This posting is a continuation of 55-Serrapede Family in America-Tap Dancing at Football Weddings in the 1930 and 1940s (Part 1). This week Uncle Sammy and I present the research results for the various elements of the family story. Uncle Sammy also shares his memories of attending “Football Weddings” as a child. The findings add a depth to the retelling of the story and connect it to the bigger trends in pop-culture and growing up in the Italian-American community of Dyker Heights during the 1930s through 1940s.
Tap Dancing: An American dance form derived from African, English and Irish influences
Tap dancing developed through a melding of the percussive dancing of African slaves during the 19th century. In this type of dancing the feet are used in a way that makes a beating or sliding sound. When their English and Irish owners watched the dances they picked up on the rhythmic movements and added steps from their own traditional jigs and reels. From this blending of different elements tap dancing began. In the late 19th century tap dancing was a feature of Minstrel shows. Later in the early 20th century it was performed at Vaudeville shows.
In the early stages of its evolution, tap dancing shoes used wooden taps on the shoes to create a distinctive sound. Metal taps came into use in the 1930s. By this time tap dancing was part of mainstream entertainment. Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers were two of Hollywood’s famous dancers who performed a sophisticated style of tap dancing in some of their movies.
Tap dancing has been called the break dancing or street dancing of an earlier era in America’s popular culture. In Philadelphia it was possible for young aspiring children to join different levels of tap dancing groups that congregated at different corners throughout the city. When the level of the group was achieved, the young person could then move on to the next group and learn techniques at that particular level.
After the 1950s tap dancing declined in popularity. There is something of a revival in progress as professional dancers are hosting workshops that invite the public to come and learn some basic steps and become part of the performance. We hope these efforts succeed in keeping this American form of dance for a new generation.
This posting is a continuation of 54c-Serrapede Family in America-Emily Leatrice’s Studio Portrait 1935 (Part 1) where we shared a studio portrait of Emily taken in 1935. The name of the studio on the picture frame prompted us to learn more about the photographer, Joseph Weise. We followed the growth of his business from 1930 to 1940. We now continue with our review of the findings which showed that Mr. Weise had studios in two different neighbhorhoods where the mix of immigrants and American citizens created the opportunities for expanding his client base.
Joseph Weise Photography Studios in Bensonhurst and Borough Park
The Weise Studio located at 4723 13th Avenue was situated in the part of Brooklyn formerly known as Blythebourne in the late 19th century. In the early 20th centuries Jewish immigrants settled in the area becoming the majority population. Italian and Irish immigrants also lived in this neighborhood. By the 1930s a shift began to take place as Hasidic Jews moved in. Today, the Hasidim dominate the community outnumbering the Orthodox Jews who were the dominant Jewish group at the time Joseph Weise opened his studio on 13th Avenue sometime after 1933 and before 1935.
The studios at 6408 18th Avenue (in 1933) and 6411 18th Avenue (in 1935) were situated in Bensonhurst. Up until the end of WWII, Bensonhurst had almost equal percentages of Jewish and Italian immigrants living in the community. With the development of middle class housing in the suburbs after WWII many of the Jewish residents moved out leaving the Italian-American community as the dominant ethnic group in the area. Today Bensonhurst is home to a much smaller Italian-American population. The up-and-coming immigrant groups are Chinese and Russian.
The first studio portrait of Emily Leatrice was taken when she was 14 months old in 1932. We shared that photo and the research results about studio where the photo was taken in these previous postings:
53c-Serrapede Family in America: Emily Leatrice’s first studio portrait, 1932 Part 1
53c-Serrapede Family in America: Emily Leatrice’s first studio portrait, 1932 Part 2
When Emily was 4 years old in 1935, Sam and Josie had another photo taken of Emily at a different studio. This photo comes with a pretty cardboard frame that is attractive enough to use as is. In the back is a stand so that the photo may displayed on a table. There is also a tab with a hole in it that makes it possible to hang the photo on a wall. Despite being stored in nothing other than a brown paper bag that was placed into a sturdy, cardboard carton with other photos, the frame is still in good condition. This may have been due to the fact that the attic where Josie stored her photo collection was usually warm and dry in all seasons.
Emily Leatrice Serrapede. Photo take in June 1935 at Wiese Photo Studio, Brooklyn, NY.
Josie and Sam subscribed to many magazines and newspapers. As a child I remember the sofa, end tables and coffee table full of such magazines as “Life”, “Time”, “The Saturday Evening Post”, “Cue”, and “The New Yorker”. Among newspapers the “Daily News” and “The New York Post” were the ones I remember most. Sometimes I found copies of “Mad Magazine” that belonged to Uncle Sammy in the drawers or on the nightables up in the attic.
I got to know my Grandparent’s favorite topics in the newspapers since I spent many weekends at their house as a child and a teenager. I also lived with them for 8 months during 1978-79. I thought it would be an enjoyable trip back in time to June 10, 1935 to select short articles or features in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle that would have caught their interest. The reason why I picked this date is because it appears on a photo of Emily taken at the Weise Photo Studio. I thought a good way for readers to get to know Josie and Sam would be through a visit to their apartment on the evening of June 10, 1935 after Emily had her photo taken that morning.
Sam and Josie Serrapede were parents to Emily Leatrice, Gerald and Sammy. They were EmilyAnn’s maternal Grandparents.
Brooklyn Daily Eagle Monday, June 10, 1935
When her children were young, Josie prepared dinner early and ate with them sometime between 5 and 6 p.m. before Sam came home. She’d let the dishes soak before washing them and take some time to relax after dinner. Josie loved to read so she started with the newspaper. First she checked the radio programs that Emily would enjoy listening to before going to bed.
Listings for radio programs broadcasted on Monday evening, June 10th and Tuesday morning, June 11th, 1935.
This posting is a continuation of 54a-Station Break-In the News 1934: The Dionne Quintuplets, Part 1 . After the material on the Dionne Quintuplets is completed, Uncle Sammy and I share our childhood memories of products, toys and famous people in the news who were an important part of our childhoods. This is followed by the Resources section where you will find links to all sources used for this posting.
Dionne Quintuplets: Return to home and then out on their own
In 1943 the Mr. and Mrs. Dionne won custody of their daughters. The move back home was not the joyous occasion one might think. The Quintuplets were treated badly as their siblings showed signs of jealousy and their parents were constantly berating them. Yet Mr. and Mrs. Dionne thought enough of the money their daughters had made to live off of it without any qualms. When the quintuplets turned 18 they all left home and cut off ties with their family. As of 2014 only Cecilie and Annette remained alive.
Discussion with Uncle Sammy on Sunday, February 21, 2016 11-11:50 a.m.
Uncle Sammy and I discussed the cartoon characters and pop stars of our childhood that captured our imaginations. We attribute the fascination the public had with the Dionne Quintuplets part of the great desire people had for escape during the Great Depression. The fascination Uncle Sammy and I had for our favorites developed during different decades. In many ways they show the growing influence of radio, movies and then television marketing to children.
I thought it would be good to do a short posting about the Dionne Quintuplets since they were a big part of the popular culture of the mid-late 1930s. The world was fascinated by the five identical sisters. As with the Hollywood child star Shirley Temple, it seems like the keen interest the fans of the Quintuplets had provided a needed escape from the harsh realities of life during the Great Depression. The Quintuplets were very important to Emily as the following family story relates. From there Uncle Sammy and I present the research results on the Quints, as the press and public often referred to the Dionne Quintuplets.
Emily Leatrice Serrapede was born on April 18, 1931. She was the daughter of Josie and Sam; older sister of Jerry and Sammy; and EmilyAnn’s Mom.
Family Story: My name in French is Emilie!
Emily was 3 years old when the Dionne Quintuplets were born in 1934. One of them was named Emilie. A few years later Josie and Sam bought her a Dionne Quintuplet spoon with the name “Emelie” engraved on it. The handle of the spoon was shaped to represent a little girl that looked like one of the Quints. The figure on the spoon had clearly defined ringlets and wore a smock type dress. Emily was very possessive of that spoon. Another object she considered very precious was her blue Shirley Temple drinking glass. The spoon and the drinking glass were brought out only when the immediate family had a meal together. If cousins or friends were visiting Emily asked Josie not to take them out to show anyone. She also asked Josie not to tell anyone about them.
It’s not that she thought the spoon and drinking glass had any power to make her somebody special. It was the idea that they connected her to two well known children she followed with great interest through listening to the news on the radio or heard her parents mention if an article appeared in the newspapers. Sometimes Emily wondered what Shirley Temple was having for breakfast or what it was like when Emilie Dionne met news reporters and had her photo taken for the papers.
–as told by Emily L. Serrapede to her daughter EmilyAnn Frances May
There are no public domain images of the Dionne Quintuplet spoons or the blue cobalt Shirley Temple drinking glasses. I located good examples at some websites for which I provided links to in the Recommended Reading with photos section at the end of Part 2 this posting.