75-The Serrapede Family in Brooklyn-Life during WWII, Part 3

Formatting Note: Due to problems with Gutenberg/WordPress Default Editor, all images and captions are left aligned. No other formatting can be applied. Sorry for the unappealing visual element to this posting.

Introduction to Topic

During WWII, the Federal Government successfully promoted Victory Gardens as a means for each citizen to contribute to the War Effort on the home front.  The benefits of cultivating one’s own or a community garden were many.  Locally grown vegetables and fruits reduced the need for trucks to deliver to local markets.  Citizens were assured a ready supply of nutritious foods that it was hoped would decrease reliance on canned and preserved foods.  The Victory Garden program helped conserve gasoline, rubber, aluminum, tin and steel that had formerly been used in the transport and packaging of foods.  By growing their own fruits and vegetables, Americans freed up commercially produced foods and resources for use by the troops and our Allies.

To our knowledge, none of our relatives had a personal Victory Garden nor did they participate in tending a Community Victory Garden.  During WWII, the members of the Serrapede, Errico, D’Agosto and branch families in Brooklyn lived in apartment houses.  The house the Serrapede family lived in had a small patch of a garden in the front.  It had a hedge and a rose bush but that was about it.  The men in the families worked long hours at their jobs.  The women had several small, and in some cases older, children to care for.  The men and the children expected meals made from scratch.  The community judged a mother by how smartly her children were dressed, how clean her house was no matter how little furniture they had or how old everything was.  Some of the mothers in the first generation also sewed their children’s clothes and darned and mended their husband’s clothing.  How much energy would have been left for gardening is questionable.  The first generation of immigrants was keen to save money to buy a house.  If they had opportunity to work overtime they would because it meant that much more money could be put aside for the purchase of a house.

The diet of most Italian-American families at that time was full of fresh vegetables and only small quantities of meat supplemented the diet.  A vegetable garden was always part of a first generation household once the dream house was purchased.  In the post-WW II era this goal was achieved by many families and paesanos.  Emily Leatrice Serrapede had school friends she talked with about Victory Gardens.  The story about one of those conversations forms the basis for the research which led to this posting.

Relationship Notes

Sam and Josie Serrapede were the parents of Emily Leatrice, Gerry and Junior (a/k/a Sammy).

  • Sam and Josie were EmilyAnn’s maternal Grandparents.
  • Emily Leatrice was EmilyAnn’s Mom.
  • Sammy is EmilyAnn’s maternal Uncle.

My Mom, the late Emily L. Serrapede, shared this story with me many times.  It brings together many strands concerning the war effort on the home front.  This story shows that men whom the military declared 4F (not up to the demands of the military service) were able to contribute to the war effort on the home front.  The details also provide a glimpse into the priorities Sam and Josie had in terms of any involvement with activities that would impact on opportunities for earning extra money.  Since Sam was making the average salary in 1940 (slightly over $1,000 a year) and Josie was very thrifty they may not have needed to tend a Victory Garden. 

Continue reading “75-The Serrapede Family in Brooklyn-Life during WWII, Part 3”