Note about posting length: Due to time constraints I am posting complete chapters in our family history narrative. Since I am posting once or twice a month I am not able to break each chapter into smaller, weekly postings
Between 1935 and early 1941, the Serrapede family lived on 65th Street between 11 and 12th Avenues in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn, NY. Their younger son Gerald passed away in 1941. Their daughter Emily was entering what we now call the ‘tween years when this happened. She often shared vivid but brief family stories about the years 1940-43. These stories contained a moment in time that encapsulated many elements of the Italian-American community she grew up in. At first they seem to offer only a slice of life in the community just as the United States was coming out of the Great Depression and the challenges of the 1940s and WWII loomed ahead.
Emily left out details like which Aunt she stayed with after school in the months following Gerry’s death. She also would say one Aunt lived upstairs and another Aunt lived next door. Sometimes the Aunt next door lived “a few doors away” in another family story. Since she was deeply affected by the sudden loss of her baby brother it was natural for her to be preoccupied as she lived through that time of being cared for by her Aunts. In the retelling of her stories there was always an element of distance between herself and the events she described. But in reality she was never alone. She always said her cousins were with her after school. Emily referred to her cousins by name. Yet for the stores she related about the years in the early 1940s she never mentioned her Aunts as their mothers. She described events as if she were an onlooker or an audience member of a very short film that starred a limited cast in a specific location. The only time she described the interaction between herself and the other members of the event she described was when the family story concerned coming home to find Josie resting in bed or going back to bed. Emily stayed there with her in the quiet until her cousins or one of her Aunties showed up to take her to their house until dinner time.
The Aunts were described as good homemakers who had husbands that had steady work. Their children lived at home and helped the families out. Things were difficult, though, so her parents, Aunts, Uncles and cousins all helped each other in their day-to-day living.
The discoveries and connections made through the 1940 Federal Census ties together all the threads of Emily’s shared stories and memories. It all comes together so perfectly in that the details from the entries for the Serrapede, Errico and D’Agosto families confirm and expand many of the details Emily could not provide when she recalled these times.
In this posting we will recap the key events in the life of one Aunt who lived in the same multi-family dwelling as the Serrapede family. This is Emily’s maternal Aunt Elisa Scotti Errico. She was affectionately called Zia Elisa (Auntie Elisa) by all generations. Uncle Sammy describes Zia Elisa as the Grand Matron of her branch of the Scotti and Errico families in Brooklyn. The story of her life and role as told through the Census records for 1920 through 1940 provide an opportunity to compare and contrast how the traditional household she and Vincenzo created saw the family through the Great Depression in somewhat better circumstances than we previously thought for the family during those years.
The other Aunt who lived on 66th Street was Filomena Serrapede D’Agosto. We will look at her role in Emily’s life in the next posting.Continue reading “73-Serrapede Family in Brooklyn-Our Losses, Our Gains 1940-43 Pt. 2”