77b-Serrapede Family in Brooklyn: Emily and Frank’s Weekend dates-Late 1940s


Emily L. Serrapede first saw her future fiancé, Frank, while out for a walk on 13th Avenue with one of her best friends, Alma Rodriguez.  Emily was in her Junior year at Bay Ridge High School and working on weekdays after classes were over.  Emily and Frank enjoyed going on dates to the kinds of places teen s favored in the 1940s such as the roller skating rink, the movies, the ice cream parlor and the bowling alley.  In the summer there were day trips to Coney Island as well as picnics.  On Sunday afternoons during, Spring, Summer and Autumn, Frank and Emily enjoyed strolls in the public parks such as Owls’s Head Park, Leif Erickson Park and McKinley Park.  Sometimes they also went biking along Shore Road.

Emily and Frank were also loved to listen to the Big Bands and popular artists of the day such as Benny Goodman and his orchestra, The Andrew Sisters, Ella Fitzgerald, and Billy Holliday. 

Emily and Frank always conversed with EmilyAnn like she was a little adult so she became very familiar with the popular culture of her parent’s youth from the time she was almost 5 years old.  But a funny thing happened:  EmilyAnn mixed up the glamour of 1940s movies with the simple pleasures her parents took in the dates they went on each Saturday afternoon or evening right in the neighborhood where they grew up.  As a child EmilyAnn envisioned her parents dining at elegant supper clubs one hour and then dancing a crazy Jitterbug the next hour.  Emily let this go on until EmilyAnn was about 7 years old and then she helped her sort out the fantasy from the fact about where her parents went on dates before they were married.

Relationship Notes

Emily Leatrice Serrapede was born in 1931 and grew up in the Italian-American community of Dyker Heights, Brooklyn, NY.  She lived with her parents, Josie and Sam, and little brother Junior (Sammy) in an apartment house on 65th Street.  Emily met Frank sometime between late 1946 and early 1947.  Emily enjoyed going out on their dates especially to the special places they went to in Manhattan like Chinatown and Central Park.  She also enjoyed introducing her new boyfriend to all her friends and cousins and so dates in the neighborhood were just as enjoyable as ones in Manhattan.  Emily was not overly interested in sports but since Frank liked to go bowling and roller skating she engaged in those activities more often and achieved competency at them.  Those dates which centered around outdoor activities like biking gave Emily a chance to socialize with Frank’s younger sister Maureen and Frank’s brothers.  She enjoyed getting to know each of them and found that the activities brought them all together in a good way.

Frank also lived in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn, NY.  He was born in 1927 to Blanche and Al Terry*.  Frank left high school just 2 months before he was due to graduate because of a very strong desire to serve our country in WWII.  He joined the Navy where he served stateside while stationed in Corpus Christi, Texas.  Frank’s best friend Whitey was also a WWII vet who had served overseas in China.  Al Terry worked for a leather importer in Manhattan and had a busy calendar filled with professional and social appointments.  Blanche did all her own cooking and baking for the many tea parties and coffee hours the family hosted from their two family home on 14th Avenue.  Frank enjoyed all the activity as much as he did his two brothers and kid sister. 

–Emily L. Serrapede was—

—Sammy’s older sister

—EmilyAnn’s Mom

Family Story:  Not every girl wanted to go to a supper club

As a child in the mid-late 1950s, EmilyAnn watched television with her mother every afternoon.  From 4:00 to 5:30 p.m. there was a movie broadcast every afternoon called “The Early Show”.  Every afternoon at 4:00 p.m. on the spot, Emily and EmilyAnn would stop everything to turn on the TV.  As the opening song “The Syncopated Clock” began mother and daughter settled in for a trip back in time.

For Emily it was a journey back to the movie theaters of her childhood and adolescence when she saw films starring such great actresses of the 1930s and 1940s as Betty Davis, Joan Crawford, the Bennett Sisters, Veronica Lake, and dashing actors like Dana Andrews and Errol Flynn.  EmilyAnn didn’t always follow the storylines all the way through for each movie was a journey into a world of fashion, glamour and the stuff dreams were made of.  Besides, Emily had an excellent memory for every detail of the storyline so EmilyAnn let her imagination run where it wanted knowing she could ask her mother what happened after the movie was over.

The movies and movie stars created the impression for EmilyAnn that her own parents had dated at elegant supper clubs like The Rainbow Room or The Stork Club.  Those were the ones mentioned in some movies.  Latin music would play while men and women danced under glittering chandeliers.  Then all the younger people would get into a sporty car and drive over to a juke joint to dance a wild jitterbug to the music of Benny Goodman.  Emily had had enough when these ideas continued as EmilyAnn grew older.  So she sat EmilyAnn down to let her know that the fanciest dance she ever went to before getting married was Senior Prom!  And even though she and Frank danced the Lindy and other popular dances there were none of the extreme movements shown in the movies.  No girl concerned with her reputation in the Italian-American community would dance that aggressively to the point she allowed a boy to pick her up and twirl her all around so that her skirts went flying and her full legs were on view..

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77a-Serrapede Family in America 1947: Emily and Frank go steady


When she was a pre-teen, Emily had a crush on a boy named Danny.  She never revealed his last name or if he reciprocated her affection.  During the preparation of posting (LINK), Uncle Sammy told me the boy was none other than Danny D’Alessadro, the older brother of one of his friends.  As far as he knows Emily kept this crush a secret and did not date Danny.  Uncle Sammy was very surprised when he learned about it from me.  Our Emily Leatrice was good at keeping this under wraps!

Sometime in late 1946 or at a certain point in 1947, Emily met her future fiancé.  In relating the story to EmilyAnn she left out exact dates, time of year and other finer details that provide a definite sense of when this event happened.  There were enough, though, to help place the meeting more clearly in a time span thanks to one detail that Emily always made when relating the story:  her reference to a young actor named Marlon Brando. 

Emily’s main purpose in telling of this story to EmilyAnn from the time she was a little girl was very simple:  have a clear purpose in mind when you are ready to begin dating and always be concerned about your reputation.  “Dating isn’t way to pass the time, it’s a way to meet a future life partner,” Emily said.  She also emphatically maintained that a person’s reputation preceded their arrival on the scene in a small community like the one we lived in.  It was important to be vigilant that it was always a favorable one.

In this posting we will analyze the details in the story so we can set it into a time frame.  We’ll also consider a few of the popular trends in teenage lifestyle, fashions and dating during the 1940s and compare them with the way they were expressed in Emily’s life within the Italian-American community of Dyker Heights, Brooklyn, New York.

Relationship Notes

Emily Leatrice Serrapede was the daughter of Sam and Josie Serrapede.  She was born in 1931 and attended Bay Ridge High School.  Emily was Junior (Sammy’s) older sister and EmilyAnn’s Mom.

Alma Rodriguez was a very good friend of Emily’s as she grew up.  She figured in many earlier stories we related about Emily’s pre-teen and Junior High School years.  Research has not turned up any further data on Alma.  We cannot locate her family in the Federal Census records taken of the families on the block where the Emily lived nor in the nearby blocks.

Emily’s future fiancé, Frank, was born in 1927 in Brooklyn.  He grew up in a family of business people.  His parents used the surname of Terry professionally.  This is the surname we will use going forward as a way to avoid confusion with another Sicilian-American family who had the same surname Frank’s father but who were in entirely different line of business and were no relations.  The use of the family’s professional name may facilitate contacts with the descendants of the business associates of Frank’s father.  There is much about the family’s involvement in the import and export business that would help us place later developments in the story arc. 

Whitey was Frank’s best friend who also lived in Brooklyn.  Emily never related what Whitey’s real name was.  He was of Norwegian descent.  Whitey learned how to speak Chinese while stationed in China during WWII.  These are the only details we have about him. 

The boyfriend of Alma Rodriguez was never mentioned by name by either Emily or Frank whenever they discussed how they met.

Family Story:  “I’d like to meet your friend…”

Emily and Alma were walking along 13th Avenue in Dyker Heights, heading up to towards 70th Street.  Alma’s boyfriend was turning the corner of 70th Street and 13th Avenue on the other side.  He waved hello to Alma and Emily as he slowed down a little.  That was when Emily noticed the other boy with him.

Emily turned to Alma and commented that the other boy looked like an exciting new actor that was attracting notice on Broadway.  The actor’s name was Marlon Brando.

Alma started laughing.  She had no idea who Marlon Brando was since she didn’t read the newspaper columns about the stars of stage and screen.  Alma said the boy Emily found attractive was named Frank and asked if she’d like an introduction.

Continue reading “77a-Serrapede Family in America 1947: Emily and Frank go steady”