Youth gangs are not simple structures, but definitely are a social unit. At least in my day, 45 years ago, LOL, you didn’t just join a gang. You had to pass an initiation process and be voted in, according to rank. Don’t forget, gangs, youth gangs most especially, formed as a source of protection from other gangs close to their turf. If invaders were spotted, we went to war usually! In Regent Park, we were in North Regent; so we had to look out for The gang from South Regent, right next to us. And The Lacrosse gang, starting at the: James Town apartment complex, north of us, up parliament St., deep in the downtown bowels off Toronto. It was a very poor neighborhood.
My Initiation: consisted of a few essential things that obviously mirrored a lot of gang member practices. I had to convince a Rubby (Crusty, old street person with an alcoholic habit), to go into the wine store and get us a bottle of: 4 Aces, (better known as: ‘Gut Rot’, it only cost us one dollar back then. Here’s the catch. He must do it for you for free, and you only get one crack at it! That one was easy. I just kept raising my eyebrows and winking at him, so he’d think I was gonna share it with him. As soon as he put the bag in my hand, I ran away…
Then I had to walk across a thin steel bar without falling, to show my dexterity I guess, in case of evading predators. I made it but almost fell once about halfway across. It turned my right around the opposite way and I leaned right forward, waving my arms to keep my balance! Everyone went “Whooooo!” I did recover though, so I passed that test too.
Then they all, 8 members would squish my face around, and I could only protect myself with one hand… There could be no tears produced, but they really try to get at your eyes! I had a few tears produced. As it turns out, that was an important part of the test. Because I have poor defenses, I need more protection, reducing my rank to: “Gopher”, Go fer this, go fer that… (sigh) Sometimes I feel, a lot of what I do these days, is to try and make up for what I did in “those days”… We tried to rid the streets of bums in other ways as well.
Mischievous? Us? : We would wait in alley ways on top of garages, all holding tires in ambush! A Rubby would walk down they alley, and the object was to toss the tires down over him until they stack up to his neck, flick our cigarette butts at him, jump off the roof, turn him over, and roll him down the alley… We robbed pear trees, and apples, and peaches! We climbed under bridges, got baby pigeons and sold them to a Chinese Restaurant, for 25 cents each.
They did stuff to me too. Paul, we called him Pecker, he was our leader, he did things to me. Do you know what an unexpected Charlie horse can do? It really, really hurts! He’s sneak up on me, and bang me in the thigh with his knee exclaiming: “I KNEED YOU!” And you went down on your knees from the pain! Then there was the old karate chop in the atom’s apple. That was always good for a thrill; watching someone gasping for air!
We were good boys : We never defaced property, (except grave stones) though we’d sometimes invade homes looking for riches. This would sometimes lead to someone catching us and, when they inevitably asked : “What the #$@%!&*!! are you doing here?” we’d just ask: “Is Bob home?” LOL! Now-a-days, it’s much more serious! You saw all that graffiti behind a supposed gang member at the beginning of this blog? Well that all means something! It most especially means : “if you are here when we arrive, you are in trouble!”
We could fight, yet wouldn’t carry weapons around in general. They’d all be at your door; one would just say: “Rumble.” And you would have to go with them right away. We liked to keep a low profile though. We’d sneak around a lot…
Today, youth gangs are much more serious. You might want to avoid dark walks across their territory. That’s just asking for to be robbed! We, on the other hand, were always polite, and well dressed, modals of the community. We even went to the show sometimes, just like regular people. We’d sneak in through the side door when our front door scout told us the Usher wasn’t around… We did some things, yet always conducted ourselves as perfect gentlemen, when people were watching.
And Today? What to do about youth gangs? I’m not just sure. No really! Why won’t you believe me? Some of them are infiltrated with informants for The Police, and this can sometimes lead to arrests for much more serious crimes! So you see? gangs are valuable members of our community… Remember that New York gang that called them selves “The Angels of Freedom” or something, and would protect the public on subways from bullies? They were a good gang to have around. I’m just saying, they’re a swell bunch of fellas, that’s all…