Happy, happy birthday to an Aunt who brings sunshine and cheer wherever she goes! You have brightened our world with a calm confidence and hope. for today, tomorrow and the future. May you be blessed with continued good health and long life!
Despite the hardships the Great Depression imposed upon Josie and Sam, they always made sure their children’s lives were well rounded. There were visits to the relatives in Pennsylvania and day trips around Brooklyn where the family lived. Attending birthday parties, exchanging gifts and sending cards when a holiday approached were all part of the enjoyment Josie wanted her children to experience.
We do not have any photos of the birthday parties Josie gave but a journal entry and a birthday card provide a link to a family story that will form the focus of this posting.
Family History Notes
Josie Muro Serrapede was born in Italy in 1909. She grew up in Wilmerding, Pennsylvania after her family settled in the United States around 1912. She married Sam Serrapede in 1930. During the Great Depression Sam worked in a barber shop as an all around helper. His main responsibility was shining shoes but he performed other jobs as needed by the owner of the shop. Josie took in piece work such as sewing collars for a dress manufacturer.
In 1938 Josie and Sam had two children, Emily Leatrice (b. 1931) and Gerry (b. 1938). The family lived in a cold water flat in Brooklyn, New York.
Josie and Sam’s son, Sabbatino, was born in 1943. I know him as Uncle Sammy. My Mom (Emily Leatrice) was Josie and Sam’s daughter.
Family Story: Life was good
Birthday parties were very important to Emily Leatrice. She loved everything about the celebration. She went with Josie to buy the gift and enjoyed considering which toy or article of clothing would be best.
Most of the birthday parties she attended were for her many cousins who lived in the same neighborhood. Emily also looked forward to her own birthday parties. The favorite part of the party was when the candles were lit and she got to make a wish. She wished for another happy year or that tomorrow would be a sunny day. .
Emily always said she had a very happy childhood. She had no knowledge of the difficult economic circumstances that burdened the family during the Great Depression. She often said children are happy because they are ignorant of all the facts. Yet she said that having been spared that anxiety as a little child helped her cope with it once she grew older. The home life Josie created enabled Emily to have a sense of confidence when she was older and the difficulties were clear to see. Josie didn’t burden her unnecessarily as a child but as she got older explained things little by little so that she understood why certain things could not be bought right away or why the family was planning and saving for something they needed. Even with that kind of budgeting and caution in the background, the family still celebrated birthdays and holidays in a simple way.
Emily later said that taking time to remember birthdays and holidays gave her a sense of reassurance as she got older. She was aware that there were challenges yet nothing would be so great that it would overcome the family if they stay focused. Emily often looked back on the examples Josie and Sam provided. They were a source of strength when she faced her own economic difficulties after marriage. That, Emily thought, was one of the best gifts her parents gave her.
---as told by Emily L. Serrapede to her daughter EmilyAnn Fraes May
Emily’s memories of her childhood birthday parties.
In the mid-1990s Emily began to record brief entries about her childhood in a My Baby Book. Here is an entry about her childhood birthday parties. The illustrations are from the My Baby Book she used as a journal.