56a-Serrapede Family in America-A Depression Era Childhood-Little Treats, Part 1


Despite growing up during the Great Depression, Emily Leatrice never felt deprived. She remembered her early childhood fondly and would recount stories about the little pleasures that made her days special and life sweet.

We’ve focused on the memories and family stories Emily shared with us and round them out with additional details gathered from the readings noted in the Resources section.

–Sam Serrapede, Jr.

–EmilyAnn Frances May

Relationship Note

Emily L. Serrapede (1931-2011)  was the daughter of Sam and Josie Serrapede. She was the older sister of Gerry and Sammy. EmilyAnn knew her as “The Mom.”

 Family Story: The Little Mouse

Emily liked to be in the kitchen on Sunday mornings whenever Sam was grating a chunk of Locatelli or Romano cheese. Josie was usually at the stove heating up the tomato sauce and cooking the pasta that were part of the main meal for the day.

 As Sam grated the cheese Emily would stare at him until he stopped and asked her “Che fa? (“What’s up?”) Emily pointed to the large chunk of cheese and said one word, “Please?” Sam laughed and cut off a small piece which she took and enjoyed eating.

 In a few minutes she’d come back and stare at him again. This time he’d ask her what she wanted and she would reach over for the chunk of cheese. He’d cut another little piece and she’d go into the living room and enjoy the sharp flavor of the cheese.

 When she came back again, Sam would tell her to get out of the kitchen quick otherwise she’d turn into a mouse. Emily was not to be deterred and she’d wait for one more little piece before calling it a day. She knew that more than three times would get her into trouble.


Italian cheeses and olive oils were very expensive during the Great Depression. Since food preparation linked the family to their own culture and ancestral country many Italian families went without newer clothing or shoes just to make sure the quality of the traditional dietary items was the best they could get. This might be one of the reasons why Sam carefully measured out the size of the slices of cheese he would give Emily.

Continue reading “56a-Serrapede Family in America-A Depression Era Childhood-Little Treats, Part 1”

55-Serrapede Family in America-Tap Dancing at Football Weddings in the 1930 and 1940s (Part 2)


This posting is a continuation of 55-Serrapede Family in America-Tap Dancing at Football Weddings in the 1930 and 1940s (Part 1).  This week Uncle Sammy and I present the research results for the various elements of the family story.  Uncle Sammy also shares his memories of attending “Football Weddings” as a child.  The findings add a depth to the retelling of the story and connect it to the bigger trends in pop-culture and growing up in the Italian-American community of Dyker Heights during the 1930s through 1940s.

Tap Dancing: An American dance form derived from African, English and Irish influences

Tap dancing developed through a melding of the percussive dancing of African slaves during the 19th century. In this type of dancing the feet are used in a way that makes a beating or sliding sound. When their English and Irish owners watched the dances they picked up on the rhythmic movements and added steps from their own traditional jigs and reels. From this blending of different elements tap dancing began. In the late 19th century tap dancing was a feature of Minstrel shows. Later in the early 20th century it was performed at Vaudeville shows.

In the early stages of its evolution, tap dancing shoes used wooden taps on the shoes to create a distinctive sound. Metal taps came into use in the 1930s. By this time tap dancing was part of mainstream entertainment. Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers were two of Hollywood’s famous dancers who performed a sophisticated style of tap dancing in some of their movies.

Tap dancing has been called the break dancing or street dancing of an earlier era in America’s popular culture. In Philadelphia it was possible for young aspiring children to join different levels of tap dancing groups that congregated at different corners throughout the city. When the level of the group was achieved, the young person could then move on to the next group and learn techniques at that particular level.

After the 1950s tap dancing declined in popularity. There is something of a revival in progress as professional dancers are hosting workshops that invite the public to come and learn some basic steps and become part of the performance. We hope these efforts succeed in keeping this American form of dance for a new generation.

Continue reading “55-Serrapede Family in America-Tap Dancing at Football Weddings in the 1930 and 1940s (Part 2)”

55-Serrapede Family in America-Tap Dancing at Football Weddings in the 1930 and 1940s (Part 1)

Relationship Note

Emily L. Serrapede was the daughter of Josie and Sam Serrapede. She was the sister of Gerald and Sammy. Emily was EmilyAnn’s Mom.


There are several photos of Emily in our collection of family photos that show how much loving attention Sam and Josie put into her childhood. This week’s photo shows her all dressed up in an outfit that includes gloves with ruffled cuffs and a little pocketbook, too. Based on a family story she shared with me we think she was on her way to a special occasion, perhaps a wedding.

Continue reading “55-Serrapede Family in America-Tap Dancing at Football Weddings in the 1930 and 1940s (Part 1)”