I am going to keep this page shorter than normal because I want the letter at the bottom of the page to do most of the talking…
Billy was a member of a gang called “Pigtown,” which took its namesake from a neighborhood next to Bed-Stuy also called Pigtown. Billy actually lived in Bed-Stuy and made a fairly long trek to hang out with the members of Pigtown gang who hung out every night at a park on East New York Avenue and Albany Avenue. The year was 1952 and the gang consisted of 20 boys between the age of 16 and 17 years of age. Looking at the map, the park was most likely Hamilton Metz Field, pictured below.
Pigtown was a blue collar neighborhood full of poor Italians. Many hoods in Pigtown were connected to the mob. Because of this association with organized crime, outsiders like the nearby Bishops’ gang wouldn’t generally risk going into Pigtown to start trouble. Pigtown’s claim to fame was Crazy Joe Gallo who frequented Rudy Giuliani’s father’s bar which was in the neighborhood.
When Billy was 13 years old he got in an accident which severely injured his right leg which had to be amputated below the knee. It was after the accident when he became embittered and his relationship with his mother went sour.
Billy ran away from home to get away from his mother. His parents’ reported it to the police and they adjudged him as a Wayward Minor or basically a “runaway.” Billy’s parents said they couldn’t control him and so he was put on probation. While he was on probation, his mother found a “rubber instrument,” which Billy admitted was for hurting others while he associated with the Pigtown gang. He had no intention of leaving the gang or stopping his delinquent activities and even went so far as to say that if his mother interfered he would kill her. He claimed he would have no remorse about being sent to an institution. His probation was revoked and he was indeed sent to a reformatory called “Coxsackie.”
While he was in Coxsackie, he acquired the unfortunate nickname of “Peg.” Having a prosthetic limb was a challenge and Coxsackie had to accommodate him with his disability.
While he was in prison, Billy began to rethink his attitude towards his mother. He felt he had no connection to his parents who did not have much time for him as they were too busy running a grocery store. His mother was from Poland and set in the old world way of doing things. This did not meet well with Billy and it drove a wedge between him and his mother. However, when he got into a conversation with his “company officer,” in Coxsackie, he convinced Billy to think about his behavior and relationship to his mother.
On February 25, 1953, Billy wrote a letter to his mother, sharing what was on his mind. Below is his letter. It brims with hope that his relationship with his mother could be repaired: