Christmas in Agropoli 2017

Cousin Michael Muro is spending the Christmas holiday in Agropoli.  His flight was late due to falling snow.  This necessitated Michael flying from Pittsburgh to Newark.  From Newark he flew to Toronto.  Then from Toronto to Rome.  He arrived safely in Agropoli this past Tuesday.

Michael told me via email it was raining when he first arrived.  He wasn’t able to get too many photos but I think the ones he sent give us a glimpse into how the town is decorated for the holidays.  I was very surprised to see the inflatable igloos and Santas that have been placed along some of the ancient streets.  We have similar inflatable displays here in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, New York, too.

Michael is staying with the Carnicelli family and plans to spend some time with Giuseppe and Vincenzo.  If time and schedules permit he will also visit other relatives.

Thank you, Michael for sending us these photos.  Merry Christmas to you, the Carnicelli family and all our extended family in Agropoli and Calabria.

–EmilyAnn
–Sammy, Jr.

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Michael is visiting the Carnicelli family.  From right to left:  Gerardo Carnicelli, zio Antonio Carnicelli, Maria and daughter Danielle(friends of Gerardo).

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Michael is in the center of this large, lighted gift box in the Piazza of Agropoli.

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Christmas tree made of lights in Piazza of Agropoli.

 

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Christmas market in Agropoli.

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Inflatable igloo and Santa’s helper located on one of the streets of Agropoli.

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Another inflatable outdoor display forms an arch over one of the streets in Agropoli.

 

 

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Hanukkah, December 12th to 20th, 2017

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May the illumination of the candles you light each night shine into your life and fill it with love, strength and hope.

 Have a blessed Hanukkah.

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Public Domain Clip Art from WPclipart
Hanukkah Menorah
Star of David

https://www.wpclipart.com

 

 

 

52d-Station Break: Shopping Lists and Rented Rooms in “Dime a dance”

Special Note

This is our last posting before going on winter break.  We’ll stop in during the next two weeks to exchange holiday greetings with our WordPress friends.  Regular posting will resume around the second week of January 2017.

Introduction

Uncle Sammy and I did not plan to post about a Pre-Code 1930s film as part of our family history.  The scenes from “Dime a dance” complemented the discussion we were having about how much food and rent cost during the 1930s.  The difficulties of a young couple struggling on $160 a month in this film resonated after our research on this topic.  We hope you will enjoy the synopsis of this film along with some screen shots from the movie.

Synopsis of “Dime a dance” (1931)

In “Dime a dance” Barbara O’Neill (Barbara Stanwyck) is a young, single woman working as a taxi dancer.  She is in love with Eddie Miller (Monroe Owsley) whom she meets at the boarding house where they live.  Eddie comes across as a shy, sensitive guy who just needs a break in life.  There is another contender for Barbara’s affections.  Suave, wealthy businessman Bradley Carlton (Ricardo Cortez) is struck by Barbara’s honesty and independence.  Despite the gifts and tips he gives her at the dance hall Barbara remains unmoved.

Barbara marries Eddie after he makes her leave her job.  Life does not go well as he constantly needs money.  Less than a year into their marriage, the couple is in debt and Barbara learns Eddie is not the man she thought he was.  In her troubles she turns to Bradley for help.

I won’t spoil the rest of the story since I think it’s worth checking out this Pre-Code film.  A very young Barbara Stanwyck gives a good performance.  She’s still developing her style but you’ll see the actress of substance she was to become shortly before the end of the film.

What is a taxi dancer?

The term taxi dancer is a descriptive way to define the relationship of the dancer to the patron of a dance palace.  Patrons bought tickets for ten cents each dance.  The dancer took one ticket for one dance.  In a way, it is like going into a taxi cab.  Once the drive starts, the meter is on for the rest of the trip.  To continue on with the same partner for another dance, the patron has to have another ticket.  This gave rise to the phrase “dime a dance girl” to describe the women who worked as taxi dancers.

Taxi dancers lived a very precarious existence.  They were paid a nickel off of every ten cent ticket they took in.  Assuming a dancer took 5 minutes for one dance, she could make 60 cents an hour.  There had to be break time in-between so I’d estimate that in total the dancer could make $4.00 more or less per day.  For a 6 day week her total would be about $20-24.  The dancer would have to be very resilient and focused so that she maintained a steady clientele.  Without them her daily take could fluctuate too much.

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

Introduction

This posting completes the series on our review of the average monthly salary of a worker and how families in this income group lived.  The previous postings were:

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

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

The discussion Uncle Sammy and I had about this topic follows in the next section.  All resources used for this series are also included.

Discussion with Uncle Sammy, Sunday, January 31, 2016 11-11:50 a.m.

Mom never spoke about her parents buying health or life insurance. Uncle Sammy confirmed this. So as far as the 1931 budget for $120-130 a month went, the $7 in Barbara Jane’s budget for insurance would go elsewhere in the Serrapede household. Josie became a member of the ILGWU in the late 1940s-early 1950s. Sam entered the local Building Worker’s Union sometime in the 1950s after he got a job as a doorman at a luxury high-rise in Manhattan. Uncle Sammy remembers that any insurance policies Josie and Sam had were all provided through their union jobs. This includes health insurance and life insurance. They did not buy insurance on the individual market.

Josie and Sam had only one credit account and that was at Sam’s Grocery Store on 11th Avenue at the corner of 66th Street. Sam of the grocery store was not related to our Sam. Josie paid Sam the grocer $10 a week towards her purchases. Anything exceeding that amount was posted to her house account. If she spent less a credit was posted. At the end of the year, the remaining amount owed was paid out of the tips Sam collected at Christmas from the tenants of the building where he worked. Uncle Sammy said the tenants were generous since they liked Sam very much. Paying off the balance owed Sam the grocer was never difficult.

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

Special Note and Update 11-26-2017

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.

Introduction

Uncle Sammy and I never heard stories about the Great Depression that focused on extremes of poverty and hunger. Josie, Sam and members of the extended family spoke about how hard everyone had to work to keep their jobs. Family stories emphasized how relatives and paesanos helped each other with everything from providing a few slices of bread, to getting a job and even an introduction to a suitable marriage partner. We learned that the times were worrisome. We also learned what actions people took to remedy their situations. The emphasis was on solving the problem and working with the opportunity that came one’s way. There wasn’t any prolonged analysis of a job offer. The outlook was bluntly put, “No work, no food, no rent.”

Money was never explicitly spoken of so we do not have a point of reference in terms of what Sam’s yearly salary in the 1930s was. Once we locate a 1930 Federal Census entry for Josie and Sam that will change but so far we have not retrieved one at Ancestry. We have the memories Josie and Sam’s daughter Emily shared about the apartments where they lived when she was growing up. These provided a starting point.

I sat down and listed the characteristics of those apartments before preparing this posting. I also thought about the kinds of meals Josie would have made each day. I then went to the 1931 issues of The Brooklyn Daily Eagle to check out the costs of food and rent. The classified ads for rental apartments and the column with food prices gave me some idea of how much things cost. Living on $120 a month was very difficult. We do not know what the monthly budget for the Serrapede family really was but we can say for sure they worked very hard and were very resourceful during the Great Depression. Their daughter Emily grew up feeling loved. She never realized how difficult the times were until she was about 8 or 9 years old. 

Relationship Notes

In this posting we focus on Josie Muro Serrapede. She was the wife of Sam Serrapede, mother of Emily Leatrice, Gerald and Sammy. Josie was EmilyAnn’s maternal Grandmother.

The Family Stories are not dated because they were not recorded during a planned session. These come from conversations throughout the years that recurred many times

$120 a month: a budget for a very thrifty household

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Budget for $130 a month submitted by a reader to The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, March 2, 1931.

In the Spring of 1931 advice columnist Helen Worth of The Brooklyn Eagle asked her readers how they would allocate money for necessities a budget of $120 a month. The request was made on behalf of a reader named Elsa who was about to get married.

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52b-Serrapede Family in America: The Great Depression-$120 a month (Part 1b)

Introduction

This posting concludes the topic we began in 52b-Serrapede Family in America: The Great Depression-$120 a month (part 1a).  In that posting we considered the nature of the work shoe shiners did and how much they may have earned.  When the posting concluded we made note of how the young American boys who did this work faced competition from the waves of immigrants coming from Europe at the start of the 20th century.  Many members of our immediate and extended family worked as boot blacks after arriving from Italy.

We now turn our attention to some of the ways bootblacks worked throughout Manhattan.  Then Uncle Sammy and I share our family stories and discussion at the conclusion of this posting.

Relationship Notes

Sam Serrapede was born in Agropoli, Campania, Salerno Italy.  He immigrated to the U.S. in the late 1920s.  In 1930 he married Josie Muro.  The newlyweds made their home in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn, N.Y.  Sam worked as a shoe shiner during the 1930s through the late 1940s.

Sam was the Father of:
*Emily Leatrice Serrapede
*Gerald (“Gerry”, Gennaro) Serrapede
*Sabbatino (Sammy) Serrapede

Sam was the maternal Grandfather of:  EmilyAnn Frances May

Bootblacks around New York City during the Great Depression

This shoe shiner waits for a customer on the corner of 14th Street and 8th Avenue in New York City.  He’s set up his station outside of the New York Savings Bank.  The sign above him contains a quote from Disraeli which says, “The secret of success in life is for a man to be ready for his opportunity when it comes.”

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The shoe shiner outside the New York Savings bank got a customer.  He is located in a good spot next to the entrance of a subway station.  The set-up is very simple and would not cost much to keep up.  However, the customer getting his shoes shined would not be very comfortable since the chair is very small.  To have an edge over other shoe shiners in the area this man would have to have better supplies or a better technique.

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This shoe shiner was working near Union Square, another busy area.  Judging by the background he may have been near the park.  Union Square is also in the vicinity of 14th Street and is close to a subway station making it an ideal place to attract customers.  This shoe shine station is more elaborate.  It might have attracted more customers than the one of the shoe shiner on 8th Avenue because the bench has a higher back and the awning provides some shade during a bright day.

A study of the photographs makes you realize that if these shoe shiners were working on their own their ability to earn a steady income was impacted by weather conditions.  Another down side to working outdoors was the vulnerability to pickpockets and thieves.  The shoe shine operation needed a steady location in order to cultivate relationships with clients.  How the matter of where the shoe shiner worked outdoors was not described in any of our readings.  It’s possible that the shoe shiner had to get permission to work outside of a business like New York Savings Bank.  There were most likely licensing requirements and fees to be paid.

An independent shoe shiner would also have operating costs for the upkeep of his stand and supplies.  The shoe shiners in these photos may have been working for a service that provided the station and the supplies.  Even so, working outdoors had its drawbacks.  Better locations would be indoors at such locations as Grand Central Station, the Staten Island Ferry Terminal or a local barber shop.

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