The feature “America’s Little Italy” shares the experiences and memories of the people who lived in the Italian Immigration Colonies in North America.
By Anthony Fantetti
The Federal Hill crime scene in my youth consisted of bookmaking, crap shooting, the sale of stolen goods, the Italian lottery, the Irish sweepstakes tickets, the treasury tickets, and the daily numbers we called the “black pool.” It was a small-time underground industry that the press and the police turned into a million-dollar operation.
My observation of the people in the business was that they were just small-timers who acted a part that was not their real personality. Movies of the time featured crime characters as heroes with charmed lives that influenced the behavior of many. A few became hard-core thieves who operated primarily out of the neighborhood; however, their demeanor on The Hill was always friendly, generous, and respectful. The Hill was always a safe, friendly place to stroll, shop, and hang out, regardless of day or night. Anyone who lived there in those times will attest to this.
The press always sensationalized whatever happened on The Hill. For example, a bank robbery once took place in broad daylight. Some of the bank’s officials knew the robber. He was a local boy who never harmed a fly. He was quickly apprehended, and the police only found a small change.
Nevertheless, the papers featured a story about the criminal and the money taken. The banks always used the “undetermined amount of money taken” to balance their books. In those days, the boys at the crime scene did not directly connect with their business and never hurt anyone.
The older people all sympathized with the parents of the unfortunate ones who met violent deaths. They chose their lifestyle and paid for their crime when things went wrong. As kids, we felt the same way, although we did not realize how the street could have engulfed any of us. As it turned out, most of us kids made good in later life and would feel sad for some people who fell victim to crime and punishment.
Bibliography courtesy of Antonio Fantetti