68-Brooklyn-Dyker Heights-1930s-1940s-In the neighborhood-G.N. Rinaldi, Pharmacist


With this posting we begin an occasional look into the businesses and their owners that were part of the neighborhood where the Serrapede family lived.

In posting 67-Serrapede Family in Brooklyn-Raising Baby, 1938 we featured the “Our Baby’s Book” where Josie recorded details about Gerry’s first 8 months of life. The book was provided courtesy of the Benson Drug Company located on 11th Avenue near 65th Street.

The owner of the Benson Drug Company was Gaetano N. Rinaldi. The information we gleaned from census records and directories provide an outline of the achievements his family made during the first and second generations in America.

Josie and Sam also used the services of businesses outside of Dyker Heights. We have featured them in:

53c-Serrapede Family in America: Emily Leatrice’s first studio portrait, 1932 presents some details about photographer Albert Della Monica and his studio in Gravesend, Brooklyn, NY.

54c-Serrapede Family in America-Emily Leatrices Studio Portrait 1935 features highlights from the life of photographer Joseph Weise. He had photo studios in the Bensonhurst and Boro Park sections of Brooklyn.

By learning something about the business owners and their families we get a peek into the wide array of talents the immigrants brought to America as well as the communities where they settled.

Relationship Notes

Josie Muro was born in Agropoli, Italy. Her parents immigrated to America and settled in Wilmerding, Pennsylvania. She came to Brooklyn, NY in the late 1920s. In 1930 she married Sam Serrapede, also from Agropoli. In 1931 their daughter Emily Leatrice was born. Their second child, Gerry, was born in 1938.

Josie and Sam were:

-Sammy’s parents
-EmilyAnn’s maternal Grandparents

What the word Neighborhood Means To Us

You may be wondering why we are including the community where we grew up as part of our family history. What could be exciting or even important about avenues, side streets, stores, apartment houses, schools, playgrounds, private residences and all the other aspects of the world in which Josie and Sam lived in Brooklyn?

The answer may be unique to a mentality developed throughout New York City and its boroughs. Or perhaps it is a mindset that at a deeper level is universal. For us, our neighborhood was as much a living entity and member of the family as it was a place on the map. It will always be the place where we grew up and even though the demographics have changed, it still is part of who we were and who we are. The physical make-up and inhabitants will change whether we want it to or not. That is part of the inevitable passage of time. What is sure is that the neighborhood leaves a mark on us long after we leave for other parts of the borough, the city or the country.

In other words, our neighborhood was once a part our world and today remains with us in spirit.

Antonio and Porzia Rinaldi: From Italy to Manhattan

Antonio Rinaldi immigrated to New York with his wife Porzia circa 1897. They were both 20 years old. Antonio worked as a day laborer. The Rinaldi family were part of a wave of immigrants who moved from Manhattan between 1910 through the 1920s to escape the crowding and poor living conditions.

In 1920 Antonio owned his own company. The 1920 Federal Census states that the company product was “paper stock”. This could mean that Antonio Rinaldi owned a stationery store or was a supplier of paper to other businesses. He and Porzia were living in Dyker Heights at 1362 64th Street. They owned the two family home and were carrying a mortgage.

Antonio and Porzia were the parents of:

Frank 19 b. 1901
Joseph 15 b. 1905
Charles 12 b. 1908
Pasquale 10 b. 1910
Gaetano 6 b. 1913-2003
Ellena 0 b. 1920

Their eldest son, Frank, worked as a pharmacist for a Drug Store.

By 1940, the only child remaining at home with Antonio and Porzia was their daughter Ellena. The 1940 Federal Census records Antonio’s education as having only gone as far as the 2nd grade. It’s hard to gauge if this is accurate or not. What is evident is that Mr. Rinaldi achieved a standard of living in the middle class. His younger son Gaetano followed in the example of his elder brother Frank by going to college and becoming a pharmacist. Such progress speaks of the opportunities that were available to both the first and second generation in America.

Gaetano N. Rinaldi, Pharmacist and Entrepreneur

First part of the 1940 Federal Census Index for Gaetano Rinaldi.
The rest of the 1940 Federal Census Index for Gaetano Rinaldi. The incorrect entry of “Chamacial” for occupation is a transcription error we reported. It should be “pharmaceutical”.

When Gaetano was in his third year of college in 1940, he’d been married for three years. His wife was the former Rosalie L. DiSalvo. Their wedding day was September 12, 1937. Not only was Gaetano a college student and husband, he was the father of two children. Anthony was born in 1939. Phillip was born in 1940.

Gaetano and Rosalie were living in Bensonhurst. They rented an apartment at 1646 80th Street. In 1944 Gaetano and Rosalie became parents of another boy. This one they named Raymond.

Raymond passed away in 1981. From the records at FindAGrave it looks like Raymond’s parents are interred with him. I have located a record for Raymond Rinaldi (1944-1981) who is laid to rest with his parents Gaetano (1913-2003) and Rosalie (1914-2006).

The Rest of The Story

1940 Brooklyn Telephone Directory entry for Benson Drug Co.

The “Our Baby Book” which Josie received compliments of The Benson Drug Company started this search to know a little more about the owner, Gaetano Rinaldi. Taking the time line of events in his life as told through the Federal Census records a few questions arise:

• How could Gaetano be the sole owner of The Benson Drug Company at the age of 18?
• Is it possible that his older brother Frank was a co-owner with him?
• Did Gaetano buy his brother out? If so that might be why he is listed as the owner when he ran a series of ads in “The Brooklyn Daily Eagle” in 1953.

The accomplishments of the Rinaldi family over a 40 year period contributed to the growing acceptance of Italian-Americans by the larger society.

Discussion with Uncle Sammy on Sunday, August 7, 2016, 4:45-5:30 p.m.

The achievements of the diverse immigrants that lived in our neighborhood and borough were not given the kind of awards and news coverage we see today. Uncle Sammy and I do not have any memories of learning about successful immigrants of any community while we were growing up. There also was little in the way of celebrations of anyone’s ethnicity or ancestral country. The main focus was on getting the first and second generation assimilated into the American mainstream.

After the 1960s things began to change. TV, radio and newspapers began to give more coverage to the challenges immigrants face in the workforce and their new communities. There also was more acknowledgement given to contributions each makes locally and nationally.

The achievements of the Rinaldi family, like the families of our relatives and neighbors featured in previous postings, are a testament to the combination of talent and opportunities that came together in the early-mid 20th centuries. There are more challenges today but the fact that all communities receive more thoughtful treatment and recognition for individual achievements and community milestones is a mark of some progress in showing respect and appreciation by the public and the media.


1900 Federal Census for Antonio Rinaldi
Citation Information
DetailYear: 1900; Census Place: Manhattan, New York, New York; Roll: 1080; Page: 8B; Enumeration District: 0017; FHL microfilm: 1241080
Edit Source
Source Information
Title1900 United States Federal CensusAuthorAncestry.com

1920 Federal Census for Antonio Rinaldi
Citation Information
DetailYear: 1920; Census Place: Brooklyn Assembly District 16, Kings, New York; Roll: T625_1169; Page: 12A; Enumeration District: 952; Image: 108
Edit Source
Source Information
Title1920 United States Federal Census

1937 NYC Marriage Index for Gaetano Rinaldi and Rosalie DiSalvo
Ancestry.com. New York, New York, Marriage Index 1866-1937 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014.

1940 Federal Census Index for Gaetano N. Rinaldi
Citation Information
DetailYear: 1940; Census Place: New York, Kings, New York; Roll: T627_2591; Page: 6A; Enumeration District: 24-1759
Edit Source
Source Information
Title1940 United States Federal CensusAuthorAncestry.comPublisherAncestry.com Operations, Inc.Publisher Date

1940 Brooklyn Telephone Directory
New York Public Library
Direct Me NYC 1940/Brooklyn
Benson Drug Company listing

Father’s Day 2019

For Our Fathers, Grandfathers, Great-Grandfathers…

To us you will always be known as Dad, Grandpa and Great-Granddaddy.

For those of you who lived long before we were born, you are known as the patriarchs of our family lines.

To all of you we say, “Thank you for all the love, support and hard work you gave to provide for us in all ways.”

We will always remember and love you.

Happy Father’s Day to the Dads in our family and the families of our friends and followers here at WordPress.

–EmilyAnn Frances May
–Sammy Serrapede, Jr.

Retro Dad Clip Art
Public Domain
Courtesy The Graphics Fairy

67-Serrapede Family in Brooklyn-Raising Baby 1938-39


Cover of “Our Baby’s Book”.

Tucked among a stack of Depression Era wedding photos in large cardboard frames, I found Gerald’s “Our Baby’s Book”. This small booklet was given to Josie courtesy of a neighborhood pharmacy. In this she recorded several details that give us an idea of Gerry’s growth during his first 8 months. It also contained charts of the average length and weight a baby should achieve in each month of the first year.

At first I thought this was merely a marketing tool published by a baby food company or a manufacturer of pediatric medicines. It would, I thought, be used to promote the product and the pharmacy giving a copy of the “Our Baby Book” to the expectant mothers among the customers.

As I prepared this posting for discussion with Uncle Sammy the little “Our Baby Book” raised many questions. Since it didn’t promote any particular product what was the main purpose besides recording precious memories of baby’s first year and milestones? One of the opening pages has “© 1929 The Osborne Company, Newark New Jersey” on it. But what this company did I have yet to know. They may have been printers of promotional materials but I am not sure. The information I found online is not conclusive enough to make a connection to this booklet.

When I arrived at the page “Baby’s Welfare” I knew then that this page was the bearer of an important message promoted by the U.S. Department of Labor, Children’s Bureau, Washington, D.C. This may have been the true purpose of the booklet. Clearly parents were being educated as to ways in which to bring up their children in a way that would promote a routine that instilled a sense of security in the infant. We’ll examine some of the forces at work in parenting advice and techniques during Gerald’s first year (1938-1939) after consideration of the info that expands our knowledge of Gerry’s baptism and physical growth.

This little booklet with its sweet snippets of poetry, quotes and illustrations encouraged parents to treasure and record the important events of baby’s first year. It is the kind of record that could be passed down in the family. During the stress and hardship of the Great Depression the act of recording the milestones in a baby’s development acted as a reminder of the important things in life that exist in the present moment.

Relationship Notes

Gerry (Gerald, Gennaro) Serrapede, was the son of Sam and Josie Serrapede. He was born on March 3, 1938.

Gerry holds a very special place in our hearts to this day. These small details bring him closer to us

Proof of Gerry’s studio photos. There isn’t any stamp or label with the studio name in the back of the proof.

This undated studio proof contains the earliest photos we have of Gerry. Josie had a larger print made of the first photo in the second row. The proof was in the same brown paper bag Josie stored the “Our Baby’s Book” in. All her photos were stored this way inside large cardboard boxes. The lack of any plastic or albums with fancy covers may have lessened the exposure to chemicals that would have aged the photos and keepsakes more than what they now are.

Continue reading “67-Serrapede Family in Brooklyn-Raising Baby 1938-39”