Emily met Frank, her future fiancé, in early to mid-1947 during her Junior year at Bay Ridge High School. Frank was stationed in Corpus Christi Texas during WWII and served in the U.S. Navy from 1945-1947. Upon returning to Brooklyn he began to look in earnest for a steady girlfriend. He missed the people he met in Texas very much since the experience afforded him an opportunity to meet people, for the first time in his life, who accepted him on his own merits without the kind of over analyzing and cool reception he got from the parents of the girls he dated when he returned to Brooklyn. The reason for this treatment was based in the bias the parents exhibited when they learned of his Frank’s mother was Jewish. For Emily, though, the faith of Blanche, his mother, didn’t diminish the affection she had for him. In fact when Frank told her she replied, “I’m dating you, not your Mother. Besides you’re her son. I’m probably going to think your Mom is just as wonderful as you are!”
Frank never went back to Texas although in later years he always recalled his time there with great clarity and spoke very well of his officers and all the people he met. It wasn’t very long after Frank met Emily that he invited her to meet his parents, his siblings and his father’s business associates. When the door to the family’s home on 14th Avenue between 70th and 71st Streets opened, Emily always said it was an entrée into a different lifestyle and way of living, one she never thought existed in the small world of Dyker Heights. It was the kind of life style she associated with suburban living in Long Island or Connecticut.
Emily L. Serrapede was the daughter of Sam and Josie (nee Muro) Serrapede. She was born at Coney Island Hospital in 1931 and attended public schools in Dyker Heights. She graduated with a commercial diploma from Bay Ridge High School in January 1948 and went to work full-time as a legal secretary in the Law Office of Charles Graham on 65th Street in Dyker Heights. Emily was a second generation Italian-American.
Frank J. Terry* was born in Brooklyn in 1927, the first son of Al and Blanche Terry. He attended Shallow High School but did not graduate because of an overriding desire to serve our country in WWII. His parents gave their consent and Frank enlisted in the Navy two months before graduation. Upon his honorable discharge in 1947, Frank went to work at Fleming-Joffee an importer of exotic leathers. Al, his father was an executive at the firm.
Blanche Terry* was the daughter of immigrants from Galicia, a country once part of the Austrian-Hungarian empire. Her parents, Ben and Tillie, immigrated to New York City in the early 20th century. Blanche was their first child born in 1905. She had a younger sister, Rebecca whom everyone called Belle. Blanche also had a brother, David who was still alive when Emily met the family and another brother Irving. Blanche’s family lived in the Yorkville section of Manhattan until the late 1910s when they moved to the Midwood Section of Brooklyn. Ben and Tillie then bought a large house on Avenue O which they turned into a boarding house.
Blanche’s birth name was Bessie but she used the name Blanche after she graduated school and worked as a model for a New York furrier. She told Emily “Bessie is too old fashioned for a model’s name. Blanche is so much more elegant.”
Blanche and Al were married in 1926 at Brooklyn Boro Hall. Her parents were scandalized by her going off with the son of Sicilian immigrants. She always said it was a love match and left it off at that.
Al Terry* was a second generation Sicilian-American who was born and spent his early years in Manhattan’s Fourth Ward, a neighborhood known for its difficult and often dangerous living conditions. His father and mother lived in a tenement as did his paternal grandparents just a few blocks away. The family were not poor, however. They operated a grocery store and macaroni manufacturing facility in the Fourth Ward managing to earn enough money to keep both businesses going for many years. In the late 1910s Al’s parents bought a two family house in Dyker Heights. Al went to work as an bookkeeper at a leather company after graduating school. In the 1940s Federal Census Al described his profession as a “commodities salesman”. When Emily first met Al he had risen to an executive level position at Fleming-Joffe.
Alfred, Robert and Maureen: Blanche and Al’s other children and Frank’s siblings. They will be featured in the next posting.
Belle and David were Blanche’s sister and brother-in-law. They lived in Manhattan. David owned a millinery factory with his brother. Belle had worked in Lord & Taylor Department store at one point. The family often spoke of Belle modeling hats during the time she worked there. Like Blanche, Belle had an appreciation for the high quality department stores in Manhattan.
Dr. Goodman and Sylvia Goodman were close friends of Al and Blanche. Dr. Goodman’s offices were located in Manhattan. Blanche sometimes stopped by his offices when she took EmilyAnn into Manhattan for one of her Grandmother-Granddaughter days at Macy’s. Dr. Goodman either advised Blanche or was her surgeon when it was determined she had breast cancer. Blanche underwent a radical mastectomy that included removal of the breast and the lymph glands under her arm. This was a standard procedure in the early 1940s when the surgery was done. Blanche never had a recurrence of any growths nor did she suffer from any form of cancer after the surgery.
Blanche, Emily, Al and Frank always referred to the Goodmans as “Dr. Goodman and Sylvia” or “Dr. and Sylvia Goodman”. For this reason, it is difficult to recall his first name. EmilyAnn found him to be very kind and very interested in the stories she told him. He was very taken by a story she made up about the paper weight on his desk that had a great adventure rolling out of his office and all the way down Fifth Avenue to Rockefeller Center to see the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall.
*See Note before Resources section
Family Story: Tuesday nights at Blanche and Al’s
Emily’s favorite visits during the early days of dating Frank were during the week. One night each week Blanche and Al hosted an informal get-together in the early evening. Emily told EmilyAnn that Frank always picked her up around 7 p.m. so they would have time to converse with the visitors.
“Blanche greeted us at the door looking as if she had just come from the beauty parlor instead of having been up from early in the morning to make her husband and children breakfast and then move on to her housework,” Emily remembered. And even though it was a weeknight Blanche and Al’s younger children, Robert and Maureen, were expected to have finished their homework and be ready for the visitors, too.
Since Blanche and Al were expecting visitors everyone entered by the front door located on the porch up a flight of stairs from the sidewalk. The outside of the house did not look like much. The large flower pots at the top of the steps had large succulent type plants in them. The porch and stoop were always swept clean and in hot weather a green awning was open above the porch and the upstairs apartment windows. The front door was polished wood with small glass panes at the top.
Al always explained why the house was so non-descript from the outside. He and Blanche did not want to attract unwanted attention to the house or the family. This is why there were no fancy curtains or window displays or even an elaborate garden or fancy potted plants outside. It was better that the neighbors did not know what the family owned or how well he was doing in business. It was his way of feeling protected from thieves who might target his home for a break-in.Continue reading “77c-Serrapede Family in America-Emily meets Frank’s family Part 1”