45-Muro Family in America: Josie comes to Brooklyn, 1929

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Josie Muro in 1929.

Introduction

Josie Muro was the daughter of Nicola and Letizia (nee Scotti) Muro. She was born in 1909 in Agropoli and came to the United States with her mother in 1912. Her father came a few years earlier in order to secure work and a place to live. The family settled in Wilmerding, Pennsylvania.

Josie came up to Brooklyn, NY sometime between 1928 and 1929. My Mom told me of the events leading up to it in a general way but without too many details. As a child, Uncle Sammy learned of a similar version of the story.

The information obtained from our reviews of the 1920 Federal Census in Wilmerding and the 1925 New York State Census entries for Brooklyn, NY helped fill in the spaces that existed in our knowledge regarding the story of Josie’s coming to Brooklyn. We shared what we knew. Then using the factual evidence from the Census records created a time line that provides us with a framework to better understand events that were in place before, during and after Josie’s move to Brooklyn.

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19d-Growing up Italian-American: Halloween through the generations

Illustration from “Tippety Witchit’s Halloween” originally appearing in “My Book House” ed. by Olive Beaupre Miller.

Introduction

Uncle Sammy, Antoinette Serrapere and I share our experiences of celebrating Halloween as we grew-up in the Italian-American communities of our home towns.  This holiday is of Celtic origin and was not celebrated by our ancestors in Italy.  However, as the descendants of Italian immigrants grew-up in America they participated in the Halloween festivities through school and community sponsored activities.  The preparation of this posting offered us an opportunity to see how the participation has changed with each generation.

For children, Halloween is a point during the year when anything and everything can happen.  Ghosts might walk through the house.  The departed might appear in their dreams.  A generous neighbor might put $1 in each goodie bag.  The big kid who loves to scare the younger children might be waiting around the corner ready to shout “Boo!”  We shared expectations similar to these.

The celebration of Halloween has not remained fixed throughout the decades since our ancestors came to the United States.  By recording our memories of this holiday we found that it continues to grow and change.  The ways in which it does reflect the times we live in.  As an example, it was more common for children to go from house-to-house with their friends in the 1960s.  Today many children are accompanied by their parents to go trick-or-treating at planned get-togethers with neighbors or friends.  This development has arisen out of concerns for child safety.

Relationship Notes

Josie and Sabato Serrapede were the parents of Sammy (Sabbatino) and Emily Leatrice Serrapede.

EmilyAnn Frances May is their granddaughter through Emily Leatrice.  Sammy is her maternal Uncle.

Antoinette Serrapere is a member of the Serrapede family from Agropoli.  She is the daughter of Nicholas and Rosemary (nee Calhoun) Serrapere.  Her Grandparents Cosimo and Anna Marie (nee Botti) Serrapere immigrated to the U.S. from Italy in the early 20th century.  Antoinette’s family lived in Wilmerding as she grew up.

Serrapere is a variation of the surname Serrapede.

Dyker Heights:  1930s

  • My Mom, Emily L. Serrapede, never spoke at great length about Halloween.  She did mention that when she was growing up the emphasis amongst the first generation of Italian immigrants was on All Saints Day (November 1st) and All Souls Day (November 2nd).  She remembered that November 2nd was a day when many people went to church to light a candle for their departed relatives and friends.
  • The three holidays were not observed in the Serrapede household when Mom grew up.  The family visited the cemeteries and took care of the graves of their departed relatives as time and weather permitted.  Prayers or devotions were offered up for the departed on the anniversary of the person’s passing.

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15a-Station Break: Sunday Afternoon Dinner in an Italian-American household

In North Boston, Wednesday is Prince Spaghetti Day (1969)

When this commercial was made, Uncle Sammy and his first wife Annie lived in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, New York. I attended New Utrecht High School and lived at home on 79th Street in Dyker Heights. The predominant ethnic group was Italian-American but the customs were not like those depicted in this commercial. Wednesday was a weekday. Children had to do homework and get to bed early. Parents had to clean-up and get ready for the next day. Meals were never so elaborate during the week. The scenes depicted in this commercial were more typical of dinner during a Sunday afternoon amongst the families we knew in our part of Brooklyn.

Relationship Notes

Sabato Serrapede was the son of Gennaro and Emilia (nee Pappalardo) Serrapede.  Josie Muro was the daughter of Nicola and Letizia (nee Scotti) Muro.

Jose and Sabato married in 1930. They were:

–Sammy’s parents
–EmilyAnn’s maternal Grandparents

My Memories of Sunday Afternoon Dinners

Sunday was the day when all the stores were closed because the Blue Laws were still in effect. These laws required certain places of business like bars to be closed because it was the Sabbath day. There were restaurants that were open but little else. There was a sense of stillness and a suspension of the routine we lived during the rest of the week.

Among the people I knew, families went to church if they were religious.  Others got into their cars early for a drive to someplace like Shore Road where they’d relax and enjoy themselves.

In the Italian American community the Sunday afternoon dinner was the main social event of the day. Preparations began on Friday . Shopping was done between Friday and Saturday afternoon. The tomato sauce was started Saturday night in some households or early Sunday morning in others.

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1-Beginnings

 

Cover of “Through The Gate”, edited by Olive Beaupre Miller. Part of the “My Book House” series.

I have always been fascinated by the sight of tall, ornate gates that are part of large, ornamental entrances ways to homes, estates, cemeteries and parks. There is a sense for me of something transformational in passing through such a gate.  Much of this thinking developed within me as a child when my Mom gave me her childhood library which consisted of the twelve volume series “My Book House” edited by Olive Beaupre Miller.

 

Having these books within my bedroom linked me to my Mother’s childhood during the Great Depression of the 1930s.  Mom told me how Grandma Josie would buy the books one volumne at a time from a salesman who stopped by the house on a regular basis.  Later, when I inherited Grandma Josie’s collection of photos and cards, I found little notes, drawings and tracings done with my Mom and her little brother Jerry.  These drawings and tracings were inspired by the contents of one volume in the series for parents to use when engaged in storytelling time or play time with their children.  The instructions integrate stories from each volume into the planned activities to maximize educational and creative development in the child.

 

I was deeply touched to find that even my Grandmother was influenced by these books. One volume in the series was called “Through the Gate”.  On the cover are two little children, a boy and girl dressed in the style of perhaps early-mid 19th century England.  They stand before a large door to what looks like a very large house.  The little boy is on tiptoes about to reach for the knocker on the door. Mom always referred to books as gateways to other worlds and times.  She emphasized that everything we see has a meaning beyond just what we see.  As a child this kept me continually seeking her out to find out what the meaning of an object could be, besides the obvious one.  In the case of this book she said the gate referred to in the title meant that when the book was opened we entered a different world.  While we read the book we were somewhere between our everyday world and a very special realm where the story was taking place.  She used the present tense to describe this participation in the act of reading.

 

This was something my teachers at school never did.  So it was only natural that I went to these books night after night before going to bed convinced that I was leaving the ho-hum life of school and Dyker Heights behind. These thoughts came to me when my maternal Grandparents, Sam and Josie Serrapede, took me to Italy in the summer of 1976.  We visited the ancestral hometown of the Muro and Serrapede families in Agropoli, a small town in Salerno in Campania. Our ancestors lived high atop a hill that overlooked the sea.  Access was obtained by climbing a long flight of wide steps and passing through the ancient Byzantine Gate that marks the entry to the Old Town of Agropoli.

 

I can still see the ancient gate within my mind but in a different way as this family history adventure begins.  As a tourist I saw the obvious in the natural beauty of the area and experienced with my senses the hot sun and the long summer days during that vacation.  Now, though, I not only see within my mind the town but feel all around me a connection to my ancestors who lived there long ago. Growing up as an Italian-American did nothing to connect me with the past the way genealogy has done now.

 

As a third generation member of the family my experiences growing up were much different from my Uncle Sammy, the second son of Josie and Sam Serrapede.  In his world the quality of life during childhood was still influenced by the patterns of family life the first generation of our immigrant ancestors brought to America.  By the time I was born, the experience of growing up Italian-American in Brooklyn had changed even more. In the next posting, I will share some of our memories since they provide an interesting, and sometimes humorous, view of what our concept of our ancestral country was like vs. what we experienced when we went to visit Italy for the first time.

 

Written:  September 5, 2014 Friday night 11:40 p.m.