Family Story: The Carola Hotel

Title:  The Carola Hotel

Location:  Agropoli, Salerno, Campania, Italy

Occasion:  Visit to Muro and Serrapede Families in Our Ancestral Hometown

Time:  Summer 1976

My Maternal Grandparents, Josie (nee Muro) and Sam (Sabato) Serrapede, took me on a three week trip to Italy in the Summer of 1976.  The main purpose was to celebrate my Grandmother’s retirement and to reconnect with the family in Agropoli.  Both my maternal Grandmother and Grandfather were born in that town which is near Salerno in Campania Province.

Grandma Josie was firm that we were going to stay at the hotel because she wanted the comfort of all the modern conveniences.  I did not understand her emphasis until after we arrived in Agropoli.

The Carola was situated at the foot of the Old Town, a slight distance from the high hill upon which the Old Town is located.  There was a view of the beach from our room.  It was especially beautiful at sunrise.  I remember how the water looked bronze and the side of the hill began to light up from the base to the top as the sun climbed higher in the sky.  At night we could see the night fisherman out in their rowboats carrying lanterns.  I was told the light would stun the fish and make them less likely to escape from the nets.

The weather was very hot and on some days slightly humid, on other days dry.  I ended up taking two showers a day, frequently washing my hair.  The hotel did not have air conditioning at that time.

My Grandmother and I shared a room while my Grandfather had a large room to himself on the floor above us.  We could hear him from the terrace right above ours as he talked to friends who passed by on the street below.  Our room was very simple by American standards.  There were no rugs or fancy drapes or slip covers.  I’m glad there weren’t because the room would have felt too closed in during the hot weather.  The walls were smooth and painted a neutral color, beige or sand.  The furniture was very simple, too.  Everything was very neat, well-ordered and very clean.  Given how bright the sunlight could be and how hot the long days were, I found that simplicity and order all I needed to be satisfied with the comfort the room offered.

I didn’t appreciate just how much the conveniences at The Carola Hotel meant to me until we visited Grandpa Sam’s sister Italia.  She lived in a very, very old Pre-WWII building right at the foot of the stairs leading up to The Old Town.  It was quite an accomplishment that Italia’s family had gotten running water up to her apartment.  The toilet, though, was still a shared facility.  It was situated in a little room in the hallway of the floor where she lived.  Other tenants on the floor also used that toilet.  There were times a bucket of water had to be thrown down to ensure everything got flushed away.

I wasn’t aware that the Carola Hotel was owned by the family from which Mary Angela (née Carola) Muro’s father was born into.

Mary Angela was my Grandma Josie’s sister-in-law.  We always called Mary Angela by her nickname of Angie.  Angie was married to Grandma Josie’s younger brother Peter Muro.

On February 13, 2014 Claudia Muro, daughter-in-law of Angie and Peter Muro, told me the Carola Hotel was closed some time ago.  Claudia is married to Angie and Peter’s son, Robert Muro.

Claudia told me that the Carola Family operated the hotel and its restaurant separately.  She knew one of the cooks who worked at the restaurant.  He wanted very much to work in America and he loved Wilmerding, the Muro’s home town in the U.S.A.  He was unable to complete the process, though and could not come here to live and work.

As much as I loved visiting all the relatives, I was thankful we had the hotel room to retreat into each night while we were in Agropoli.  I enjoyed the quiet company of my Grandma Josie and the view of the beach each morning and night.  I needed that quiet time after all the sightseeing and visiting each day.

EmilyAnn Frances May

May 14, 2014

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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35a-Robert and Claudia Muro

 

This week I’ve had the pleasure of working with Claudia Lane Muro on creating a page for this blog.  Claudia is the wife of Robert Muro.  He is a grandson of Nick and Letizia Muro and the nephew of my late Grandma Josie.

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Claudia and me at Becco in 2014.

Claudia has been very helpful in filling in the blanks for information on the Muro family when I first started researching my maternal line.  She has written a very heartfelt and lovely piece about what she has learned about life in an Italian-American family setting.

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Robert and me at Becco in 2014.

Robert’s parents, Peter and Angie (nee Carola) Muro will be featured in a series of postings later in 2016-early 2017 as we continue the story about the lives of the second generation of the Muro family in America.  Please visit Claudia and Robert’s page for a photo and the memories Claudia so kindly shared with us.

32b-Father’s Day, June 19th, 2016

“The Emigration Scheme” by James Collinson

In honor of the patriarchs of all our direct lines.  In memory and thanksgiving for those who bore the past hardships in Italy.  In memory and thanksgiving for those who had the foresight to bring their families to America so they and their descendants would have a better life.  We dedicate this posting to you all on Father’s Day 2016.

Our Patriarchs

Muro Family
Giuseppe di Giaimo
Francesco di Giaimo
Aniello Scotti
Francesco Scotti
Carmine Scotti
Luigi Serrapede (b. 1800)
Gaetano Ruocco
Nicola Ruocco
Nunziante Muro
Pietro Muro
Nicola “Nick” Muro

Serrapede Family
Alessandro Patella
Antonio Pappalardo
Nicola Pappalardo
Vincenzo Ruocco
Luigi Serrapede (b. bef. 1815)
Sabato Serrapede (1834-1893)
Gennaro Serrapede (b. 1867)
Sabato “Sam” Serrapede (1900-2002)

———–

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32a-Muro Family in America: A new life awaits

Introduction

Nicola Muro travelled to and from America during the period 1900 to about 1909.  He networked with friends and relatives from his hometown of Agropoli to secure employment and familiarize himself with the best place to settle prior to his marriage in 1909.  On August 9, 1912 Nicola’s wife Letizia and daughter Giuseppina landed in New York.  They then travelled to Wilmerding, Pennsylvania where a new life awaited them with Nicola.

For this posting we focused on the conditions in Italy and Pennsylvania during the period 1911-1912.  This informal overview gave us some insights into the circumstances that were in play during the time the family decided to immigrate.  Although this was an informal process we gleaned enough information to better appreciate the willingness the family had to make a new home for themselves in America.

We have pulled information from a wide variety of sources since each one vividly conveys the mood and impression of what was going on in Italy and America at the time.  This is followed by our discussion notes that include our insights from this week’s readings.

Relationship Notes

Nicola and Letizia Muro were Sammy’s maternal Grandparents and EmilyAnn’s Great-Grandparents.

Giuseppina Muro married Sabato Serrapede in 1930.  She was Sammy’s Mom and EmilyAnn’s maternal Grandmother.

Americanization of the Italian birth Names

Beginning in this posting, we will start calling our family members by the names they used in America.  We believe it is in keeping with the new life and identity they made here.  These are also the names everyone knew them by.

Nicola became Nick Muro.
Giuseppina (a/k/a Giuseppa in Italy) was always known as Josie after coming to the U.S.

Overview – Italians in Pennsylvania

• The earliest Italian immigrants to Pennsylvania came from Northern Italy in the late 17th-early 18th centuries.  Many settled in the Philadelphia area.

o The Northern Italian immigrants were well-educated and from the middle and upper classes.

• In the 1860s, Americans supported the struggle of the Risorgimento movement in Italy.  The Risorgimento, under such leaders as Giuseppe Garibaldi, sought the unification of Italy into one nation.  America was in the midst of the Civil War at this time and understood the spirit Garibaldi represented.

• After Unification, Southern Italians were worse off than before.  The new Italian government favored the industrialized North.  As a result immigration from Southern Italy to the U.S. increased after 1870.

• The Southern Italian immigrants followed a different pattern of settlement than the Northern Italians.  Some did go to Philadelphia to work or live.  But many more headed to Pittsburgh and the smaller industrial towns in the Pittsburgh area.

• The social identity and culture of Italian immigrants were defined by the town in Italy from which they came.

o If many immigrants from the same town settled in an area they could become a self-sustaining “Little Italy” in a bigger city.

o In the smaller industrial towns there might be some isolation which heightened the feeling of separation from mainstream American life.

o The smaller towns also had a diverse mix of other Europeans.  Unless the Italian immigrant had family or paesani from the same village living close by they would have a more difficult time adjusting.

• Italian immigrants in big cities and small towns banded together to form fraternal societies.  They offered a limited form of life insurance, health insurance, death benefits and job search assistance.

o In time the members of these mutual aid societies joined forces with organized labor as more Italian immigrants went to work in the factories where labor organizing took place.

• The Catholic Church was another important part of the Italian immigrant’s life.

o The Italian immigrants did not want to worship at churches where Catholic Irish priests ministered due to the cultural and linguistic differences.

o This led to establishment of parishes focused on the needs of the immigrants.  These were called nationality parishes.

• In an effort to help Italians form their own unique identity in America, the fraternal societies organized celebrations commemorating the feast days honoring patron saints of the hometown where the immigrants came from.

o There were also parades honoring notable Italians such as Christopher Columbus as a means to foster cultural pride and a positive image of the emerging Italian-American.

• Of all Italian immigrants who came to Pennsylvania during the period 1870-1914 71% settled in the small towns rather than the large cities of Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.

o These smaller towns were called company towns because they grew around a factory or mine that was the main source employment.

• Italian immigrants avoided programs run by outside organizations that offered assistance accompanied by efforts to “Americanize” them.  They turned instead to family, paesani and the fraternal societies within their own communities.

We will see some of these factors at work as we begin our journey into the early years of the Muro family when they settled in Wilmerding, PA.

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31e-Our last week in Italy July, 1976: Back to Rome

Route from Gaeta to Rome.

 Our Vacation in Italy 1976: Remembering our last day in Rome

It was a hot day when we left Gaeta for the two hour drive back to Rome. At night we enjoyed the coolness of Italia and Antonio’s apartment, sleeping very well. The next morning it felt as if New York City had already rung the doorbell and entered the room, ready to claim her residents and bring them back home. Breakfast was a hurried affair as was getting dressed and doing our last minute packing.

I looked out the window and considered the bird bath in the garden of the apartment building where Italia and Antonio lived in Rome. There weren’t any birds playing in the water. The scene was so still in the bright summer sun.

I thought about Dyker Heights back in Brooklyn. In eight weeks Autumn would begin. The oak trees would change color as the season progressed. The sparrows would still be twittering each morning and I’d awaken to hear the leaves rustle if the wind was blowing. Thoughts of home began to tug at my heart again. I felt the desire for a donut and cup of coffee from Chock Full o’Nuts on Fifth Avenue in Bay Ridge. I wanted to kick-off my new wedgies and put my flats on and walk up to Woolworths’s on 86th Street. As I packed my clothes and souvenirs for the family I started going over all the memories of the past three weeks. During the years I took care of my Mom as the Parkinsonism she suffered with advanced, I often remembered these days in Italy. In quiet times from 2002 through 2007, I looked at the photos so I could touch these places in spirit. I never thought that they would help me connect our ancestral past and the present. That has happened now that Uncle Sammy and I are working on our project for the Muro and Serrapede Family History.

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31a-Bella Italia in 1976: Paestum

Introduction

The focus of our family history blog will be changing as we complete our study of the lives and times of our ancestors in Agropoli.   Uncle Sammy and I thought this is the appropriate time to present the remaining photos and memories of the trip I took to Italy with Grandma Josie and Grandpa Sam in July 1976.  This series of postings called “Bella Italia” will consist of those photos and reflections.  After this we will share what we are learning about the Muro and Serrapede family members after they settled in America.

Our last week in Italy 1976:  A day trip to Paestum

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 The route from Agropoli to Paestum.

A few facts about Paestum

• There are three temples in an excellent state of preservation.  These were dedicated to the deities Hera, Poseidon and Athena.

• Paestum was near a swamp.  Travelers had to use small boats to cross the swamp to get to the town.

• The site became a breeding ground for malaria leading to a decline in the population.

• Rising water levels eventually submerged the town for over 900 years.

• The remains of the three temples and parts of the city were discovered when a road was being build in 1748.

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