80b-Serrapede Family in America:  The Three Year Plan, 1947-1950 Part 2 

Introduction

Emily Serrapede and Frank J. Terry* were engaged after she graduated high school in January of 1948.  When they first met in 1947 or thereabouts, they knew after going steady for a few months that they wanted to get married.  After Frank gave Emily a Friendship Ring in 1947 they began what they called “The Three Year Plan”.  The Plan consisted of achieving a series of goals along each phase of planning not only for the wedding, but the first year of married life.  Included in this were all financial considerations for the honeymoon, the furniture, linens, house wares and deposit and security for an apartment.

Emily and Frank’s wedding ceremony took place in Our Lady of Guadalupe Church Bensonhurst, Brooklyn.  In the Catholic church it is customary for the wedding ceremony to take place in the church to which the bride belongs.  In this wedding, however, the ceremony took place in the parish to which Frank’s family was registered.  Whenever Frank and Emily shared their memories of the Three Year Plan they never went into much detail about the church or why they chose Our Lady of Guadalupe.  Emily made mention of her own parish in passing but never detailed why she was not married at St. Rosalia.

When we received the Marriage Certificate in the mail it was the first time we learned the name of the church.  Previously Emily had related the setting of the ceremony as “the church near Blanche and Al’s house.”  In this posting we share what we learned about Our Lady of Guadalupe and what we think were some considerations that factored into the choice of this church.  We also discussed what might have contributed to the stark contrast in the attitudes towards the parish churches to which Emily’s and Frank’s families belonged.

Relationship Notes

Emily L. Serrapede was the daughter of Sam and Josie (nee Muro) Serrapede.  She was born in 1931 and grew-up in the Italian-American community of Dyker Heights.  The Serrapede family lived on 66th Street between 11th and 12th Avenues and were members of the parish of St. Rosalia’s Roman Catholic Church.  St. Rosalia’s was located at the corner of 63rd Street and 14th Avenue. 

Frank Jesse Terry*, the son of Al and Blanche Terry, was born in 1927.  He lived with his sister, two brothers and parents in a two family home on 14th Avenue in a part of Dyker Heights bordering on Bensonhurst.  Frank served our country stateside during WWII.  His family were members of the parish of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church located on the corner of 72nd Street and 15th Avenue. 

*See Note before Resources section.

Our Lady of Guadalupe Church:  An Overview

The parish history at website of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church (see Resources section for link) is quite brief.  From it we learned that

the original church was a frame structure built in 1906.  As the years passed a convent and 2 school buildings followed but all were destroyed by a fire in 1933.

The church was rebuilt after this fire with an interior done in a Neo-Italianate style.  Another fire in 1973 consumed most of that 1930s interior.  The church was rebuilt again.  The church rebuilt in 1973 is still existant today.  The 1930s outer structure remains in place but the stained glass windows, pipe organ and interior date from 1973 onwards. 

To learn a little more about the developments in the parish after the fire of New Year’s Eve 1931, Uncle Sammy and I reviewed and discussed the news coverage about it in The Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

Continue reading “80b-Serrapede Family in America:  The Three Year Plan, 1947-1950 Part 2 “

80a-Serrapede Family in America-The Three Year Plan, Part 1 (1947-1950)

Introduction

On Monday, April 28th, 1947, advice columnist Helen Worth of The Brooklyn Daily Eagle answered some questions a reader submitted in regards to her forthcoming wedding.  Helen explained that it was still customary for the bride’s parent’s to pay for the wedding.  She answered a few other questions and then urged the bride-to-be to purchase a copy of Emily Post’s etiquette book to help guide her in matters such as the ones she questioned Helen about. 

Emily and Frank avoided the rush to the altar that was overtaking other couples after the end of WWII. Before getting wrapped up in such matters as wedding etiquette and needing anybody’s advice about seating for the church service, they decided to approach their wedding planning differently.   They started planning their wedding in stages, shortly after Frank gave Emily a Friendship Ring during the latter part of her Junior Year or early in her Senior Year at Bay Ridge High School.  Emily and Frank often shared with EmilyAnn bits and pieces of what they called their “Three Year Plan” prior to their wedding day.  They told her that thanks to this approach they were able to allocate their time and money towards their wedding in a way that did not cause other parts of their life to become unbalanced.  They also sought out advice from their parents, relatives and the professionals who would be part of the wedding service and reception.  By working together and making decisions in a step-by-step process Emily and Frank said they got insights into how married life could be when husband and wife worked together on the decision making process. 

None of the advice columns that we reviewed for the period 1947-1950 offered good, solid advice to engaged couples about the severe housing crisis at the end of WWII.  Frank and Emily did not mention this event in any retelling of the lead up to their wedding but after learning about the scope of the problem we came to the conclusion this was another factor that the Three Year Plan took into consideration.  Frank and Emily had a very firm vision of where they wanted to live and the quality of life they anticipated after marriage.  They maintained an independent approach to living and thought things through.  Emily preferred, and Frank agreed, that they should make decisions that worked for them and avoid being unduly influenced by the popular trends of the time.  This put them at odds with their peers.  Emily’s insistence, though, that they stay focused on the long term goals helped her and Frank wait through this difficult time and obtain all the goals they set out during those three years.  Knowing how well read and conversant Sam and Josie were on current events, we think they encouraged Emily to wait it out.  Blanche and Al, too, would not have wanted Frank and Emily to experience undue hardships such as others were going through at this time and would have told them to wait the first wave of housing scarcity out.

Relationship Notes

Emily L. Serrapede was a second generation Italian-American.  She was the daughter of Sam and Josie Serrapede and the sister of Junior (Sammy).  Emily was born in 1931 and grew up in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn.  She graduated from Bay Ridge High School in January 1948 and went to work as a legal secretary for the law Firm of Charles Marion Graham.

Frank J. Terry* was born in 1927 to Al and Blanche Terry.  He served our country stateside in Texas while in the Navy from 1945 to 1947.  Upon returning to Brooklyn he met Emily through mutual friends.  Frank worked at the same importing company with his father and lived about ½ mile from where Emily lived in Dyker Heights.

*See Note before Resources section.

Family Story:  The Three Year Plan, Part 1

Emily liked to tell EmilyAnn that the old saying, “Marry in haste, repent in leisure” had some truth in it.  The rush of emotions that comes attached with being engaged and planning a new life as a couple can cloud one’s mind and ability to see the future spouse as they really are.  For Emily, the time spent in planning the wedding was the best way to see how she and Frank got along when it came time to make important decisions.  It also was to be a time in which she got better insights into his family.

Frank often told EmilyAnn that teenage brides may be beautiful and the stuff of the highly romantic Harlequin novels she read while in her early teens but there was no way a girl right out of high school without any experience of earning a salary, keeping a house and a firm understanding of financial considerations would be up to the demands that quickly set in once the honeymoon was over.  Sure, the movies made it seem like every GI returning home married his sweetheart right away but that wasn’t the case for everyone.

Continue reading “80a-Serrapede Family in America-The Three Year Plan, Part 1 (1947-1950)”

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

Introduction

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

Introduction

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”

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

Introduction

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”

77c-Serrapede Family in America-Emily meets Frank’s family Part 3

Introduction

As Emily spent more time visiting Frank’s family on the weekends she noticed that his parents and siblings were busy all the time.  She could understand the busy lives they lived during the weekdays because the rhythms of daily life were similar to her own.  Home was a place to have meals together, rest, gather around the radio in the evenings and then go to bed early so as to be ready for school and work the next day.  It is true that the Serrapede family was well read and enjoyed their books, magazines and newspapers while relaxing in the living room, or in Emily’s case her own little bedroom.  However, Emily’s ideas about owning a house with 4 to 6 rooms had been very static.  She could see the house but not clearly envision how a family utilized every inch of space within a home. 

One Saturday afternoon while Emily was visiting, Blanche and Al asked Frank to drive them to the supermarket.  There were still many things to buy for the barbecue scheduled that afternoon.  Emily stayed behind to help Maureen set the long dining table in the family room located on the first floor of the house.  After that was completed, Maureen showed Emily around rooms and shared with her all the hobbies she and her brothers had.  Emily saw, for the first time, how a home allowed space for the family’s creative activities as well as those of daily life.

Relationship Notes

Emily L. Serrapede was the daughter of Josie and Sam (Sabato) Serrapede.  She was born in 1931, grew up in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn NY and graduated from Bay Ridge High School in January 1948 with a commercial diploma.  She met Frank through one of her best friends, Alma Rodriguez, during her junior year.  By senior year they were going steady and discussing their vision for married life together.

Emily lived in a 4 room apartment on 65th Street with her parents and younger brother Junior (Sammy a/k/a Sabbatino). 

Frank J. Terry* was the oldest son of Blanche and Al Terry.  He was born in 1927 and attended Edward B. Shallow High School.  Shortly before he was scheduled to graduate in 1945, he enlisted in the Navy and was stationed in Corpus Christi Texas until 1947.  Frank enjoyed kitchen duties while in the Navy and often helped one of the officers with preparing meals when his family planned a special dinner or birthday party.  Frank learned how to make such dishes as Meat Loaf, Veal Schnitzel, Sauerbraten, Corned Beef & Cabbage, Beef Stew, Chicken Noodle Soup and Matzoh Ball Soup from his mother.  He loved to relate how his stews were a hit with the officer’s family.

Frank returned to Brooklyn after his discharge from service looking to meet a young woman not just to date but to marry.  He met Emily through the boyfriend of Alma Rodriguez, one of Emily’s best friends at the time.  After 6 months of dating Frank gave Emily a betrothal gift known as a Friendship Ring.

Al Terry* was born in 1902 to immigrant parents from Sicily.  His parents and grandparents immigrated to New York during the late 19th century.  Al began to work in the import & export business when he was 20 years old entering an importing company as a bookkeeper.  By the time Emily met Frank he had advanced in his career to an executive level position after working as a salesman for at an import-export company.

Blanche Terry* was the daughter of immigrants from a country called Galicia that was part of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire at the time her parents, Benjamin and Tillie, were born.  They immigrated to the United States in the early 1900s.  Blanche, their first child, was born in 1905 in the Lower East Side of Manhattan.  Blanche grew up in an Orthodox Jewish home.  How religious her family was remains open to speculation since she never discussed them.  Anything we now know comes from the descendants of her brother Irving who, like Blanche, left the community to marry a Gentile.  Blanche worked as a model before her marriage.  Her younger sister Belle worked as a hat model for Lord & Taylor Department store.  Irving worked as an electrician after WWII.  Her youngest brother David was a self-employed Medallion cab driver.  Of all of Benjamin and Tillie’s children David was said to have been the most devout.  Because of her act of defiance in marrying a Gentile, Blanche was disowned by her parents.  She immersed herself in being the wife of an ambitious businessman and as a mother who encouraged and repeatedly challenged her own children to be and do more.

Blanche and Al’s children were:  Frank (b. 1927), Alfred (born 1929), Robert (b. 1931) and Maureen (b. 1934). 

In this posting we will highlight some of the hobbies and interests of each member of Frank’s family.

*Please see Note before Resources section.

Family Story:  Hobbies and pastimes

“As Maureen took me from room to room,” Emily said when she related this story to EmilyAnn as a child, “I began to realize that a big house enabled you to have more space in which you could devote time to a hobby and develop your talents, provided you had the time.”  Emily then cautioned EmilyAnn that a big house could also create very bad habits, too.  She warned her against ever thinking that space was unlimited.  “You should never keep accumulating stuff that gets tossed into drawers, closets and basements.  At that point it stops being a home and becomes a big storage unit.”

After this warning, Emily went back to describing how she learned more about Frank and his family during a morning when he took his parents out shopping.  She stayed behind to help Maureen finish a few chores.  When that was completed, Maureen showed Emily her room.  She had stuffed bunny rabbits and teddy bears sat on her bed, and a small desk and chair where she could do her homework.  Maureen showed Emily the desk lamp that provided the extra light Maureen liked to have when she worked on making her potholders while sitting at this desk. 

Continue reading “77c-Serrapede Family in America-Emily meets Frank’s family Part 3”

77c-Serrapede Family in America-Emily meets Frank’s family Part 2

Introduction

Emily and Frank began dating in early 1947.  By the Summer, Frank told Emily that his parents, Blanche and Al, would enjoy having her join the family on weekends. 

When the weather was good Al enjoyed having a barbeque that included a steak, hamburgers, hot dogs, potato salad and all the fixings like different kinds of relishes and also lemonade and iced tea.  During these visits Als brothers and sisters joined for the meal or stopped by for coffee, dessert and conversation.  For this type of informal family gathering, guests used the downstairs entrance and sat around the long dining table next to the built in bar in the finished basement. 

The basement was not really a basement since it was not below ground.  It was actually the first floor of the house.  The garage was on level with the first floor which gave it the look and feel of a basement since the entrance passed through the garage.  Once inside, the rooms were bright since there were windows along the wall which faced the next house and enough sunlight coming in.  When bright sunlight shone into these rooms while the electric ceiling lights were on Emily noticed just the difference from the  soft lighting used in the livingroom and kitchen upstairs.  The light from the lamps Blanche and Al had upstairs were not good for reading.  When Emily described this kind of lighting Josie explained that it was mood lighting, meaning it was intended to have a restful, relaxing feeling to it.

The second time Emily met Frank’s younger sister was at one of the barbeques.  She noticed that Maureen’s face had many breakouts.  Before meeting Maureen, Frank told Emily that his kid sister became reclusive after she entered junior high school.  Frank attributed this to the teasing Maureen got at school because of her worsening acne condition.

Maureen compensated for not having many friends at school by getting very close to her Mom and the tenants who lived upstairs.  She was learning how to keep a record book of expenses for her mother.  She also was learning how to bake by helping her Mom and the 20+ year old daughter of the tenants upstairs.  Maureen loved serving the food and baking for her brothers.  She also enjoyed cleaning up because she had a chance to be in charge of the kitchen and direct her brothers in what tasks were theirs and where to put the baking equipment and dishes once they had been dried. 

In her spare time Maureen enjoyed doing crossword puzzles and making potholders with stretchy loops she wove around a small metal frame.  She also developed a keen interest in searching for sales on aprons, oven mits, kitchen towels and baking equipment.  Maureen browsed the papers daily and also clipped coupons for Blanche and the tenant upstairs.  Maureen also gleaned enough from the daily news articles to carry on conversations with the elderly neighbors on the block.  Most teenagers weren’t interested in where there was a sale on laundry soap or flour but all a neighbor had to do was ask Maureen what were the best buys that week and she would stop to talk to that neighbor.  But to other teenagers, she was aloof.  Emily sometimes said Maureen was “14 going on 50” because she was so at ease with older people.  She also dressed down rather than up so that she looked more like a housewife than a teenage girl.

Emily had been talking to all her Serrapede and Errico relatives Blanche and Al’s silver coffee service, the silver ice bucket, the television set and all the guests Al and Blanche entertained.  She had not mentioned anything about Maureen’s breakouts to Josie and Sam before they met the family for the first time.  After that meeting Emily never expected what happened the next time she proudly recited the story about she and Frank got her friendship ring at an estate sale or how Blanche had a silver coffee service.  Josie called Emily in and sat her down in the kitchen while Sam tried to look busy with putting the dishes away.  When Josie yelled at Emily to open her eyes and question Blanche and Al’s priorities Emily was stunned into silence as her parents said they were going to talk some sense into her.

Continue reading “77c-Serrapede Family in America-Emily meets Frank’s family Part 2”

77c-Serrapede Family in America-Emily meets Frank’s family Part 1

Introduction

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.

Relationship Notes

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”

July 4, 2021: Happy birthday Lady Liberty and America!

The New Colossus
by Emma Lazarus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

————————————————————————–

Photo: public domain. WikimediaCommons. Courtesy Amy Speranza
Liberty’s Light represents the power of standing up for what is fair and just in the land of the free. The Sun shines on those who do what’s right.–Amy Speranza

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

Introduction

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..

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