Before you get to the article…
On February 23, 2018, my book on the Mau Maus and Sand Street Angels, who were two Brooklyn youth gangs from the 1950s, has been completed. It took 15 years of research and writing to complete Brooklyn Rumble: Mau Maus, Sand Street Angels, and the End of an Era. This book is roughly 6″x9″ and has 370 pages and includes a look at the characters in the Mau Maus and the details of a gang killing that happened in February 1959 in front of the iconic Brooklyn Paramount Theater (now Long Island University). If you want to buy a copy, click here and this link will take you to an online ordering page.
Ernest was raised in very difficult circumstances. He was the youngest of seven kids, five boys and two girls. Of the children, only one is alive now. Ernie – as he was fondly called by Mario, the brother he was closest to in age – was born on December 6, 1933. It was a difficult birth, so difficult that his mother Theresa died.
After Theresa died, Ernie’s Dad abandoned the children and took off with a younger woman. He was never seen again, and the effects of his leaving was a tremendous hardship on the kids who not only had to cope with a father who did not want them, but to cope with being foster kids. The two oldest girls, Francis and Mary, wanted to take care of their younger siblings but did not have enough money to do so, nor were they allowed to by law until they turned 18. Whoever turned 18 first would be able to take in all the brothers and sisters. Until that time the children were put into foster care.
Foster care was organized and run by nuns whose cruel behaviour made life miserable for Ernie and Mario. Years later, Mario held deep resentment to nuns in general because of how they treated him and his little brother while in their care. They were spiteful to Ernie and Mario and would hit them hard with rulers for infractions of the rules.
Mario and Ernest were the youngest of the brothers and very close. They spent a lot of time together, hanging out and trying to make the best of a life of hard knocks. They even resembled each other, and did things together all the time. When they got out of foster care and grew older, one of their favourite activities was to hang out together with other Fordham Baldies at “Piggy’s” candy store. One of Ernie’s hobbies or things he enjoyed doing was playing ball out on the street.
However, as we know, this wasn’t to last. His death in June 1954 was very painful for all the Montuoro brothers and sisters. Not only did Ernie leave behind a wife, child and another on the way, but Mario, the person he was probably the closest to would carry that pain to the day he died. Mario missed Ernie terribly. Mario always wondered “what if.” What if Ernie hadn’t been killed and survived the attack? What kind of life would he have had?
A little over a year after Ernie died, Mario had his own boy who was born on August 23, 1956. He named him Ernest in honor of his little brother. But in a terrible turn of events, Mario’s own son Ernest was himself shot and killed in New York when he was only 20 years old.
It has been many years since Ernest’s murder and Mario passed away in 2011, but memories of his brother Ernest live on in his own children.
April 16, 2013 Update:
Another relative of Ernie emailed me and had this to add:
I just wanted to clarify that although Mario was closest to Ernie, in age, all of his brothers and sisters were devastated by his death. All were dedicated to revenging his killer, although they never did. To this day, my cousin and I visit the grave (Ernie) and put flowers there. May he rest in peace.