Teaching Cleveland

Lesson 28

Handout 1 - Report on Gangs, Hiram House

Long before trusts had come into existence, before labor was organized, the boys conceived a place for mutual offense and defense, the product of this being the so called "gang" Now the organized effort of a crowd of stirring boys is nothing to be despised. If they are friendly to you, all is well, but if in any way you incur their displeasure, you suffer for it. Just after the holidays, reports came to the residents of the Hiram House that there was a gang of boys, known as the"Zuckey gang," which was terrorizing the younger boys in our neighborhood. One boy reported that he was afraid to come to the manual training classes, because these boys always tried to hit him. At one time his mother went out to defend him against an attack, and they stoned her, hurting her quite badly. He said that they always hung around the Hiram House at night, tormenting boys for whom they had a dislike. Another boy reported that the gang was after him to beat him because he refused to go with them and his father beat him if he did, leaving him no alternative. Mr. Dart, Principal of the Mayflower School, when asked about the gang, said they were a bad lot. He said that a few days before a boy came to him with the complaint that Zuckey or Herman A. had beaten him because he had told Mr. Dart on some member of the gang. We knew what ought to be done first that was to report the leading spirits to the juvenile court authorities. But we hit upon another plan, which we decided to try, namely to form a club from the gang and to try to direct them to better avenues of escape for their energy, to appeal to their honor and make them realize they could stand for something worthwhile among the boys of the neighborhood. Accordingly, the leader of the gang was visited and he helped prepare for a party at the Hiram House to which we would invite any friends whom he might suggest. Of course he suggested the names of his gang. Each one was visited. Ice cream and cake being held out as an inducement to insure their attendance. When the night appointed came, the boys all arrived long before the hour set for the meeting. When we invited them in, only part of them accepted. The rest were afraid of some scheme on our part to hand them over to the authorities. Clarence Peters, a colored boy, better known as "Peck," when asked to come in," You needn't think you're going to get me in there. There isn't any party at all--Its a trap to get us all to Lancaster." After much coaxing, they were all induced to come in, but Peck and a few other wary ones, would interpret any quick move as a danger signal and in spite of all our reassurances they would dart out the door and stand outside looking in until their courage returned, when they would come back in, only to rush out again. At one time, the door opening into the hall was closed to keep out the noise and the boys immediately made careful investigation to see if it was locked. The longing for ice cream and cake however was stronger than their fears and they at last played games, forgetting juvenile court and Lancaster, in the excitement of "Marching to Jerusalem:" and "Coach Upset." Before the party broke up a name was to be decided upon. Their energies were directed into the right channels and they were left to choose their own name. "On the Level" suggested by Zuckey, was agreed upon. If we are successful in keeping this gang of boys "on the level" we will feel abundantly rewarded for all our efforts.

MSS3319, Hiram House Records, n.d.

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