75-The Serrapede Family in Brooklyn-Life during WWII, Part 2


The Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on Sunday, December 7th, 1941.  America could no longer remain a pacifist country uninvolved in the War that was spreading throughout Europe.  To muster every resource towards the war effort the Federal Government imposed rationing of fuel, consumer goods, food and other items. 

When recounting the early months of America’s involvement in World War II Emily consistently brought up the very first impact the entire community experienced:  the rationing of food.  In the early months of 1942 Josie, Sam and Emily wondered about the changes this new program would bring.

Relationship Notes

Josie and Sam Serrapede were the parents of Emily Leatrice and Junior (Sammy).  Josie was born in Italy and came to America before she was 3 years old.  She grew up in Wilmerding, Pennsylvania and came to Brooklyn, New York in the late 1920s.  Sam arrived in New York circa 1926.  In the late 1920s Sam filed his Declaration of Intent to become an American citizen.  By 1940 his immigration status was Naturalized.

Emily Leatrice was Josie and Sam’s oldest child.  She was 10 ½ in the early months of 1942 as the rationing program was phased in.  Emily saw very little change to the family meal planning since the Serrapede family never ate great quantities of red meat as part of their diet.  She was never hungry and neither was Junior, the baby boy born into the family in November of that year.  What Emily remembered most was the change that took place in terms of the coffee pot and sugar bowl.  These were the food items that impacted the day-to-day life and little rituals associated with socializing and visiting.  The reduced consumption of sugar and coffee that rationing caused created for some humorous times between Sam and Josie.  It also drove Josie to seek out ways to procure coffee when it became scarce.

Family Story:  The luxury of a cup of coffee with a buttered roll

When I was 12 years old, I started drinking coffee each morning for the kick it gave me to look bright and awake when I got to school.  I drank a cup of coffee each night to get me through the tedium of homework.  My parents were very caught up in my placement in the Special Progress Enriched Program and did not mind my drinking coffee.  If it got me wound up and ready for the school day it was fine with them.  They also encouraged me to listen to upbeat pop music as a way to come out of the fatigue I felt by mid-week.  By the age of 13 caffeine, pop and rock music were my daily addictions. 

I took coffee, donuts, bagels and buttered rolls for granted.  My parents did not.  Every Sunday morning, Mom made a big pot of Eight O’Clock blend coffee from the A&P Supermarket that was located on 13th Avenue between 79th and 80th Streets.  Dad went scouting around the area for the freshest bread, bagels and rolls.  He usually went to Your Baker or Mona Lisa Bakery on 13th Avenue but sometimes he went further down into Bensonhurst if these bakeries were crowded on Sundays.  It wasn’t unusual to hear my Mom say, “This is the good life,” as she used butter liberally on a toasted bagel.  My Dad was like a kid when he watched the coffee perk.  He’d always say there was nothing so good as the aroma of fresh perked coffee when he got up in the morning.  I could never understand what the fuss was all about.  Coffee and buttered rolls were commonplace foods.  They weren’t delicacies.  In my ignorance I shrugged off my parent’s behavior.

Continue reading “75-The Serrapede Family in Brooklyn-Life during WWII, Part 2”

75-The Serrapede Family in Brooklyn-Life during WWII, Part 1


This posting begins a series about how World War II impacted life within the Italian-American community of Dyker Heights where my Mom, Emily L. Serrapede, grew up.  The starting point for each posting begins with a family story Emily shared with the family.  As her daughter, I was privileged to listen to her stories and be privy to her memories many times throughout the years.  There was always a consistency in the details.  The challenge in working from the stories and memories is to find which details are accurate and which require clarification and correction.

Mom always told me the onset of World War II forever shattered the world of her childhood and pre-teen years.  The sense of expansiveness she had felt amongst her friends and family while moving from school to home and to favorite locations around Brooklyn was gone.  Mom often said she was like someone who awakened from a dream to find the little world around her was still good.  Yet beyond that good was a vast sphere of unknowing during the WWII years.  It was a place where hope for victory alternated between fear, terror and horror.

The time when Mom felt able to push back against fear was when she was not alone.  If a sense of fear began to come upon her in relation to the War, she put aside her love of quiet and daydreaming.  Instead of leisurely afternoons with her favorite books after school and on weekends, she began to spend more time with her parents, relatives or cousins.  This change took place after the events on Sunday of December 7th, 1941.  In this posting we’ll look at Emily’s memories and impressions of the first week of America’s involvement in WWII.

Relationship Notes

Emily L. Serrapede, born April 18, 1931, was the daughter of Sam and Josie (nee Muro) Serrapede.  She was:

-Sammy’s sister
-EmilyAnn’s Mom

When the war broke out she was 10 years old and the family was living on 66th Street between 11th and 12th Avenues in Brooklyn, NY.

Emilia D’Agosto was Emily’s First Cousin through her paternal line.  Emilia is the daughter of Filomena (nee Serrapede) and Giuseppe D’Agosto.  Filomena was Sam’s eldest sister. 

Continue reading “75-The Serrapede Family in Brooklyn-Life during WWII, Part 1”