Believe or not there was a time when you could leave your doors open and your bicycle outside without fear of anything being stolen.
There were several reasons for this. First, the neighborhood Black Widows always kept a sharp eye out for people’s comings and goings. Second, everyone knew everyone else and trusted them. Third, well we were a poor neighborhood of immigrants so there wasn’t anything to steal. People were into sharing.
As such, we took pleasure in the simple things in life. The Calabrese Hall on 69th Street hosted many a wedding or a dance. The Gordon Arcade, a favorite neighborhood hangout, had a roller rink and a cinema.
Our preferred place to eat was Arnold’s Diner on the corner of 65th and Detroit. Sound familiar? That’s right, just like the one in Happy Days. Only we had it first.
Members of the Vets’ Club (Veterans of Foreign Wars) were busy planning fund raisers for the new school as well as donating the hard labor to build it.
In the 1950s a local group of guys created the Dago Bombers. They become known as a neighborhood gang. Back in the day, every neighborhood had its own gang.
But they weren’t like gang members like in Westside Story or even worse, like today’s gangs. They were more like the “Our Gang”. They were a band of brothers dedicated to keeping watch over the neighborhood and each other.
One of the local guys, an artist by trade, crafted a Dago Bombers badge that members wore with pride.
The Bombers were the epitome of cool with their leather jackets, cuffed blue jeans, t-shirts with packs of Lucky Strikes rolled up in their sleeves, Brylcream slick hair swept into DA’s or pompadours and sunglasses. If you didn’t know them, you’d cross the street just to avoid them.
I may joke about the Our Gang reference but make no mistake they could be tough guys when they had to be. And that’s what really made the neighborhood safe.