77c-Serrapede Family in America-Emily meets Frank’s family Part 4


Emily’s friends and classmates at Bay Ridge High School often asked her where she planned to live after she got married.  Her fiancé’s parents owned a two family home.  It was a natural question to ask since in the Italian-American community parents that owned two family or multi-family dwellings liked to have their married son or daughter live in the same home with them. 

Tradition was one factor that encouraged this.  An older son, especially if the father had died, became the head of the family.  His presence in the household was a sign that his mother and siblings were not alone and were being looked after.  If the eldest child was a female, then she and her husband were encouraged to live in the house.  The eldest daughter looked after her family and her husband’s presence in the house was a sign that as a couple, they were ensuring the stability of the family.  This in no way diminished the son-in-law’s relationship with his family although it could become a source of friction during holidays and special events when the couple had to decide who to give priority to when it came time to visit or entertain the relatives.

The practical considerations at work were important in determining if the newlyweds decided to live with the parents of the bride or groom.  Rents were usually lower since the parents wanted the couple to save money and buy their own home one day.  While this was a great help there were many trade-offs the couple made in terms of privacy and freedom of movement.

The conversations Emily had with her schoolmates about where she and Frank would live after they married became very irritating. Some of the girls she spoke to took the fact that Blanche and Al owned a two-family house and spun stories all around it despite a few other facts:  these girls never met Blanche, Al or saw how much work went into running their two-family house.  At one point the idle talk described her future in-law’s home as a “money-making machine”.  “A guaranteed source of income” was what several others called it.  As Emily got to know Blanche, her future Mother-in-law, and Maureen, her future Sister-in-law, she learned that in order to get that guaranteed source of income a good landlord had to run the house just like a business.  There were expense records to keep for tax purposes.  Then there interviews with prospective tenants and checking out their references.  There was also the ongoing maintenance of the house to consider, as well as finding reliable handymen, plumbers, carpentars, roofers and so on.  The family story shared in this posting shows that even with all favorable factors in place, landlord-tenant relationships could turn volatile.  Without a periodic inspection of how the tenant maintained the rooms rented to them, the landlord was in for a shock when the tenant finally moved out.

The family story shared in this posting begins in the late 1940s after Emily met Frank and his family.  It concludes in the mid-1950s before Frank’s sister, Maureen, got married.

Relationship Notes

Emily L. Serrapede was born in 1931 to Sam and Josie (nee Muro) Serrapede.  She grew up in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn, NY and graduated from Bay Ridge High School in January 1948 with a Commercial Diploma.  Emily met Frank, her future husband, during her Junior year of high school.  Emily had two younger brothers.  Gerry, born in 1938, passed away in 1941 because he contracted pneumonia.  Sammy, also known as Junior, was born in 1943.

Frank J. Terry* met Emily through the boyfriend of one of her best friends, Alma Rodriguez.  Frank was the son of Blanche and Al Terry*.  He was born in 1927, served stateside in the Navy during WWII, and was working with his father at Fleming-Joffe, a leather importer, when he met Emily.

Al and Blanche Terry* were married in Brooklyn Boro Hall in 1926.  They rented a house in Tabor Court during the early years of their marriage before buying the two-family home on 14th Avenue in the early 1930s.  Blanche and Al’s other children were:

Alfred (1929-2008)

Robert (1931-1977)

Maureen (1934-1995)

Bonita (Bunny)was the daughter of the tenants who lived in the apartment on the third floor of Blanche and Al’s two-family house.  Bonita’s father was a widower at an early age and asked his daughter to remain with him and help care for the family.  Although Bonita was older, Maureen and her got along very well.  Maureen became very attached to Bonita and nicknamed her Bunny. 

Family Story:  Home Owership is a business

Blanche and Al rented a house in Tabor Court after their marriage in 1926.  Tabor Court was built in the early 1920s and was considered something exclusive and affordable only to families who were doing well financially.  That is because the homes were situated on a street that was gated on both sides.  This prevented any through traffic by vehicles and enabled the children of the homeowners to have a safe area to play in.  The back of each house faced the street and also had a nice entrance by means of a gate and a small garden.  The mailboxes were placed at this back entrance.

Continue reading “77c-Serrapede Family in America-Emily meets Frank’s family Part 4”