Interlude: Jake’s First Halloween

Katy and Michael Lingle enjoyed dressing their son Jake as an astronaut for his first Halloween.  Michael is my Aunt Kathie’s son.  He and Katy Knipp were married in June 2016.  In a few days, Jake will be 9 months old.  The time is going quickly!

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Jake Lingle as a NASA astronaut.

Aunt Kathie, Uncle Sammy and I look forward to more photos and family stories about Jake as Holiday Season 2017 progresses.  Baby’s first Thanksgiving and Christmas are always special.  Then each year the milestones Jake achieves will be gifts to us as well.

Previous postings about Michael, Katy and Jake:

Michael and Katy’s Wedding, Baltimore, MD, June 11, 2016

46e-Mike and Katy Lingle Update: Welcome to the world, Jake!

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

Relationship Notes

Uncle Sammy and I have decided to simplify how we address our immediate family members in this and forthcoming blog postings.  To avoid confusing readers we will be using their first names.  Since the both of us are working on this blog it can become confusing if I say “My Mom Emily Leatrice told me…” and then Uncle Sammy’s contributions are phrased, “My Sister (Emily) did….”

At the start of each posting we’ll put a key describing our relationships to the people named in the posting.  This will help the narrative be easier to read.

In this posting is featured:

*Sam Serrapede:  Husband of Josie and father of Emily Leatrice, Gerald and Sammy.  EmilyAnn’s maternal Grandfather.

Our Family Stories, A New Feature in Our Family History Postings

This section will follow the research and any documentation presented in a posting and precedes the section where Uncle Sammy and I discuss and compare the results of our research with the stories and memories passed down in our family.

At the end of each family story will be given the source of the story and which one of us is now retelling it.

You may wonder how we can have so many stories and anecdotes to share.  Everything that happened in the lives of the Serrapede and Muro families became an opportunity to learn something.  During family gatherings or phone calls or casual visits, lessons learned were always shared from the experiences had in everyday life.  Since these lessons were often repeated to us they became part of our inner library to reference when it was time to think something through.

My Mom started this process with me when I was 4 or 5 years old.  She was not one to bring up the stories on her own.  I learned to seek her out.  By being patient and asking questions Mom began to assume the role of an expert story teller as she taught me lessons in life by this means.  In telling the stories of her family she’d leave off and pick-up on telling them at different times.  Mom would question me if I remembered what she told me previously before continuing the story.  In time I knew them as well, and sometimes better, than my schoolwork.  I was able to relate to her entire family without any difficulty because I knew all the intricacies of the relationships.

Uncle Sammy did not experience the telling of family stories in the manner I did.  He heard them during the times everyone gathered together for a special event.  Mostly his stories which we’ll share here are based on his own experiences.

Introduction

Josie Muro Serrapede left us a collection of over 250 photos of the family which span the years from the late 1920s through the 1960s.  The rest of the photos from the 1970s onward consist of Josie’s photos and ones given to her by relatives, my parents or me.  The photos that make up the Josie Muro Serrapede Collection are rich in detail.  As we study them we learn:

• The photographs of the family taken outside the apartments they live in help us identify the economic level of the community.  It was the section of Dyker Heights between 11th, 12th and 13th Avenues in the 60 Streets.  Here many hard working Italian immigrants lived.  The community was a combination of working class and modestly middle class residents.
• The family never looked hungry or gaunt.
• Their clothing was well cared for.
• Emily had many toys.
• There were many studio portraits of Emily and her baby brother Gerald.
• The Serrapede family shared happy times with their neighbors.
• There were many photos exchanged between Sam and his sister Philomena.

We will make use of these photos in future postings.

The photos show us that the basic needs were being met for housing, clothing and socialization.  Josie was very resourceful and a good cook so the family could be assured of something to eat at each meal.  For the reader the question arises as to how much money Sam made as a bootblack and if his salary alone supported the family.  There was not much information available about the average salary of a bootblack during the Great Depression.  We did learn a little about the history and have thought about some of the reasons why our immigrant ancestors might have found the work appealing.

For a married couple starting out $120 a month was considered a bare minimum to live on with a little left over for savings.  We’ll detail the sources of that info along with the budget in the next posting.  For this one we came away with the impression that if a bootblack worked hard enough and was resourceful he could get by.  Sam and Josie knew the Carnicelli family on 65th Street in Dyker Heights.  Joseph Carnicelli worked as a bootblack according to the 1930 and 1940 Federal Census records.  He was able to save enough money to become co-owner in a multi-family dwelling.  We still are amazed how the first generation managed to achieve so much even on a small salary.

The Shoe Shine Boy

In Western countries the profession of a shoe shiner or bootblack has been looked down upon.  In developing countries it is still the main source of income in some families.  Young boys get started in this line of work as a way to supplement or provide income in the family when the father is too ill to work.  In the U.K. a positive attitude is growing towards the shoe shiner.  Those who work in London’s financial district are knowledgeable about local events and willing to provide advice.  The clients look forward to the conversation as much as the shoe shine!

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Front piece from a “Ragged Dick” story.

The role of the shoe shine boy was the subject of a popular novel “Ragged Dick” by Horatio Alger.  The story depicted the rise of a young shoe shiner into the ranks of the middle class through honesty, hard work and sincerity.  The story was set in the late 19th century in New York City.  The front plate of one Ragged Dick book shows a luggage boy, two shoe shiners and a newsboy.  The book was published in 1895.  In a few years, Italian immigrant men would be among the adults competing with the boys for these jobs.

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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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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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Links to postings with photos of 1976 trip to Agropoli

One of our blog subscribers, Amy, asked about photos of the Carola Hotel which was featured in a family story in the previous posting.  I’m sorry to say that during my move into my current apartment things got lost including those photos.  The rest of the photos from the trip to Agropoli were included with the very earliest postings to this blog.  My Uncle and I decided to use them as a starting point for presenting different members of our family past and present.

I have compiled a list of all the postings that contain the photos.  It is not necessary to read through each posting since each photo has a caption that tells you where the photos were taken and who is featured in the photo.

I know this is a lot of clicking and scrolling but if you have the time you can take an armchair journey back to the Agropoli of 1976 when convenient to you and at your own pace.

3-The Byzantine Gate 1976
https://throughthebyzantinegate.wordpress.com/2015/02/22/3-beginnings/

4-Agropoli Through the Centuries
https://throughthebyzantinegate.wordpress.com/2015/02/27/4-agropoli-through-the-centuries/

5-The Serrapede Family in Agropoli:  Luigi and Angela Maria
https://throughthebyzantinegate.wordpress.com/2015/03/06/5-the-serrapede-family-in-agropoli-luigi-and-angela-maria/

6-Serrapede Family in Agropoli:  Sabato and Filomena
https://throughthebyzantinegate.wordpress.com/2015/03/12/6-serrapede-family-in-agropoli-sabato-and-filomena/

7a-The Serrapede Family in Agropoli:  Gennaro and Rosa
https://throughthebyzantinegate.wordpress.com/2015/03/20/7-the-serrapede-family-in-agropoli-gennaro-and-rosa-part-1/

30b-Muro Family in Agropoli-The house where Josie was born
https://throughthebyzantinegate.wordpress.com/2016/04/27/30b-muro-family-in-agropoli-the-house-where-josie-was-born/

31a-Bella Italia in 1976:  Paestum
https://throughthebyzantinegate.wordpress.com/2016/05/11/31a-bella-italia-in-1976-paestum/

31b-Bella Italia in 1976:  Amalfi
https://throughthebyzantinegate.wordpress.com/2016/05/18/1258/

31c-Bella Italia in 1976:  Positano
https://throughthebyzantinegate.wordpress.com/2016/05/25/31c-bella-italia-in-1976-positano/

31d-Bella Italia in 1976:  Gaeta
https://throughthebyzantinegate.wordpress.com/2016/06/01/31d-bella-italia-in-1976-gaeta/

31e-Our last week in Italy, July 1976:  Back to Rome
https://throughthebyzantinegate.wordpress.com/2016/06/06/31e-our-last-week-in-italy-july-1976-back-to-rome/

 

50-Serrapede Family in America: Josie and Sam get married, 1930

Introduction

Around 1928, Josie Muro had to leave her hometown of Wilmerding, Pennsylvania to avoid the damage gossip would cause to her reputation and the honor of her family.  A young man named Ernest, who was already engaged to another woman, started a flirtation which Josie was reluctant to stop.  Josie’s parents met with the parents of the woman Ernest was engaged to.  All parties agreed the most expedient thing to do was send Josie to live with relatives in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn.  Ernest would not know where she went and the matter would be settled.  Josie came to Dyker Heights in Brooklyn where she lived with her maternal Aunt Elisa Scotti Errico and family.

Three years earlier in August of 1925 Sam Serrapede came to America from Agropoli.  Until 1930 he lived with his sister and brother-in-law in Red Hook, Brooklyn.  Given the distance between Red Hook and Dyker Heights we will try to use the Marriage Certificate to recreate a possible scenario as to how Josie and Sam got together.  Even though Josie and Sam shared many memories and family stories throughout the years, they never reminisced about how they met, their courtship or their wedding day.

Relationship Notes

Sam (Sabato) Serrapede was the son of Gennaro and Emilia (nee Papplardo) Serrapede.

Josie Muro was the daughter of Nick (Nicola) and Letizia (nee Scotti) Muro.

Josie and Sam were:

• Sammy’s Parents.
• EmilyAnn’s maternal Grandparents.

The Marriage Certificate of Sabato Serrapede and Josephine Muro

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Marriage Certificate of Josie and Sam.

Obtaining Josie and Sam’s marriage certificate helped answer the questions we had concerning their whereabouts prior to marriage.  Sam gave his address as 2472 West Street in Brooklyn.  This is the same address where his sister Filomena and her family were living when the 1930 Census was taken.

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48-Sabato Serrapede comes to America: First stop, Red Hook

Introduction

Gennaro and Emilia (nee Pappalardo) Serrapede’s daughter Filomena married Giuseppe D’Agosto in Agropoli during the summer of 1923.  When the New York State Census was taken in 1925 Filomena and Giuseppe were living in Brooklyn.  Their first child, a girl named Lillian, was 23 days old when the census enumerator visited in June.  Two months later, Filomena’s younger brother, Sabato Serrapede immigrated on the Conte Verde to America.  He departed from Naples on August 21, 1925 aboard the Conte Verde and arrived in New York City on August 31, 1925.

Sabato was called Sam after his arrival in America.  His entrance into the narrative of the family history marks a special point in time for us.  Sabato was Sammy’s father and EmilyAnn’s maternal Grandfather.  Finding the passenger list for the ship Sabato came over on brought all the months of research on our ancestors right into the flow of our own life stories.

 

Sailing from Naples

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Passenger List of the Conte Verde, the ship Sabato Serrapede came to America on.

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Close-up of the Passenger List.  Sabato Serrapede was passenger No. 7.

The passenger list contains some information we think is inaccurate.  Sam’s profession is entered as “sailor.”  We never heard him talk about a time in the Italian navy or working professionally aboard a ship.  One of the trades he learned in Agropoli was that of the marinaro, a fisherman.  He knew all about the care of a boat, how to assess the weather and tides, and how to fish as well as repair nets.  We think that this may have been a misunderstanding on the part of whoever added Sam’s information to the list.

For the questions concerning ability to read and write in Italy, the answers are “Yes.”  This is correct since after the Unification of Italy education for all children was mandatory up to the 4th grade.  The passenger list also states that before coming to New York Sam lived with his father Gennaro in Agropoli.
Arriving in New York

 

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 Complete list of answers given by passengers to the questions asked by the Immigration Officer.  Passengers had to answer these questions before being allowed to disembark.

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Close-up of the States Immigration Officer At Port Of Arrival page that follows the passenger list.  Sam’s answers appear on row 7.

The answers Sam provided to the Immigration Officer tell us that Sam:

• Paid for his own ticket.
• He was never in the U.S. before this trip.
• He planned to live in the U.S. permanently.
• He was going to stay with his sister Filomena Serrapede in Brooklyn.

In Italy, women do not change their surname after marriage.  This is why Filomena’s name appears as Filomena Serrapede and not Filomena D’Agosto.  Sabato answered the question the way he would have if he were still in Italy.

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