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 left an extensive photo collection to her daughter when she passed away in 1995. There are almost 300 photos of all sizes and types. Josie had a box camera which she used extensively throughout the 1930s and 1940s. In the photos she took we have many scenes of the neighborhood around 66th Street where the family lived. There are also many studio photos taken as part of special occasions such as weddings and Holy Communion. Studio portraits of family members are also part of the collection. This posting is about the earliest photo we have of Emily Leatrice. She always said that she was born with blonde hair. Judging from this studio portratir her hair may have been a golden brown, perhaps a shade darker than popular 1930s child star Shirley Temple’s.
Emily Leatrice Serrapede, June 1932.
Close-up of the photo taken at the Studio of A. Della Monica, Gravesend, Brooklyn, NY.
Josie treasured her photo collection. We do not know how she did it but the photos have remained in good condition despite being stored in nothing but brown paper bags and then carefully stacked in brown cardboard boxes. Many of the original cardboard frames complete with the studio labels are still intact as well. Because of this we know the name of the photographer and the location of the studio for Emily Leatrice’s 1932 photo.
Emily Serrapede is featured in this posting. She was the daughter of Sam and Josie (nee Muro) Serrapede, older sister of Gerald and Sammy, and EmilyAnn’s Mother.
In 1930 Sam and Josie were married at the Church of St. Rosalia. The church was built on 14th Avenue and 65th Street. When their daughter Emily Leatrice was born in 1931 they were living in the Bath Beach section of Brooklyn. Six months later she was baptized at St. Rosalia’s Church where the family moved before Emily was Baptized. As young parents, Sam and Josie needed the help and companionship of their relatives and paesanos, most who lived in Dyker Heights. This was a good move. Their daughter grew up in the company of her cousins, many who became her best friends.
The Baptismal Certificate
Baptismal Certificate for Emily Serrapede.
Although her birth certificate had her official name as Emily, the Baptismal Certificate bears her name in Italian. Emilia Pappalardo Serrapede was her paternal Grandmother. This might have been a custom observed in the immigrant community. The official record has the English version of the name and the baptismal name is in Italian. Josie and Sam followed this practice with their son Jerry.
Emily Leatrice was the daughter of Sam and Josie Serrapede, sister to Gerald and Sammy and Mom of EmilyAnn. She was born at Coney Island Hospital in Brooklyn, NY on April 18, 1931.
The family stories shared in this posting come from a combination of brief entries my Mom made to her “Our Baby Book” and the many discussions we had about them. The entries were a type of shorthand she used to recall the memory or cluster of memories she wanted to share with me. I listened carefully so that I could feel and see the scenes along with her. Then I committed as much as I could to memory. We discussed the stories so often that soon a narrative began to flow. Stories she’d told me in my childhood now expanded to include the more recent ones entering the narrative. In time I could recall the memories and experiences she shared with me just as if I’d been there when they happened.
We began this process over many lovely weekends. We got up very early for breakfast and lingered over cups of herbal tea and hot cereal. I was never sure how I would write everything into a narrative form. These sessions took place in the mid-1990s. The Internet, blogging, and episodic storytelling were things I had no idea would one day facilitate their expression.
Mom’s earliest entries and the stories she told me focused on how much her Dad, Sam, loved her and how much patience he had with her as she grew older. Here are two stories which show the interaction between them.
In order to keep the narrative from becoming confusing to non-family members, I refer to my Mom and Grandparents by their first names.
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.
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.
$10 a week for food: Trying to recreate a 1931 Menu Plan for one evening and the next day
Here is my attempt to recreate a 1931 shopping list Josie might have made. It consists of items she did not have on hand. The fixings for the eggplant parmigiana such as the tomato sauce and the mozzarella, would be left over from the weekend meal. I have not added in what baby food cost because that information was not available. I will explain why I included bananas in the section for our family stories.
Monday night dinner
- Eggplant Parmigiana
- Italian Bread
- Side serving of macaroni cooked fresh
- 2 scrambled eggs (1 each)
- buttered toast
- 1/2 grapefruit each
- Leftover eggplant parmigiana made into sandwiches on Italian bread.
- Grapes for dessert
- Veal Chops
- Spinach or broccoli
- Cantaloupe for dessert
Shopping List for Items Needed
2 eggplants at 10 cents each……..$ .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
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.