Block Jr. High Soccer Field, East Chicago, Circa 1984
Our 5-block journey came to an end as we made our way around the corner of the north entrance of Franklin Elementary school. We had summoned the best of our neighborhood, and all were in attendance: Sam Hasapis (RIP), Tim Hinton, Lee Donson (RIP), Andrew Childs, George Guerrero, Dewayne Henderson (RIP), Joe Aldaz, Earl Ryan, the Almendarez brothers, Jorge & Javier, Eric Glover, Bob Flores, Darwin Jordan, John Starykowicz, Tony Porras, my brothers, Terry & Craig and of course, myself.
We hailed from 137th to 139th, a focused bunch, comprised of representatives of Alder, Butternut, Catalpa, Pulaski and Main Street. We had quelled any and all issues that existed between us as individuals or groups. From time to time, we had been a neighborhood divided, but this was the day that the “Baby Park Boys” and half of “The Cruisers” became the “Alder Street Boyz“; cold steel, forged against a common enemy.
A day long overdue and thirsty for tears and pain…
Fortunately, we all disappeared behind the school before being spotted by any casual squad car that might stop us along the way. We had broken off into smaller groups to avoid suspicion, knowing that the school sat between our chosen battleground and the city police station.
We arrived early at the designated meeting ground, donned in tattered street and sweat apparel, layered over Long Johns to combat the chilled autumn air, devoid of gang signs or coordinated colors. We stood patiently, ready for confrontation, but intending to return home with the crimson red that was the blood of our foes as our medallions.
The days of trash-talking were over. It was time for action. We looked at each other with nods of approval, support and confidence, knowing we had each other’s back. A collective belief that we’d return to our neighborhood intact. All of us.
Our group’s attention was divided into halves as our nemeses converged on us from two different directions. Descending from the northwest, the amalgamation of “The Sunnyside Boys”. From the opposite direction, the “Cardinal Drive Crew”. They joined each other, greeting one-another with “High Fives” and dapped-up hugs before flattening the cluster to a long line of familiars. These were normally our friends during the school year: Hector Castillo, Pete & Steve Homco, Kirk Gonzalez, Danny Bieniak, Greg & J.R. Rodriguez, Mike & Tony Puente and a host of others, a few of whom, we didn’t know.
There was a fleeting, silent exchange between the two groups, indicating that the time had come. A few moments were allotted for last-minute tactics before we spread out and faced off, staring across at individuals positioned opposite of each of us. Shoulders rose and fell as heartbeats quickened, syncing with heavy respiration. Eyes narrowed as teeth and fists clenched in the waning seconds…
The football soared high into overcast skies, landing into Kirk Gonzalez’ cradling hands and barrel chest. As he rumbled ahead of his blockers, we quickly closed in, not considering or afraid of our opposition’s advantages: football pads, elbow pads, knee pads and cleats against our jeans, tennis shoes and long-sleeved hoodies and sweatshirts with “skull caps” (known to many as toboggans).
But that didn’t matter. We were a united front.
The Alder Street Boyz had come to battle.
And battle we did, until daylight abandoned us, forcing an end to the skirmish, from which neither party yielded.
And although we got our asses royally whipped on the cold, hard soil of that soccer-turned-football field that day…
…we got their blood…
…and more important, we got their respect…
…exactly what we came for.
For we were the Alder Street Boyz.
Off to Main Shrimp House for some fish and chips.
[Dedicated to the Cruisers, The Alder Street Boyz and the memory of Sam Hasapis, Anthony Lee Donson and Dwayne Henderson.]
If you enjoyed that story, check out “Good Pranks Gone Wrong (Ep. 1): The Abduction”. Another East Chicago tale…
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