Josie left an extensive photo collection to her daughter when she passed away in 1995. There are almost 300 photos of all sizes and types. Josie had a box camera which she used extensively throughout the 1930s and 1940s. In the photos she took we have many scenes of the neighborhood around 66th Street where the family lived. There are also many studio photos taken as part of special occasions such as weddings and Holy Communion. Studio portraits of family members are also part of the collection. This posting is about the earliest photo we have of Emily Leatrice. She always said that she was born with blonde hair. Judging from this studio portratir her hair may have been a golden brown, perhaps a shade darker than popular 1930s child star Shirley Temple’s.
Emily Leatrice Serrapede, June 1932.
Close-up of the photo taken at the Studio of A. Della Monica, Gravesend, Brooklyn, NY.
Josie treasured her photo collection. We do not know how she did it but the photos have remained in good condition despite being stored in nothing but brown paper bags and then carefully stacked in brown cardboard boxes. Many of the original cardboard frames complete with the studio labels are still intact as well. Because of this we know the name of the photographer and the location of the studio for Emily Leatrice’s 1932 photo.
Emily Leatrice Serrapede was the daughter of Sam and Josie Serrapede. She was the older sister of Gerald and Sammy and EmilyAnn’s Mother. Emily was born at Coney Island Hosptial on April 18, 1931.
Albert Della Monica was the photographer who took the first studio portrait we have of Emily Leatrice. Mr. Della Monica is not in our family line but we found his story a good example of an Italian-American who achieved the American Dream twice over: he not only became a homeowner, he also established his own business. The Della Monica family’s story is featured in Part 2 of this posting.
How one detail shaped the storylines for this posting
The original photo, frame and studio label
Emily’s studio portrait came in a beautiful cardboard frame that included the label bearing the studio name and address. When we learned that the photographer was an A. Dell Monica at 2016 West 9th Street in Brooklyn, NY we decided to get creative. There was more to learn about the story behind this photo than we first expected. We now knew who the photographer was and where the studio was located. Uncle Sammy and I began to ask questions and seek the answers that helped bring the story to life.
How did the Serrapede family get to the photo studio?
The recurring image Uncle Sammy and I have of 1930s Brooklyn is that of a borough where people travelled everywhere by trolley car. What we often overlook is that the above ground and underground subway lines made travel across the borough much easier in some cases. With this in mind we explored the subway lines that would have taken Josie, Sam and baby Emily Leatrice from Dyker Heights to Gravesend where the Della Monica Studio was located. We think Josie and Sam would have travelled by subway since they did not like travel by trolley or bus.
Modern day route from 66th Street to West 9th Street. (Google Maps)
The buildings where the Serrapede family lived and where the studio was located are still in use. This makes recreating the trip much easier because we were able to place the studio amongst the other streets near the station. Along the modern day N line, the 20 minute trip starts at the Fort Hamilton Parkway station and goes straight on to the Avenue U station. The building on West 9th Street is a few blocks away.
We then discovered a 1931 subway map that made our trip back in time more authentic. We learned the names of all the above and underground lines. Soon we thought of Brooklyn as a borough with trolley AND subway lines.
NYC Subway map from 1931.
Close-up of the 1931 NYC Subway Map.
Uncle Sammy and I studied the 1931 Subway Map so we could recreate the trip from Josie and Sam’s apartment to the Della Monica Photo Studio. At first I thought they travelled on the Culver Line. In red I marked off the 13th Avenue Station as the starting point and the Avenue U station as the end point.
I turned out to be wrong. The Culver Line would have left the family at a point on Avenue U that was too far from where the photo studio was located. Uncle Sammy travelled to Avenue U with Josie and Sam as a child. They took the Sea Beach Line. The trip started at 62nd Street and Fort Hamilton Avenue (now called Ft. Hamilton Parkway) and ended at Avenue U. The Avenue U station on the Culver Line was too far from the location of the Della Monica Studio on 9th Street.
Uncle Sammy told me he remembers his Uncle Raimie lived between Avenues U and V near 9th Street. To get to the Della Monica Studio Jose, Sam and Emily Leatrice would take a bus or street car from the Sea Beach Avenue U station if the weather was bad. If the weather was good they would have walked. Uncle Sammy remembers that Raimie lived in this area for many years. He may have been the one to recommend the Della Monica Photo Studio.
Raimie was the nickname of Raymond Muro, Josie’s younger brother. He was Sammy and Emily Leatrice’s maternal Uncle and Michael Muro’s father.
(to be continued)