour.  There had to be break time in-between so I’d estimate that in total the dancer could make $4.00 more or less per day.  For a 6 day week her total would be about $20-24.  The dancer would have to be very resilient and focused so that she maintained a steady clientele.  Without them her daily take could fluctuate too much.

Continue reading “52d-Station Break: Shopping Lists and Rented Rooms in “Dime a dance””

52c-Serrapede Family in America-1930s: $120 a month (Part 2c)-Conclusion


This posting completes the series on our review of the average monthly salary of a worker and how families in this income group lived.  The previous postings were:

52c-Serrapede Family in America-1930s: $120 a month (Part 2a)

52c-Serrapede Family in America-1930s: $120 a month (Part 2b)

The discussion Uncle Sammy and I had about this topic follows in the next section.  All resources used for this series are also included.

Discussion with Uncle Sammy, Sunday, January 31, 2016 11-11:50 a.m.

Mom never spoke about her parents buying health or life insurance. Uncle Sammy confirmed this. So as far as the 1931 budget for $120-130 a month went, the $7 in Barbara Jane’s budget for insurance would go elsewhere in the Serrapede household. Josie became a member of the ILGWU in the late 1940s-early 1950s. Sam entered the local Building Worker’s Union sometime in the 1950s after he got a job as a doorman at a luxury high-rise in Manhattan. Uncle Sammy remembers that any insurance policies Josie and Sam had were all provided through their union jobs. This includes health insurance and life insurance. They did not buy insurance on the individual market.

Josie and Sam had only one credit account and that was at Sam’s Grocery Store on 11th Avenue at the corner of 66th Street. Sam of the grocery store was not related to our Sam. Josie paid Sam the grocer $10 a week towards her purchases. Anything exceeding that amount was posted to her house account. If she spent less a credit was posted. At the end of the year, the remaining amount owed was paid out of the tips Sam collected at Christmas from the tenants of the building where he worked. Uncle Sammy said the tenants were generous since they liked Sam very much. Paying off the balance owed Sam the grocer was never difficult.

Continue reading “52c-Serrapede Family in America-1930s: $120 a month (Part 2c)-Conclusion”