In the golden age of jitterbugging youth gangs in the mid to late 1950s (if such a moniker can be used to describe a topic like this), the New York City Youth Board stated there were about 150 “anti-social” gangs within the City. Of course there were big-name gangs like the Chaplains, Bishops, Mau Maus, South Brooklyn Boys and Dragons that were infamous back then — and even now fifty years later. But for every big, well-known gang, there was a handful of small, unknown gangs, even in that time. Gangs that were like a shooting star, there one minute and gone the next. In my research I come across some of these little gangs that are virtual unknowns. What are some of the names of these gangs? Here are some of them :
Immortal Sinners (Brooklyn)
Skid Row Boys (Brooklyn)
Pharaoh Chaplains (Brooklyn)
4th Ave. Devils (Brooklyn)
Golden Champs (Manhattan)
Royal Juniors (Manhattan)
Royal Midgets (Manhattan)
For the past couple of years I have been in correspondence with someone who was in the Jackson Gents, an Italian gang from Williamsburg. His memory is probably the sharpest I have come across in my years of speaking with people recalling memories from 50 years ago. We were talking about this topic and he had some very interesting insight into the comings and goings of small gangs in Williamsburg. I would like to conclude this page with this:
There were a lot of small gangs that came and went. The Daggers, the Dragons were two I know of that flashed for a few months and then were gone. I believe the reason for this was the fact that they weren’t serious to begin with. They were just regular guys who wanted to be in a gang because it was fashionable. They had no turf to defend or any reason to exist other than the fact that the members thought it was cool to be in a gang. I wonder what their reaction would have been had they run into a real gang. I guess we’ll never know.
I can tell you about the El Saints, they were a Puerto Rican offshoot of the Saints. The El Saints were located in Coopers Projects. They weren’t a very big gang, I don’t think that there were more than 15 of them. We had a few run ins with them and after six months, maybe a year, they started to become a real pain in the ass. They even shot at me one night. We wiped them off the face of the earth. We beat them so badly that their parents came to the corner to plead for their boys. I felt bad seeing this but the way I looked at it, we were like soldiers at war, and they were the enemy. It sounds cruel I know, but you had to have been there and lived through that time in NYC to understand. In your minds eye you can see and imagine a lot, but it’s not real, you can’t feel it. It’s like war movies, you can watch every one of them but you’ll never know what the screams of men blown apart really sound like, you’ll never smell the blood, yes blood smells you know, if there’s enough of it.