52c-Serrapede Family in America-1930s: $120 a month (Part 2b)

Introduction

This posting is a continuation of 52c-Serrapede Family in America-1930s: $120 a month (Part 2a)

The attempts to understand the 1930s life style given here are not a recreation of the way Josie managed Sam’s salary.  Uncle Sammy and I could not find exact information on what a housewife spent on food each week.  So I tried creating a scenario where we selected the fresh foods Sam liked best.  Then in Part 2 of this posting I created a menu plan for two to three days.  This exercise was very challenging.  I learned that growing up and coming of age during the Post-WWII economic boom did not prepare me to think as people did during the Great Depression.  It is one thing to have an intellectual understanding that life was difficult and quite another to try to take on the mindset of an era and approach a problem with the restrictions  that were in place at that time.  Josie and Sam never  provided great detail about the hardships of the Great Depression.  Most of the family stories they passed on emphasized working together during times of hardship.

I thank Amy of Brotmanblog: A Family Journey for asking the right questions that led me to create this needed clarification for the posting.

$10 a week for food: Trying to recreate a 1931 Menu Plan for one evening and the next day

Here is my attempt to recreate a 1931 shopping list Josie might have made. It consists of items she did not have on hand. The fixings for the eggplant parmigiana such as the tomato sauce and the mozzarella, would be left over from the weekend meal. I have not added in what baby food cost because that information was not available. I will explain why I included bananas in the section for our family stories.

Monday night dinner

  • Eggplant Parmigiana
  • Italian Bread
  • Side serving of macaroni cooked fresh

Tuesday

Breakfast

  • 2 scrambled eggs (1 each)
  • buttered toast
  • coffee
  • 1/2 grapefruit each

Lunch

  • Leftover eggplant parmigiana made into sandwiches on Italian bread.
  • Grapes for dessert

Dinner

  • Veal Chops
  • Spinach or broccoli
  • Cantaloupe for dessert

Shopping List for Items Needed

2 eggplants at 10 cents each……..$ .20
loaf of bread ……………….. …………..$ .10
1 dozen eggs (Grade B) …………….$ .34
1 lb. veal chops …………………………$ .34
1 lb. spinach………………………………$ .07
1 lb. grapes ………………………………$ .12
1 grapefruits ……………………………$ .08
1 small cantaloupe………………….$ .12
6 bananas ……………………………….$ .20

Total                                           $3.14

Although the total is $3.14 the makings of other meals are here. Josie often made frittatas (Italian style omelettes). Any left over veal chops would be made within a day or two. Still, staying within a total budget of $40 a month for food would be a challenge. One way to achieve that would be to eliminate the fresh fruits and reduce the amount of meat bought. An increase in carbs and fats would provide the energy needed to get to work and throughout the day. The long term effects of such a diet would show in old age and in the poor health of the children.

Josie and Sam did not eat like that. Sam was very fussy about what he ate and Josie had to make everything from scratch. Good, fresh food was always emphasized in the Serrapede family. The only thing I can think of is Josie met her food budget by reducing what she spent on things like clothes for herself and Sam. Since she was a skilled seamstress the $12 a month allocated for clothing, clothing maintenance and laundry could be reduced. The extra money would be applied to the food budget.

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52a-Serrapede Family in America: The Great Depression, Part 2

(This posting is a continuation of 52a-Serrapede Family in America: The Great Depression, Part 1)

Discussion with Uncle Sammy on Sunday, January 24, 2016

Topic:  What do you associate with the 1930s?

EmilyAnn:  First, I think of what happened on the day the Stock Market Crashed in 1929.  Mom told me that some investors were so shocked or ruined that they soon committed suicide.  Dad always said that as bad as things were that should never have happened.  People live through tough times by drawing closer to each other. Mom and Dad repeatedly emphasized this. With this in mind I wondered how people coped.

My parents and grandparents often told me that the movies offered a great escape.  I think of the Endicott Theatre that was located on 13th Avenue and 70th Street.  Mom and Dad shared many of their memories with me about their happy times at the Saturday afternoon matinees.  One of Mom’s favorite series of films came out towards the end of the 1930s.  She was a fan of Mickey Rooney and the “Andy Hardy” films he made.  Mom thought he was cute.  I couldn’t understand the appeal because as a child I knew Mickey Rooney as an older actor.  When I saw the photos of him as a teenage star I quickly understood how Mom, as a 6 or 7 year old girl, could develop a crush on him.

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Opening credit for Mickey Rooney from 1939 film, “Babes in Arms.”

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51-Serrapede Family in America April 18, 1931: It’s a girl! (Part 2)

(This posting is a continuation of 51-Serrapede Family in America April 18, 1931: It’s a girl! in which we considered the day Emily L. Serrapede was born and some of the issues she faced growing up as an Italian-American.  In this posting the discussion expands to experiences Uncle Sammy and I had.)

The Detail in the Birth Certificate that might point to an answer

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Close-up of the birth certificate.

I think I found a clue to Emily’s sensitivity regarding her ethnicity. Looking at her birth certificate I found the following: Color or Race-It. The It. means Italian.

Southern Italians were considered a race unto themselves. This was not in a good way. They were seen as incapable of joining the mainstream. An article from a 1914 edition of “The World’s Work” expresses sentiments held at that time about why this was so. It came down to this: Southern Italians were non-Caucasians. Therefore, the thinking went, they’ll never make it into the mainstream. In the 1910s the sentiment against Southern Italians was very negative. Their admission to this country was thought to have a detrimental effect on society. Census records list Italians as members of the Caucasian race but outside of their immigrant community the treatment was not always considerate or kind. When I was a child I was told by outsiders that we were “Wops” because our Grandparents were all here illegally. “Wop” meant “without passport.” Recently I’ve read it also could mean “White on paper.” Meaning for things like the census records Southern Italians were entered as Caucasian or White but in reality they were treated as “others”.

To what degree Emily experienced negative treatment I do not know. She never told me of any events in her life that would be a contributing factor to the strong show of emotions I witnessed when I did things like ask to get my ears pierced or why she wouldn’t teach me how to speak Italian as good as she did.

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51-Serrapede Family in America April 18, 1931: It’s a girl! (Part 1)

Introduction: Events around Brooklyn on April 18, 1931

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Close-up of page 1 of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle edition for April 18, 1931.

Weather forecast for April 18th-19th, 1931 in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

On Friday, April 18th, 1931 the Brooklyn Daily Eagle’s weather report stated that “at 8 a.m. the temperature in New York City was 52 degrees.” A milder day was ahead on Sunday, April 19th.

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Short news items from page 1 of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

Page one combined headline stories such as a crisis in Nicaragua and a movement by Catalonia to separate from Spain with many short news items that were not the stuff of headline news. They provided bits of information readers could discuss with their neighbors or co-workers. In Florida, Conkey P. Whitehead was being sued by a woman claiming breach of promise. Jack Guzik, a business manager for Chicago gangster Al Capone, pleaded guilty in Federal Court to income tax evasion. And in Brooklyn, New York restaurant owner Patrick White was taken to Greenpoint Hospital after a former employee punched him in the jaw.

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Mrs. John Krall of Queens is pictured with her three sets of twins on the day her youngest ones were baptized.

Page 2 featured a photo of Mrs. John Krall and her three sets of twins. Her latest pair was baptized on April 18th. Mrs. Krall had three other children not included in the photo. She lived in Middle Village, Queens. We know a family in Bath Beach, Brooklyn who were also celebrating a happy day on April 18, 1931. Sam and Josie Serrapede welcomed their first child, a girl, into the world. This baby girl’s birth never made it to the newspapers but in our family history it was big news.

The baby Josie and Sam named Emily Leatrice grew up to be Sammy’s big sister and my Mom. Her birth certificate provides many details that enable us to create a snap shot of what life was like at the time she was born.

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51a-Serrapede and Muro Families in America: How a baby book started the family history project

Introduction

Greetings to all. It is good to be back after Summer Break. Thanks to Michael Muro, Giuseppe and Vincenzo Carnicelli, the family of Antonio Eugenio and Aldisa Aiello, and the Dell’Amore family for the enjoyable entries they contributed to during June through August.

With this posting, Uncle Sammy and I begin a shift in the presentation of the Muro and Serrapede family history. While we still have official documentation to draw on, we realize that after the 1940 Federal Census there needs to be other sources of information that will add to or verify the narrative.

We are taking a creative approach by combining family stories, local history, news coverage, pop culture, and personal history. With all the resources available through the internet the possibilities are dazzling. To start, we won’t aim for dazzling or sparkling but hope you will enjoy this story about how the family history project got its start. If it touches the heart and warms the spirit that will be more than enough feedback for us.

EmilyAnn’s story: The Our Baby Book

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Cover of Our Baby, A book of Records and Memories.

I didn’t know what to make of Mom’s idea to use the “Our Baby, A book of Records and Memories” as a starting point for writing down her childhood memories. She bought this book while working at Brooklyn Union Gas during a long term temp assignment in the early 1990s. She said it put her into a cheerful frame of mind and provided the prompts she needed to recall specific times in her childhood. There were other journals and memory books on her bookshelf that she used to record other periods in her life. The end goal was to collect all these brief entries into a collection of vignettes and anecdotes about her life from childhood to young adulthood.

In the early 1990s through 1996 the internet was not part of our lives yet. I had taken creative writing courses in college but it was for the most part tedious and heavy handed. We read selected samples of different styles of writing. Then based on the sample we had to create something like it. There was no free writing, no prompts, nothing that got the creative juices going to take us on a journey into the flights of fancy creative writers can experience today. Thanks to the internet there is a wealth of techniques and exercises available. And then there are wonderful writing tools like 750words.com that keep one disciplined in their daily output. I’ve no idea where Mom got her unique approach to writing but it was working out well for her. As I watched the small collection of memories take written form, I thought there was something to the free form process she took using only illustrations to get started.

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48a-Muro Family Get-together, February 25, 2017 & Thoughts on Memorial Day

Introduction

Michael Muro and I have been in touch since early this year thanks to another cousin and the family history project.  After many emails, we moved on to contact by phone and text messages.  We both have very involved schedules so the logistics for the meet-up took a while to work out.

We decided to meet for lunch on Saturday, February 25th at the Fraunces Tavern, a historic landmark in Lower Manhattan.  The building dates back to the American Revolutionary War and was a meeting place for many of our Founding Fathers.  Today the Tavern offers a delicious pub-style menu along with a diverse selection of brews (beers and stouts) and coffees.  There is also a museum of American Revolutionary War artifacts on the second floor.

It had been a busy week at work and I forgot to take my 35mm camera so I could be guaranteed some clear, memorable photos.  It was then that I also recalled I now had a new Android phone by LG.  I decided to take the photos with the cell phone camera and then work them up in PaintShopPro to create something memorable.

I had not seen Michael in many years.  He attended the wake for Grandma Josie in 1995 but since I was in such shock at the loss of my beloved Gran, nothing from that time is easy to recall.  Michael had such a laugh when I told him that I can recall, as clear as if it was just a few years ago, how we sat together at Grandma Josie and Grandpa Sam’s 50th Wedding Anniversary dinner.  The guy I had been dating at the time had already left and the dinner was not through yet.  My boyfriend-at-the-time had a long drive back home and his departure was understandable.  So there was Michael and I with my Mom and Dad enjoying the atmosphere of Romano’s,  an old school Italian restaurant that was located on 13th Avenue near the corner of 70th Street.

I hope you will enjoy the story these photos tell.  That I have finally gotten around to posting them on Memorial Day Weekend seems just right.  This is more than just a weekend to kick off the start of Summer.  It is a weekend to honor the memory of all who have given themselves in service to our country.  This does not mean we have a blind patriotism nor a hateful scorn of our past.  Instead it means learning from history by taking the events as they actually happened and extracting a meaning from the positive and negative.  History teaches us much if we listen to what she tells us and do so with an open mind.

From Brooklyn, I took the R Local train to Rector Street in Manhattan.  I thought a long walk from that station down to Pearl Street, where Fraunces Tavern is located, would be good.  I worked in the Wall Street area for many years.  I wanted to revisit Trinity Church and Federal Hall before I met Michael and Peter.  As I recall the afternoon, these first two stops added to the meaning the second part of the afternoon had.  This is because as Michael, his cousin Peter and I had enjoyed our time together we celebrated our shared bonds of ancestors from Agropoli and celebrated our heritage as Americans.

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40-Muro Family in America-The Ethnic Mix on State Street

Introduction

As a child I thought my Grandmother and Mother grew up in neighborhoods where the entire community was Italian-American. I was very scared about going to kindergarten. Some of our neighbors told me that the children of servicemen stationed at Fort Hamilton would be amongst my classmates. These children had travelled to different countries in Europe or different states in America. Some of their mothers were from different countries. Instead of looking forward to making new friends I became unsure of myself. I told Grandma Josie and my Mom that I didn’t want to go to Public School. Instead I wanted to attend St. Bernadette where the student body consisted solely of children from Dyker Heights.

Mom and Grandma Josie shared stories of their childhood and adolescence with me in an effort to show me that they never lived in the strictly Italian-American world my 4 1/2 year old imagination created. I was told that sooner or later the bigger world would call out for me to participate in it. Going to kindergarten was the first big step I had to take.

Uncle Sammy and I decided to check out the stories Grandma Josie shared with me and compare them with the ethnic mix as recorded in the 1920 Federal Census for the Muro family in Wilmerding, PA. We then compared our own experiences of growing up in Dyker Heights and the ethnic mix we encountered throughout our school years. This exercise showed us that official records can be used to check the veracity of the family stories. In the case of the examples my Mom gave, we learned how important it is to collect as much material on a topic from each generation as possible. This personal history is sometimes never entered to published works on a community since they can be written by people who have not grown up or experienced the life of members of the community. For this reason, we believe that researchers do a great service to the genealogical community and amateur family historians when they include interviews with the people from the community they are writing about.

Relationship Notes

Josie Muro Serrapede was:

  • Emily Leatrice Serrapede’s Mother
  • Sammy Serrapede’s Mother
  • EmilyAnn’s maternal Grandmother

Emily Leatrice Serrapede was:

  • Sammy’s Sister
  • EmilyAnn’s Mother

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