On a spring day in 1960, Danny Manicone's Boys, myself included, stood on the corner of Hegeman and Shepherd. Mrs. Steinberg's candy store was now owned by a married middle-aged couple named Elsie and Bill.
Danny was inside, buying or stealing comic books. We were outside, waiting for our leader to come out.
Another gang, comprised of about two dozen members from the streets closest to Linden Boulevard, met up. They must have cut down Essex Street until they reached Hegeman. They moved through the vacant lots, then passed the big yellow haunted house on the corner. Taking cover behind cars, patches of bush, and trees, they crept up on us.
It was a tactical maneuver worthy of Patton. Not only had they taken us by surprise, they had outflanked us.
Lounging on the the corner one moment, they attacked the next. Terrified, we fled to the candy store, forcing our way in, the other gang barging into the store right behind us.
There stood Danny Manicone, a stack of comic books in his hand. He read the situation and his smile switched to fury.
"Oh my God," yelled a member of the other gang. "It's Danny Manicone!"
"It's Danny Manicone!" the others shouted in response.
Danny dropped the comics, knotted his fists, and charged the two dozen members of the attacking gang by himself.
They took off. We followed Danny up Hegeman Avenue, thrilled to be running after the guys we'd been fleeing from seconds before.
We threw them over fences, kicked them in the heads, and then smashed their skulls with garbage can tops as they lay on the ground.
The rest ran under the Hegeman Avenue El, racing past giant mounds of tar. When we reached the weedy lots of Jerome Street, a few of them dodged to the left and escaped us by running down Snake Hill. A couple of others managed to outlast us.
Returning to the candy store, I looked back at the panorama. No one had been killed, but there were bodies all over Hegeman Avenue. I didn't feel sorry for it either. They had started it. Laughing and grinning, we celebrated with egg creams and cherry waters.
"Now that," said Danny, "was one motherfucking good rumble."