78b-Serrapede Family in America:  Emily’s Gown for the High School Prom, 1947 or 1948


Emily loved to tell EmilyAnn about the gown she wore to the Bay Ridge High School Senior Prom.  She described it so many times that EmilyAnn could picture it within her imagination:  the prom gown made Emily into a princess for one special night.  That impression remained constant for EmilyAnn.  After Emily’s passing EmilyAnn went though the box of photos she inherited.  The discovery of Emily’s prom night photo surprised and delighted her.  The gown and accessories were just as Emily described.  At long last there was a photo to have and treasure.  There were also many questions raised by the photo.  In this posting we try to answer the questions as well as delve into the family story relating to the gown and accessories Emily remembered in great detail.  Yet, of the prom night itself she was silent.

From our family photo album:  Emily’s Prom Gown, 1948

Emily graduated high school in January 1948.  This prom night photo may have been taken in Spring of 1948.  One hint provided by the photo is on the right:  the window is open and a small screen has been placed in the window frame.  The photo was taken in Sam and Josie’s bedroom in the apartment on 65th Street.

Relationship Notes

Emily L. Serrapede was born on April 18, 1931 to Josie and Sam Serrapede.  She was a second generation Italian-American with a love of reading, and an enjoyment of long walks and afternoon naps.  Emily was very ambitious throughout her high school years and before graduation she was had obtained a full-time position as a junior legal secretary. 

Frank J. Terry*, Emily’s fiancé, met her in the latter part of her junior year in high school.  By the time Emily was ready to graduate in 1948 they were already going steady. 

Emily was:

Sammy’s (a/k/a Junior when he was a child) sister

EmilyAnn’s Mom

*See Note before Resources section.

Family Story:  The Prom Portrait

The top left hand drawer of Emily’s dresser contained a few special items and little else until EmilyAnn’s high school yearbook photo eventually joined the collection.  As a little girl EmilyAnn found the contents of the drawer imbued with a special mystery.  What was so special about them?  Why did EmilyAnn have to ask to be shown what was in the drawer? 

If EmilyAnn behaved herself and promised not to touch anything, Emily would carefully open the drawer and take out the contents for EmilyAnn.  One was a photo of Cousin Rita Errico going down the aisle when she was Matron of Honor for Emily and Frank’s marriage.  A rose pink satin lingerie organizer came out next.  Emily purchased the organizers with a paycheck from her first part-time after school job during sophomore or junior year at Bay Ridge High School.  Inside each of the seven sections was a neatly rolled pair of nylon stockings.  In another drawer organizer were women’s handkerchiefs made from cotton fabric each with a different floral print.  EmilyAnn often thought just one of the handkerchiefs would make a pretty dress for her Tiny Betsy McCall doll.

Continue reading “78b-Serrapede Family in America:  Emily’s Gown for the High School Prom, 1947 or 1948”

78a-Serrapede Family in America:  Emily’s High School Yearbook Photo, 1947-1948


Emily kept two pictures on opposite sides of her dresser.  Each was framed by the same cherry wood that made up the rest of the bedroom suite.  The frames were beautifully carved into an open work design that created a feeling of motion as the eye followed the frame around the pictures.  On the left side of the dresser was Emily’s formal studio portrait taken during Senior Year at Bay Ridge High School.  The hand colored photo looked perfect in the frame.  On the right hand side of the dresser was a black & white photo of Emily and Frank as they left church on their wedding day.  The rosy color of the cherry wood frame did little to enhance the photo.  No matter that Emily sometimes put a pink rose into a bud vase next to the wedding photo one was always drawn to the hand colored studio portrait each time on the left. 

Relationship Notes

Emily Leatrice Serrapede was the daughter of Sam (Sabato) and Josie (nee Muro) Serrapede.  She was born in Brooklyn, NY on April 18th, 1931 and grew up in the Italian-American community of Dyker Heights.  Sometime in 1947 she met her future fiancé, Frank.  Emily attended Bay Ridge High School where she earned a Commercial Diploma and graduated in January 1948.  

Emily was Junior (Sammy’s) sister and EmilyAnn’s Mom. 

Family Story:  Emily’s Yearbook Photo

Studio portrait of Emily taken during her senior year of high school.  She graduated in 1948.

As EmilyAnn was growing up she always asked about the portrait photo from Emily’s senior year at Bay Ridge High School.  To quiet EmilyAnn and change the subject Emily said that this was the photo which appeared in her class yearbook.  “One day you’ll graduate high school and have a pretty picture taken, too,” Emily said.  “Why don’t you imagine how you will look and what you want to wear for the photo?  Let’s pretend you have your skirt and blouse all ready.  Tell me all about it.”  As a result of this diversion EmilyAnn thought all yearbook photos were full-sized 8” x 10” hand colored portraits until she had her own photo taken for her Junior High School yearbook.

In the photo Emily’s hair is beautifully styled.  She is wearing a feminine white blouse that has tucks running across a bibbed and ruffled front and puffed ¾ sleeves with the ruffle trim on the cuffs of the sleeve.  Emily always pointed out that she wore her Friendship Ring for that photo and made sure not to cover her left hand as the photographer had asked her to do. 

Emily expended much energy and effort to avoid talking at any length about her Senior Year at school.  Since she was very skilled at diverting EmilyAnn’s attention no further questions were ever raised.   When EmilyAnn started researching the Serrapede-Muro family history after Emily’s passing in 2011 she realized she didn’t even know what year Emily graduated.  A call to the Bay Ridge Alumnae Association resulted in one of the members locating the yearbook for the Class of 1948.  The Association was kind enough to make a copy of the page where Emily’s photo appeared and send it to EmilyAnn.  From the information Emily included with the photo for the yearbook, it was possible to get a glimpse into some of the activities Emily was involved with but had never spoken about.  Uncle Sammy and I will try to bring together some of the other experiences Emily had around this time and see if there is a connection between all of them. 

Please note:  The Bay Ridge Alumnae Association does not retain records for past students. 

Continue reading “78a-Serrapede Family in America:  Emily’s High School Yearbook Photo, 1947-1948”