Social Attitudes of Superior Boys in An Interstitial Community
Frederic M. Thrasher
Professor of Educational Sociology, New York University
INTENSIVE and extensive studies of defective and problem boys which have been undertaken in the past few years have prompted the question as to the value and methods of studying superior boys of the non-problem type. Such investigation is needed in order to obtain materials for comparison with the results of the studies of problem boys and to reveal the mechanisms of social behavior involved in normal boy life and education. A number of studies of "superior" boys have netted interesting results not only in obtaining materials for the interpretation of their own personalities and social behavior but in suggesting the advantages of employing these boys as observers and interpreters of life and problems in their own local communities.
In order to understand boy problems, it is necessary to study the boy in his habitat or his local social world and to secure a well-rounded description of the various personalities, groups, and institutions with which he comes into contact and which together constitute the local milieu within which he lives, moves, and has his being. Every child lives in his own social world. In communities where life is simple and activities are not so highly complicated as they are in modern industrial cities, particularly of the metropolitan type, this social world tends to possess a certain degree of consistency of behavior patterns. This type of cultural organization is illustrated in the simple village community of the Old World from which many of our immigrants have come. The community is organized in these cases into customs, codes, laws, and institutions which
( 237) are reflected in the consensus of social attitudes which control individuals and local groups.
The study of a child's social world in the modern industrial community of the metropolitan type, however, reveals many elements which are not consistent with each other. The social definition of the situation is confused and full of contradictions. This is partly the result of the fact that divergent social worlds which were formerly distinct have been thrown together through modern means of communication and migration and now interact and interpenetrate, for the child at least, at many points. The child of the immigrant in the American city is conditioned not only by a social world represented in the cultural background of his parents but by many other sorts of backgrounds presented by his contact with other nationalities in his local community. There are in addition, moreover, his contacts with the American community itself with all of its varied standards and its not too consistent attitudes and values.
This situation has been clearly revealed by the documents obtainable through superior boys who have provided a variety of intimate observations and interpretations of life in their local communities. The following observation illustrates the superior boy's own perception of the situation stated in his own terms.
PARENTS AND CHILDREN
It is a very warm evening. All the people on X Street between the River and S Avenue are either looking out of their windows or sitting on benches by their stoops. The Wops are on the west side of the block, the Hunkies on the southeast, and the Polacks on the northeast. All of them are speaking in their native languages-Italian, Polish, Slavish, Bohemian, Lithuanian, while the second generation are standing on the corner speaking in English. This latter group is made up of descendants of all these people and languages. That's a funny thing. The latter group speaks one language-American slang. All of them have different blood. Their parents come from almost every part of Europe but still they have that one thing in common, slang, and they discuss girls and many other things dear to their hearts, while only a few yards away from them their parents sit in cliques speaking their own language. The Italians will not mix with the
( 238) Hungarians, but the Slavs and the Hunkies will mix now and then.Why do these parents of these boys who are on the corner keep to themselves? The reason is this. As soon as the parents come over from the other side they move into the vicinity of the people who speak their own language and possibly come from the same town. Then they attend dances, church, and other social functions where only their fatherland language is spoken and they are not encouraged to learn English. The Italians will buy from an Italian man and the Hungarians will only buy their stuff from a "Magyar Uzlet," which means Hungarian store. So there is no direct contact among these people. The only time they speak to each other is when they are calling each other names. The Hungarians will make fun of the Italians because they eat spaghetti and the Italians call them in turn "goulash annihilators."
The following list of 145 documents secured from one of a group of superior boys indicates the variety of materials which may be obtained by the use of this method. There may, of course, be some overlapping of material in these
(1) Local Groups and Institutions. Thirty documents on local groups and institutions including materials on the Finnish Progressive Society, a local settlement house, local dance halls and persons encountered therein, a public library branch, the relations of a Boy Scout Troop to a club, a social club and its leader, the Boys' Club and its subordinate clubs, a stickball club, the Boys' Club staff, the boys' own clubs, the boys' football teams, several unsponsored and athletic clubs, a local gang, a recreational camp, and several pool rooms.
(2) Local Life and Customs. Ten documents on local life and customs in the neighborhood and community including materials on the annual block party, the block dance, candy store talk, moving out of the district, "sheeny town" raids, the neighborhood rent party, athletics in the neighborhood-professional and amateur, a parade, and the local detectives.
(3) Rent Survey. A rent survey of a local area was made by the boy in question by interviewing the superintendents of tenements on the pretext of renting a flat. In this way the boy was able to inspect an empty flat and obtain other details with reference to rentals and housing conditions in the building.
(4) Local Crime Conditions. Six documents on local crime conditions including materials on the "dips" on X Avenue, a
(239) shooting at X Street and Y Avenue, a history of a local criminal, and raiding "crap" games.
(5) Attitudes and Activities of Boys in Local Area. Seventeen documents on the attitudes and activities of boys in the local neighborhood and community including materials on "the neighborhood credo," types of boys in the neighborhood, swimming, boy prostitutes, boys' contacts with adult criminals, basketball, handball, stickball and other games, types of boys at a recreational camp, running trips, hikes, stealing junk, swimming off the river docks, trips north of the city, and "getting even."(6) Interviews with Other Boys. Ten documents representing interviews by the superior boy with local characters and other boys.
(7) Sketches of Local Persons. Eighteen documents presenting sketches of local persons in the neighborhood and community including materials on "street corner tramps," a neighborhood "dance hound," and a Flamingo dance hall girl, as well as the boy's own club mates, friends, and acquaintances.
(8) Life History Materials. Fifty-three documents bearing on the boy's own life history including diaries, letters (including some "black hand" missives), the boy's own articles in club publications; interviews with the boy by staff members, school records; a variety of psychological tests, and the boy's own dictation including materials on his life history, family traditions, influences of theatres, stories, and lectures, influence of the movies, the boy's social world, meetings of his friends at his home, and "the kid's troubles."
These documents give an indispensable picture of the subtler influences which play upon and condition the development of boys in these areas. They afford in part an explanation for such uniformities as have been discovered by statistical analyses of certain behavior problems in such districts.
In selecting boys for this study the criteria of superiority adopted have been sociological-his rôle in the group, etc. rather than physical or psychological. A boy was regarded as superior because he occupied a position of leadership in some phase of the life of his own juvenile community. His reputation among the adults in his social world was also considered.
Some of the characteristics considered singly or in combination as qualifying a boy as superior were energy and initiative, fine personality, popularity among his peers, demonstrated ability in athletics, leadership in dramatics, literary, or other activities at school or in recreation centers, and reputation for reliability and general ability among adults, including parents, teachers, and recreation leaders. In addition the boys were observed, before being selected for tK, work, in recreational situations where they had a chance to display their ability to express themselves, and to interpret their own observations to members of their own group.After the boys were selected, rapport between them and the investigator was established by the development of friendly relations in recreational activities. They were sounded out carefully with reference to their ability to express themselves and also their willingness to give the type of information necessary to the study. The exact nature of the investigation was explained to them in an effort to enlist their interest and cooperation. It was explained further that all materials obtained would be considered highly confidential and would not be accessible to the staff of the larger research project but would be kept in locked steel files in the private office of the study. Each boy was then given a preliminary trial in which his ability to express himself and to observe his own reactions and the behaviors of others was tested. The resulting materials were checked up both from the standpoint of reliability and completeness by means of materials obtained from other sources.
The problem of recording the boy's observations was solved by the use of a dictating machine, a method which was found to have decided advantages. The boys were taught to dictate to the machine which recorded their remarks on a waxed cylin-
(241) -der which was later transcribed by a typist making a number of carbon copies for use in various parts of the investigation. The dictation took place in a private room where the boy could be alone and could be comfortably seated. Here he dictated his observations without self-consciousness or embarrassment using his own notes or outlines for the purpose, as well as questions and outlines provided by the staff.The unguided report was found to be more fruitful in stimulating the superior boy's responses than the following of a rigid and detailed outline. After reports on individual topics had been completed, the investigator amplified the material and filled in gaps by asking the boy to dictate further on the basis of additional observation or knowledge which he may have had. Especially confidential material was transcribed by special typists employed for that purpose.
The following document is an observation of a dance hall made by a superior boy of 18 living in the neighborhood and an occasional patron of the hall. The observation was made without any outline or schedule for covering the different points noted. The boy was not assigned to this study but was simply asked to give a report of this dance hall as he had already observed it. A perusal of this report by an expert in the field of dance hall research in New York indicated that the boy had covered practically all essential points and in addition had given information with reference to the hall which trained observers and graduate students had not been able to procure.
THE FLAMINGO DANCE HALL
The Flamingo dance hall is located on East X Street near the Y Theatre. The Flamingo dance hall is pretty well advertised from the outside. A big sign with a figure dancing is the main attraction. The first pair of stairs that one climbs leads to a check room where one checks their (sic) coats. Another one leads to the ticket booth where they sell tickets. Every night ex cepting Sunday and Monday, one will receive eight tickets for one dollar. (fin Sunday afternoons from one to seven, and Monday nights, one receives twenty-one tickets for one dollar, but they only play a chorus of each song, so that it amounts to about the same. The dances are very short.
After one has purchased tickets, he walks to his right into the
(242) dancing hall. On the left near the doorway there is a room where the girls [hostesses] go and rest whenever they have time, about ten minutes. Next to this there is a stand selling refreshments and also all kinds of candies. On the balcony there is a colored band which supplies the music. The dance floor is surrounded by a brass rail with openings at certain places where one can enter. Around the dance hall, outside the rail, there are seats, sort of benches, where one can sit down until he desires to dance. The dance floor is smooth and the ceiling is not so high, but it is very well kept. The floor is very nicely polished and not too much dirt hanging around the floor. The lavatory is pretty clean, although at the end of the day it is quite dirty as some of them do not care what they do there. They are kind of sloppy, but through the management's efforts it is pretty neatly kept. All the windows have curtains and draperies around, and so that helps to the coziness of the place. From the street, one can hear the music very plainly, and, of course, that adds to the attraction of people.They have there about fifty girls [hostesses] who are hired, and they dance most all of the time; that is, they are kept busy. Those that are not dancing go around where the fellows are seated and ask if anybody wants to dance. If a fellow decides to dance, he just gets up and dances with her. If he doesn't, he just says, "No." For every dance that a fellow has, he must give his girl a ticket. But on Sunday he is entitled to three dances for a ticket, because he gets twenty-one dances for a dollar, and receives seven tickets. As the dances are very short, you will find that very often the boys buy from two to six dollars' worth of tickets.
Fellows do not only go up there for the matter of dancing, but because they like the way they dance. The fellow hold's the girl very tightly. And, of course, they do not move very much. They go around slowly, sometimes hardly moving. That is why dancing at the Flamingo is very well known. This, of course, causes the emotions to slowly be aroused, and by the time the boy thinks he is having a good time, his seven tickets are all gone, and he goes after more.
At the end of each night, the girl counts all her tickets, hands them in, and gets a commission of six cents on every ticket, or almost fifty per cent of what the management gets. The girls that are usually employed there are girls that have no parent, but have a furnished room by themselves. Most of these girls are from nineteen to twenty-four or twenty-six, very well-developed girls, and with excellent shapes. They are very attractive as the dance hall girl should be. They wear lip-stick and rouge which attract
(243) the fellows very much. Their dress habits are very good. They wear very nice silk dresses and very tight, so as to show their shapes, as they know that if they attract the fellows it will mean more money for them. So they do this very willingly. Their characters are almost alike due to the nature of their work. They are very friendly and sociable with everybody. But if any wiseguy tries to get a dance without a ticket, they get very sore, and urge the fellow to go and buy some more. They know their job very well. They fool around with a fellow so much that they get him half crazy, and he is bound to go and buy some more tickets. Usually, if the girl does this, the fellow dances the rest of the night with her, and he gives almost all the tickets. They are mostly hardened to all finer and nobler emotions, and they have been at that work so long that it does not do them anything to dance the way they do.
The light effects that they have there are very dim, and in the middle there are four lights, which whenever they are put on indicate that the detectives or cops are around. And so, they stop dancing so closely until they grow dim again which indicates that the cops or detectives have gone back. I did not know that until I danced once with a girl, and the lights began to get bright. I kept on dancing but the girl soon told me. Up there you will find all kinds of men-young fellows, married men, old men, and foreign fellows, who enjoy it very much. These foreign fellows are very emotional.
I was talking with one of these girls, and I happened, after I had gotten acquainted with her, to ask her how she liked this life. She said that she was not crazy about it, although in a way it was good because she had a lot of freedom. She had no parents to scold her or anything; she did whatever she pleased. But, on second thought, she wished she were married so she could live a decent life. I had to work a lot before I got this information from her. Her name was Rosie. She did not want to tell me her second name. These girls usually refuse to go out with fellows for the first few times that they see them, but the fellows have to go up there steadily, and have to get acquainted with these girls before they can take them out. And they know that if they take them out it will be a sure enjoyment to them. They will usually go out with them and go to their rooms and stay with them all night. Of
(244) course, they will have to pay something. They usually go to the furnished apartments that these girls have. The average fellow that goes up there spends from five to ten dollars. Of course, some may spend less and some may spend more.And some are goofy enough that they will want to dance all night. And, of course, these girls do not attempt to stop them, as they are really making money by fooling around. The first dance that the boy gets with a girl, the girl will try to be as friendly as possible so as to give him a good impression so that he will take her back the next dance. Once he has started to dance with her a lot, she will start to cool down a little bit. Sometimes you will see a mass of very young fellows up there, not over fifteen, although they are pretty well developed . . . . I was talking to one of these fellows that I met up there, and I asked him why he came up there, and he said that he had been coming for a long time, as there was a girl up there who had promised to go out with him. He, of course, took her word and he had been coming for the last two weeks, and every time dancing with this same girl. I told him he was a darned fool to believe this girl, because the girl was only trying to get him to come every time so that she will get the tickets, and it would be more money for her.
Significant information upon the cultural complex of the local area is obtainable from a study of informal recreation. The superior boys were able to give a variety of pictures of this phase of life in their own social world. The following documents describe two such types of recreation.
THE BLOCK DANCE
Every year, most times in the summer, clubs, social ones, give dances in the street. In 1927 the Pontiacs gave one of these dances on X------ Avenue between Y------ and Z------ Streets. That part of the avenue was closed to automobiles. The block was closed with police posts and ropes. The jazz band seated themselves in a large Mack truck, right by the curb, and people from almost all over the local district danced in the street. Spotlights played on the dancers from the third story in the middle of the block. Such dances begin at 8:30 and end at 1 a.m. Most people who attend are just fellows and girls between the ages of fifteen and twenty-one. They are run just to give the clubs publicity. No money is made out of them unless the hat is passed around for contributions, but this is done very seldom.
THE "JUNE WALK"
The best stickball players of X------ Street and Y------ Street between U------ and Z------ Avenues combined to form a team called the Tornadoes. The fellows from Y------ Street were of Irish extraction and those of X------ Italian. The team was successful, winning almost every contest in which it engaged. The boys of the two blocks became good friends. When a party was held at X------ Street the kids from the other block were invited and vice-versa.About the middle of June it was the custom of the parents, boys, and girls of Y------ Street to sponsor a "June Walk" to M------ Park.
The block of Y------ Street between U------ and Z------ Avenues seems to be full of Irish and Italian kids ranging from five up to seventeen. American and Irish flags were out. Mr. Murphy and his wife were working hard to have the kids in line. The boys were dressed as Indians, cowboys, kings, pirates, chauffeurs, cops, firemen, baseball players, conductors, hoboes, minstrel men, and one kid was dressed up like a bricklayer carrying a lunch basket. The girls were supposed to represent queens, Irish lassies, Scotch lassies, gypsy and Indian maidens, cowgirls, and Bowery "dames."
Finally everybody was in line with Casey, the cop, in front, the Murphys on both flanks, and the older fellows in the rear throwing peanut shells and spit balls at the youngsters in the front. The procession marched straight up to Y------ Street to B------ Avenue. C------ Street was where the parade enters the park. A mile into the park and the parade broke up. The kids played tag, "sixty scatter," and hide and seek. The older girls skipped rope or bounced a large colored rubber ball. The big fellows batted a baseball before someone suggested an organized game.
Noon: Everybody stood in line with their tickets to get lemon ice, ice-cream and cake. Lunch boxes were opened. The boys were not bashful to ask the girls for another sandwich because they were great friends by this time. Jimmy sneaked into the line for another brick of ice-cream but Murphy recognized him and chased him away. Mrs. Murphy was saying, "Now, children, put all your papers and refuse in the rubbish cans. Billy. pick up that paper like the sweet boy that you are, aren't you?" You saw her giving a cheerful word and her pleasant smile here, there, and everywhere.
"All those who want to race, come here. Come on and race, everybody, and win a prize," announced Murphy. The fleaweight
(246) race was on for the little kids. Billy Callahan barely beat Mary Dugan. A baseball was the reward to the happy boy. Mary received a brand new sleepy doll which is the envy of all the other less speedy girls. Everybody raced, fat kids, skinny kids, short and tall boys, and blond and black-haired ones. Many won prizes, candy, balls, gloves, bats, lemon pie, and lolly-pops.The kids were tired now. Ties came off and throats were exposed. The girls' crêpe paper dresses were crumpled and torn. The Murphys were getting their first minute of rest. Boys were sleeping in the grass flat on their backs with their caps covering their eyes. "Come on, children, it's four-thirty, let's go home now.
At five-thirty, the boys and girls were ready to go home. The line wasn't straight, no one had his hair combed; nor were their hands and faces clean. All were tired but happy.On the way home the talk was
"What a time, eh, Willie?"
"Comin' nex' year?"
"Betcha your life I'm comin' nex' year."
"D'ja see how he tried to catch the gold fish and fell in the water?"
"Comin' around a lunfohteer tonight?"
"No, you come arou' my block."
"Can't. Haffa see Tessie. Tol' her I'd ask her sumthin' on the high stoop. You know."
"Aw, I see."
I don't know what the girls spoke about. Why? Even though almost every kid in the two blocks had a girl it was considered a "sissy act" to be in the midst of a bunch of girls. Any fellow who did hang around a crowd of girls was called "Rooster" because he hung out with chickens.
Numerous documents descriptive of a variety of local groups and institutions have been obtained. These data throw light upon the social influences which play upon the developing personality of the adolescent. The ability of one superior boy to express himself is indicated in the following document on "the movies."
SATURDAY EVENING AT THE MOVIES
On a cold Saturday evening most of the inhabitants in the local community are out to weddings, parties, and crowded movie houses. The latter places attract the majority of people.
The X------ movie theatre is extremely crowded. The people have to stand behind ropes until the conclusion of the current picture. The scowling ushers are having a h------ of a time trying to keep the restless mob behind the ropes. The standing crowd is composed of married couples with one or two children, old ladies, old men, young girls in groups of from two to six and young fellows who come in gangs of from three to ten. The people are closely packed like the proverbial sardines. The stale air and the smoke cast off by cigarettes and cheap cigars make the people look pale and dizzy.Some of the people cannot stand on their own pedal extremities; so they lean on somebody else. Many males, both young and old, take advantage of this deplorable condition by insulting the females (especially young girls) "accidentally on purpose." The best a decent girl (who does not wish to create a scene) can do is to give the cad a look of disgust. A few of the males are so thick-skinned that only a good slap in the face will cure them of their "hand trouble."
Mary and Jane are witnessing the "silent spectacle" from "standing room only." These seventeen-year-old girls work six days a week in one of Woolworth's, go to the Church of Y------on Sunday morning, attend their pastime in the afternoon at the X------ Theatre, and in the evening they eat at a Chinese Chop Suey joint-if they pick up two "suckers."
Standing directly back of them are two fairly good-looking local "lady killers," Jim and Jack. They are standing in their best $22.50 suits, John Barrymore shirts, and $3 Snyder's best felt hats. Black products of Tom McCann cover their "three pairs for $I" socks. These adolescents rest their eager optics on the girls' forms.
"Whaddya say, Jim, pick 'em up?"
"Y' betcha life," whispers Jim.
Since he's the bolder of the two he chances a silly grin (which he calls the "magnetic smile") at the better looking of the two girls, Mary. Girls are girls. She lifts up her left shoulder and points her smelling organ to the heavens. Her face seemed to say, "The idea, trying to `pick me up.' " This was not the first time Jim attempted to "pick up" a "doll." He tries again. This time she does not incline toward astronomy. She smiles at her girl friend.The ice breaks then and there. Half the battle is won.
"Kin we help youse git seats?" suggests the young masher. This is said to start a conversation which may continue favorably
(248) or otherwise. The wise, experienced "boloney" takes up the cue. "How kin youse do that when youse ain't got a seat yourselves?" coyly parries the sweet young thing.
"It's all right," says Jim confidently with a wave of his hand, "we got a drag wid de head usher."
"Ain't that grand!" the artful little coquette exclaims with a look of admiration toward Jim, whose chest is expanding a few inches and his head is swollen twice that much.
Both of them know that Jim doesn't know the head usher from Socrates. But conversations have to begin somewhere.
The two reeler is ended and the crowd rushes in for seats. The outgoing patrons of the theatre mingle with them. There is an over-abundance of disorder, confusion, and caddish acts. The four young people seat themselves in what seems to be the darkest and gloomiest spot in the movie house. The boys place their arms around the shoulders with a view to "petting."They exchange names, addresses, and 'phone numbers. After two and a half hours of "petting" they get up all tired out.
The boys and girls go to their respective washrooms. They meet outside. They walk west to a Chinese restaurant. Then the girls are taken to their houses where "another two-hour milling takes place"-in the hallway.
Many of the most interesting documents obtained from superior boys consist of their own spontaneous reports of life and activities in the local area which they thought were significant and also their own accounts of activities in which they normally participated. In some cases they were given particular assignments or asked to report on particular institutions. In no case was a boy given an assignment or permitted to make observations which would in any way subject him to demoralizing influences. Documents representing cases in which boys themselves had participated in demoralizing activities were obtained from boys who themselves were recognized as semicriminals in the area by means of interviews conducted by superior boys already in contact with such persons. In many cases superior boys themselves, however, had knowledge of local pathological conditions with which they had already come into contact and upon which they reported. In this way it is possible to get insights into intimate activities in the community which could not otherwise be obtained.
The following document is typical of the kind of material
(249) available on sex life in the area. The attitudes and practices described here have been corroborated and supplemented by documents from a variety of local observers. They indicate an absence of social control in the sex field and a decided need for some form of rational sex-education which shall recognize the facts and tackle the problem. The present institutions in the area evade this responsibility through indifference, fear, or false modesty. Educators, social workers, and parents are in general quite unaware of these "sub-rosa" activities.
SEX PRACTICES AND STIMULI
Up to a few years ago the boys of X------ Street between Y------ Avenue and the River enjoyed themselves in the waters of that river by diving off the dock. On the north and south sides of the dock there are tug boats on which the boys played. West of the same dock there is a big lot used to deposit junk auto parts and wagons.
After a few dips in the water the gang would retire to one of the covered wagons to play the Italian card games, "sweep" and "brisc." They also smoked cigarettes and ate penny pretzels. The boys told each other "salesman jokes" and the latest dirt. Their minds were and still are full of evil thoughts. One of the older boys would suggest that they find a way of satisfying their sexual desires. These fellows would never approach a girl, I'm sure. Some of them are twenty-one now and possibly have had only one "affair." No, not with girls who loved them. They paid two or three dollars to some prostitute downtown. I don't know the exact locations of these houses because I never asked the boys. They describe the "affairs" in all their phases, but never tell where the house is. Many times I doubt their fanciful stories.
The document goes on to describe the homosexual activities which demoralize the boys in such groups and the customs of the neighborhood with regard to other phases of sex life which give important indications as to the problems of social hygiene in such a juvenile community.
The superior boy has been used advantageously in the study of boy problems in the urban area in transition. His employment makes it possible not only to obtain valuable life history documents which reveal such problems from the standpoint of the boy himself, but also data on local groups and institutions.
((250) Among these institutions the cheaper pool-rooms have been revealed invariably as hang-outs for disreputable characters and criminals. They are centers of social contagion and consequently are foci of demoralization. Superior boys give the following accounts of pool-room activities and characters.
SOCIAL CONTAGION IN THE POOL-ROOM
This place has one pool table and many small tables. It also has little compartments where the gangsters meet or where Little Italy gathers about to discuss and plan things. Most of the wellknown gangsters meet here now and then-all of them notorious, every one of them with a record. They carry guns and they have plenty of wine, women and song. The X brothers held up a subway pay car once and fled to Italy. Their brother was found guilty and was sentenced to death, but he was finally given a life sentence. In this place they don't play much pool but they do a lot of card playing and eating. They have coffee, cake, sandwiches, chocolates, and cigarettes. On Saturday night there is the usual all night dice game. Men who slave all week getting material for their women also drop their coin in this place. Hold-up men who risk their lives and many years in prison also drop gold there. But they figure this way: "What's the use of saving money? You are only going to spend it on some women later on, might as well make good use of it while you have it in your own hands." Easy come, easy go. If one of these hold-up men loses his money on Saturday night, he figures that on Sunday he can go out on a big job and make up for his losses.
In this place there is one character who stands out among the fellows. His name is X-. Of course, many of the names I have mentioned don't sound like Italian names but these are the names by which they are known. They often take names of colors. That's a funny thing about the district. When a fellow goes down the ladder and becomes a bum, a bootlegger, a dopepeddler, or something of that sort, he changes his name and makes himself an Irishman. But as soon as a fellow becomes a lawyer or a doctor out comes his real name no matter how long it is or how hard to pronounce it.
At any rate, as I was saying, X has been in every racket which the district has had to offer from selling greens on a pushcart to promoting prostitution which is his favorite racket right at the moment. He was a bootlegger, a dope-peddler, a pick-
(251) - pocket, and numerous other things but his great weakness is women. He likes women more than he likes drink and that is quite unusual around these parts because most of the men like their drink just as much as they like their women, but women have X------. To him every woman is just another challenge-married, single, thin, fat, every kind; as long as they are women, he will try to approach them. For the husbands he said, "What do you think there are guns for?" That's just the kind of a guy he is. He is a tall, husky-looking specimen of a Neopolitan pushcart man. He said that he is afraid of no man living either in a fist fight or with guns, and everybody believes it because so far no one has cost him blood in the district or elsewhere.
GAMES IN THE POOL-ROOM
Sunday afternoon (in June) most of the boys of the X------ Club decided to go out. Some of them had dates and others went to a show. I decided to go to B------'s pool-room. As I entered the place I saw many fellows gathered around the table with B------ at one end. At first I did not know what they were doing but after a while I got wise that they were gambling. Of course, I was very surprised at seeing this as I never thought that B had any gambling affairs. The game was as follows: Five or six men would get together and they would choose one who goes first, second, third, fourth, fifth and then B------ would rack up the balls and give everybody a smaller ball with a certain number on it. The game is to knock the pool ball with the number of the little ball that B has given you into the pocket. If you do so first, you collect fifteen cents from every man, but the lucky man has to pay for the rack-that is, he has to pay B------ five or ten cents. Around that table were many fellows all watching eagerly, all expecting to win.
I watched this for a while and then I went on observing other fellows play. There was a couple playing the game of "Chicago." In "Chicago" one has to have a lot of luck. Of course, there is some skill but not as much skill as in the game of "Straight" or a game of "Black Ball." These fellows were playing their own game and they were betting off-side. They were betting a dollar. One of the fellows, who was a very good player and had a lot of luck, used to throw those balls very easily and the other fellow would get sore and swear at him. It was a lucky thing that he did not take any of the swearing seriously, otherwise there would have been a fight. I moved to another table and there I saw a couple
( 252) of fellows playing a game of "Straight" to 50 points. This is a game where you need plenty of skill. You have to know how to play billiards pretty good. They were playing a game of "evens," that is, the loser pays for the rack. Of course, this is something like gambling but not quite; when the loser has to pay for six or seven racks, however, that is quite a lot of money.
At another table were a couple of young fellows. They couldn't have been over seventeen and a half. They were playing "Straight" too, but they were playing sociable, that is, one hand, one face, and the other hand, the other face. That is about the way the best sportsmen play. Of course, not many fellows do that. They do that between friends. On the far corner, there was another gambling device on the table. There was a flat board with all holes in it, enough for a ball to fit in. The game was to try and put a certain ball in a certain place. For example, there were numbers on the holes, 1, 2, 3, and so forth, and the balls had numbers 1, 2, 3, and so forth, too, and the game was to put the I in number 1, and 2 in 2, and so forth, until you win. This game is quite hard and some of the fellows were losing money quite heavily and they were swearing to beat the band. Of course, B------ would calm them down by saying, "If you don't quit swearing, I will cut the game and there won't be no more game." Some of the fellows that were losing would behave a little bit better, but the ones that were winning did not give a hang as they were eager to quit the game with their winnings. By this time it must have been about half-past three and B------ stopped all the games, or rather the gambling games, and gave those tables to play pool. The reason for his stopping so suddenly I could not guess. Everybody started to play and I remained there for another fifteen minutes and saw a couple of more games being played. After a while I saw some of the boys that I know come up. They came up and they started to play. I watched the way they played, and noticed mainly that they were playing sociably. They played "Straight." They played to 25 and 50 points.
The fallacy in the failure to study the inner reactions (attitudes) of the person to various elements in his social world was pointed out by William I. Thomas in the Methodological Note which introduced the first Volume of The Polish Peasant in Europe and America. The explanation of behavior is always to be found in the interaction of the implicit attitude and
(253) the explicit value. The implicit attitude is often but scantily represented by external gestures and expression of emotion. While it may be easy to describe the stimulus and the overt response, the key which explains why the response follows the stimulus is missing without an understanding of the intermediate human nature factor. This important middle term which is so vitally significant in understanding the behavior of the person has often been neglected in society's attempts to control behavior.
It is here that the delinquent "boy's own story" assumes great importance. The values of the boy's own story for research and treatment have been exploited and set forth by Clifford R. Shaw.
In our study and treatment of delinquent boys in Chicago, we have found that the "own story" reveals useful information concerning at least three important aspects of delinquent conduct (1) the point of view of the delinquent; (2) the social and cultural situation to which the delinquent is responsive; and (3) the sequence of past experiences and situations in the life of the delinquent. 
The boy's "own story" is of primary importance as a device for ascertaining the personal attitudes, feelings, and interests of the child; in other words, it shows how he conceives his rôle in relation to other persons and the interpretations which he makes of the situations in which he lives. It is in the personal document that the child reveals his feelings of inferiority and superiority, his fears and worries, his ideals and philosophy of life, his antagonisms and mental conflicts, his prejudices and rationalizations. As Burgess has already indicated, "In the life-history is revealed, as in no other way, the inner life of the person, his moral struggles, his successes and failures in securing control of his destiny in a world too often at variance with his hopes and ideals." 
A second aspect of the problem of delinquency which may be studied by means of the "own story" is the social and cultural
(254) world in which the delinquent lives. It is undoubtedly true that the delinquent behavior of the child cannot be understood and explained apart from the cultural and social context in which it occurred. By means of personal documents it is possible to study not only the traditions, customs, and moral standards of neighborhoods, institutions, families, gangs, and play-groups, but the manner in which these cultural factors become incorporated into the behavior trends of the child. The life-record discloses also the more intimate, personal situations in which the child is living; that is, the attitudes, gestures, and activities of the person with whom he had intimate contact.
With reference to this point, Thomas states: "Perhaps the greatest importance of the behavior document is the opportunity it affords to observe the attitudes of other persons as behavior-forming influences, since the most important situations in the development of personality are the attitudes and values of other persons." 
There can be little doubt that behavior trends, and perhaps the total personality as well, are greatly influenced by the situational pressures and experiences which occur in the life of the individual. Therefore, any specific act of the individual becomes comprehensive only in the light of its relation to the sequence of past experiences in the life of the individual. As Thomas indicates: "It appears that behavior traits and their totality as represented by the personality are the outcome of a series of definitions of situations with the resulting reactions and their fixation in a body of attitudes or psychological sets. Obviously, the institutions of a society, beginning with the family, form the character of its members almost as the daily nutrition forms their bodies, but this is for everybody, and the unique attitudes connected with certain incidents or critical experiences particular to himself, defining the situation, giving a psychological set, and often determining the whole life-direction.” 
The superior boy's wishes-their organization and conflicts are revealed in the intimate life histories obtained in his dictation. Such documents as provided by superior boys of both the problem or non-problem type are probably more enlightening than similar materials obtained from boys of less ability. They reveal to some extent the expression of the boy's wishes in his various activities as well as the limitations and inhibitions imposed upon him by his social world.
The following document reveals not only the interests of a superior boy at 78 but also the conflict of interests and wishes between him and his family and home
THE BOY'S WISHES AND HOME CONFLICTS
Sometime in my young life I had picked up the idea that working with numbers is not a bit as beneficial as working with individuals . . . . I have decided, therefore to organize a real social club whose membership will be limited to six. The purpose of the club will be to have six fellows come to a closer contact with each other, to develop the six fellows socially and athletically. To date I have decided on five boys who would make good members of this club.
According to some of my simple mathematical deductions I came to the conclusion that if five fellows pay dues from May 1st until October 1st we will have saved $5o provided that the dues be 50 cents weekly and every member pays on time. The $52 plus a $2 entrance fee by every brother would make a total of $6o. October 1st would be a right time to rent a room or a small apartment. Of the five boys mentioned every one of them has what you might call a comfortable home. All of these homes are clean. All of them have nice furniture, pictures on the wall, curtains dressing the windows, and all other domestic necessities. Most every one of them with no exceptions are minus certain things which boys like.
For instance, if I want to bring the gang up in my room and show them a new picture my brother has made or a new book I have received from a friend, the boys have to pass through my dining room and kitchen. Naturally a couple of chairs are overturned or one or two of them go through the china closet. Not that the boys are a bunch of rough-necks but it's said that they are boys. The other boys live in homes where sacred, religious pictures adorn the wall. They would never be allowed to hang up a pennant. If they dared to put a couch pillow on the bed, that is, a lettered pillow, or on the floor they would be called "sissies." A reading lamp over a chair is unnecessary in their homes.
Try and put on a clean shirt when it is nut time! (I mean only on Wednesdays, Fridays, Sundays, and Mondays.) Sometimes a shirt becomes a little soiled on Tuesday night and the fellow has to go to a party then, but he cannot put on a clean shirt because he must wait until Wednesday. None of these boys have their
(256) own drawers in a bureau, or a closet, and none of them have desks. There is a family bureau in which everyone puts his or her stuff. The boys would hardly dare to put a picture of an athlete on the wall.
Windows cannot be opened up wide, because everybody feels cold. I am not allowed to keep the windows opened at night except when it's very warm. They feel that the cold air will kill us all. That's an old-fashioned idea. Everybody knows now that cold air is the best thing for the health. In the olden days every one thought that a chemical composition of carbon dioxide and other trash was the cause of sickness and disease. But now everyone knows that it's just plain warm air. People don't begin to get uncomfortable until it's warm. But when it's cold you want to do something. You become energetic and you do not fall asleep as you would if the windows were closed. I have a hard time explaining this at home. If I have such a hard time, imagine the other fellows, who have parents who are not as liberal as mine.
Most fellows between the ages of fifteen and nineteen and even older men have sweethearts. The loving birds exchange pictures. Naturally a fellow of seventeen would like to see that picture many times and would like to put it on his desk in his home, in his room, or wherever he is when at home. In the families they don't expect you to have a sweetheart until you're seriously thinking of being married. How can a fellow put such a picture on his desk or bureau? They tease him. They call him names. Every time an argument would arise on a certain topic they would always go back to that picture and to the girl. His little brothers and sisters would mock him for having a girl, passing comments on her looks. Since love is blind, the girl might have a defect which the lover does not know but of which other people are very much aware.
Boys of nineteen should smoke if they care to but many of them are ashamed to do this in the presence of their parents, especially in front of the old-fashioned grandparents. Of the five of us there is only one that smokes; therefore, if we smoke in the street and not at home we'd always be in fear of having our parents catch us.
Fellows of about eighteen are just about to spread out into the world. They like to get together and discuss the problems of the day just like the big men do. In their meetings one who wants to talk says, "Mr. President, may I have the floor, please?" The president will answer, "Yes, Mr. Black, you may," and everybody "misters" somebody else. Words flow out of the boys' mouths. Figures and facts are exaggerated. Things which are taken lightly
(257) by old experienced and philosophical men are seriously considered and brought out in every detail by these youngsters. The boys would be made fun of at home if the parents saw any of this which they call trash and a waste of time. It is especially hard for Italian fellows to learn the experience of serious problems and ethical processes because the parents and friends of the family put this up to the boy, "Why, you little devil! For seventeen years you've been running wild, always making so much noise. You've been uncontrollable. Nobody has ever called you and you have never called any of your friends a `Mister' either. You are eating out of the same plate with that kid. Now you go around `mistering' him and he `misters' you and you high hat us now. What do you think you are anyway to act so big?"
This attitude on the part of our elders discourages us because it makes us think that because we are of the under-middle class there is no chance for us to rise, to become something better. We are in the gutter and we must stay there. Who are we that we should try to learn to control our voices, to act like gentlemen, to have lady friends, to become cultured, to understand music, to appreciate poetry, and to love the works of nature?
The boys are mocked when they are seen cleaning themselves too often, when they try to learn to dance, when they refuse food that will make them too fat or too thin or that it will stop their growth, when they say that they are going to get an afternoon job. Most times they are jeered instead of being given some encouragement, which they are greatly in need of.
For these many reasons and others which I cannot think of at the moment, I have decided to organize a club which five months from now will be able to rent a room, a little bit out of the neighborhood. It should be a large room with plenty of light, a white sink, electric lights, and some way of getting heat either by a gasoline stove or steam. It would be expecting too much to have an old-fashioned fireplace. The windows should face the front. The floor should be plain board which we would paint red or blue. The walls would be colored to our satisfaction. A white ceiling and clean window panes would be the rest. A little cooking place would be much appreciated. After the furnishing of the room a small couch would be easily bought. I am sure that one of us has an old table in the cellar or in the home. I would be only too glad to give up my desk which is always filling up too much space in my room. All of us have chairs in the cellar and out of the club's treasury we can buy two large easy chairs, the kind in which when you sit down you sink a few feet. Pillows should be everywhere,
(258) on the couch, chairs, and floor. Every fellow should have a drawer in some kind of a bureau or closet. A certain place should be put aside where the fellows can hang up their bath robes and coats. This space on the wall would be covered by a fancy colored cloth. I have an old phonograph and my father would make a radio for us without charging any money and one of us has a ukulele. Some of us have books which we would put on a book rack or shelf and read. Magazines and newspapers would also come in handy. The fellows could have a few shirts and other articles in their drawers, so that if they wanted to put on a clean shirt on Tuesday night, and knowing that they cannot do this at home because it would be out of turn, they could easily come to the club and put it on. After a game of stickball in the street we are all perspired and dirty; therefore, when we go home we would be given a lecture for playing in the street, getting our hands dirty and our shirts soiled. We can easily walk a few blocks to the club room and clean up. Fellows would take turn at cleaning house. Other decorations would be pennants, pictures, a vase with flowers in season, and an ash tray. Folding chairs would be kept for visitors' night.
On cold winter evenings or on rainy Sunday afternoon when we have no money to go to a show and when it isn't worth while dragging along with a fellow that went home because a meal is about to take place there (because it would be inconvenient for the family to entertain the visitors), why, we can just go up to our room, put on a bath robe and tune in on something. This room wouldn't be just a hangout to loaf one's time away. We would hold a meeting every week, and the problems of the club would be discussed. Most of the fellows have different views and could tell each other their views on the news of the week. All the other nights, if a fellow felt like coming around, why, he would come. If he didn't why, he would just stay home. Sometimes a boy feels like going some place every night and then he won't want to go to that same place for another two weeks. All right, let him do so. The room is a good place to invite people to come to talk to us on different subjects. We'd make it a point to have distinguished visitors every week or two to give us ideas and help, to ask us questions on neighborhood problems and how to get ahead and many other things.
We'd have a visiting night once q week. It would be a good policy to invite the parents to show them where their boys spend most of their time, to entertain them just as though they were visiting someone's home because it would be our home. When the parents see that the fellows are spending their time in a clean room
(259) which has curtains just like a home, a couch, desk, bureau, drawers, everything in order, flowers, and the windows clean, it will be a pleasant surprise. After that whenever the boy says I am going to the club house tonight, the parents will not be worried; they will be thankful that their sons have chosen to spend their time in such a pleasant environment instead of standing on the corner or hanging out in the block pool-room.
Collecting 50 cents dues a week, we would have $10 a month. Then it would come to $15 a month. Other miscellaneous expenses would come up, so money would be needed. One plan is to raffle a wrist watch, but that would never do because you have to go around asking people to take raffles, to take a chance. Many people have prejudice against such practices; therefore, I thought to have a dance in the X------ Settlement House where it would cost exactly $55 to hold a dance for two hundred people.
A tentative date for the dance would be June 1st. I am sure that we five boys could sell two hundred tickets. That would be an average of forty tickets for every boy to sell and when fellows buy tickets they buy two. After selling two hundred tickets at So cents each a profit of about $50 would be made. At the dance we would also sell refreshments, soda, ice-creams, and so on. More profit from this would be the result. By next October we will have had over $100.
Out of six fellows in the club every one of them is a pretty good basketball player. We would buy basketball uniforms and go traveling around to play teams and give our club a reputation. I have good ball players and sportsmen. After a while we would be able to tender bigger and better dances.
We could have theatre parties and dinner parties, go on overnight hikes, and read books in the room on rainy nights and cold days. The club would always be happy to have something bigger such as a car to run about, take trips all over the states, the boys not having traveled at all. I could go to my father's shack in New Jersey where we have rooms. Two or three summers from now we might be able to get a bungalow in Long Island or on the Hudson. By this time many of the boys will have grown older and wiser, half of us will be in college in the city, and we will understand what friendship means and value it much more.
The purpose of the club is not to hair around the room every night and smoke cigarettes, play cards or gamble, or dance and make a racket. We do not intend to take the rest of the gang upstairs to gamble and pass away the time. We do not intend to just hang around and talk about what we should have done and what
(260) we did. We will always be on the go, working on something new and seeing to it that it is carried out. It is the plan of the fellows that we play bridge and poker but we play poker only for pennies and things like that. The fellows are not so keen about bridge. They think that bridge is a sissified game. They forget that you must have brains to play it. Of course, after a while they will change their attitude just as they have done towards silk underwear. A year ago I told them they would be wearing silk underwear and they thought I was crazy, but now I can count only five out of the thirty in our larger group who are not wearing them, and proud that they are (sic).
The above document reveals data of interest with reference to attitudes of the boy and his relations to his home and to the adult social world in which he lives. It is obvious that his contacts in school and elsewhere involve differences in cultural standards from his home and the homes of the other boys of his acquaintance. These differences have resulted in a cultural tension which the study of his complete life history and other materials reveals. This goes far towards explaining certain maladjustments which were discovered after the study of the case was begun.
Such documents as are available from superior boys as well as problem boys are of great value in getting clues to the attitudes of the boys with reference to various elements in their social worlds and the various attempts of society to control them. William I. Thomas has stated this point in terms of "definition of the situation."
There may be, and is, doubt as to the objectivity and veracity of the record, but even the highly subjective record has a value for behavior study. A document prepared by one compensating for a feeling of inferiority or elaborating a delusion of persecution is as far as possible from objective reality, but the subject's view of the situation, how he regards it, may be the most important element for interpretation. For his immediate behavior is closely related to his definition of the situation, which may be in terms of objective reality or in terms of a subjective appreciation-"as if" it were so. Very often it is the wide discrepancy between the situation as it seems to others and the situation as it seems to the individual that brings about the overt behavior difficulty. To take an extreme example, the warden of Dannemora prison recently
(261) refused to honor the order of the court to send an inmate outside the prison walls for some specific purpose. He excused himself on the ground that the man was too dangerous. He had killed several persons who had the unfortunate habit of talking to themselves on the street. From the movement of their lips he imagined that they were calling him vile names, and he behaved as if this were true. If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences. 
Some of the attitudes of boys in a local area to a variety of social values are indicated in the following document which is the original and spontaneous dictation of a superior Italian boy of 78. This he has called-"The Neighborhood Credo."
THE NEIGHBORHOOD CREDO
Most boys of this community believe that:
Men with full faces, long delicate fingers, tweezed eyebrows, and well-shaped lips are inverts.
The girls who accept lifts willingly give themselves up to be attacked.
Men cannot live without sex relations.
If a girl is an unmarried mother she should pick out the first man who had intercourse with her.
The college is a place where one plays football and baseball all day and makes "Whoopee!" at wet, hot parties all night. (I have found that idea from the moving pictures.)
That cops are animals which shouldn't exist. Every one of them will take a bribe, if you go about it in the right way.
A big time bootlegger is just another successful business man.
That all actresses commit adultery for large sums of money which they grab from the big butter-and-egg men.
Tex Guinan is an ex-cow girl.
To become intoxicated denotes manliness.
A home girl is more highly sexed than a dance hall Mama.
All big gangsters own million dollar estates in Florida. Page Mr. Capone!
All judges, lawyers, and politicians are crooked.
Italy is just one farm house after another.
Spirits, dwarfs, giants, and magicians exist only in Italy.
The people who have color in their cheeks drink a lot of wine.
The people who season their food with red hot peppers will eventually become very strong.
If one knowingly does not caution himself before diving into the water he will die in the same water some day.
That French and Spanish people are the originators of unnatural sex practices.
Street car conductors cheat their companies out of fare money.
Icemen, policemen, priests scatter their offspring all over the neighborhood.
On account of the present unemployment situation there will be a great civil war within the next five years. They always discuss this question on the corner of X------ and Y------ Avenues. These young fellows are about eighteen or nineteen who talk about these things. They really believe that some day all the people who are not earning enough money and those who are not working will rise up against the government and form a new one. I think they get these ideas from what they hear at home, from their uncles and fathers and grandfathers.
The fact of rather striking importance which has emerged with reference to the study of boy life is that the trained psychologist or sociologist with an academic background and from a social and cultural level, which is probably quite different from the boy's, finds it very difficult to state and interpret boy life in an interstitial area in a realistic way. The "boy's own story" not only with reference to his own experiences but with reference to his group, family, institutions, friends, recreation, and community is highly important in understanding boy life and its meaning for the boy himself. The outsider going in to observe is quite likely to interpret this life in terms of his own standards and fail to get the true meaning of the happenings with reference to the persons involved.
It should be the purpose of the investigator to see the boys' groups, institutions, and community through the eyes of the boys themselves as well as through the medium of trained staff observers.
This point of view has been too often overlooked in dealing with boys and in attempting to understand and solve their problems. It makes little difference what the adult thinks a given event ought to mean to a boy. The important fact to ascertain is what it does actually mean, and only when such a meaning
(263) in the boy's own terms can be discovered, is the adult in a position truly to understand the situation. This is particularly true with reference to the treatment of boy problems. The casual way in which adults who deal with boys in various situations prescribe for them, often involves a total disregard of the boy's personality and his rôle in his own social group and juvenile community. How he may regard the proposed program designed for him is often held rather lightly by those who would impose it. The result is that attitudes often concealed, but very antagonistic and embittered, are created in the boy and these eventually thwart any helpful effect which the program may have been designed to produce. What an adult with different standards from those of the local or juvenile community in a given case may consider serious or important may be entirely the opposite from the standpoint of the boy and his adjustment in the particular situation. Crap-shooting, for example, may be an indication of personal disorganization in certain areas of boy life, whereas in certain other areas a failure to participate in crap-shooting is a symptom of personal and social maladjustment.
The variety of documents obtained from superior boys have indicated some of the 'underlying and intimate attitudes of boys with reference to the world as they know it. To read these documents is like drawing back a curtain upon the human drama. One gets an entirely different picture from that presented by the statistical analyses of life in the district and the rather formal statements and observations of outsiders. Statistical and ecological analyses have not been able to replace the descriptive method to give the student insight into the human processes taking place in the community.
Boorman, W. Ryland, Developing Personality in Boys, New York, 9 9
Burt, Cyril, The Young Delinquent, New York, 1925.
Dimock, H. S., and Hendry, C. E., Camping and Character, New York, 1929.
Furfey, Paul Hanly, Social Problems of Childhood, New York, 1929.
Furfey, Paul Hanly, The Gang Age: A Study of the Pre-adolescent Boy and His Recreational Needs, New York, 1926.
Gillin, John L., Wholesome Citizens and Spare Time, Cleveland, Survey Committee of the Cleveland Foundation, 1918.
Healy, William, et al., Reconstructing Behavior in Youth, New York, 1929.
Healy, William, The Individual Delinquent, Boston, 1915.
Healy, William, and Bronner, Augusta F., Judge Baker Foundation Case Studies Nos. 1-20, Boston, Judge Baker Foundation, 1923 (especially Case No. 8).
Shaw, Clifford R., The Jack-Roller: A Delinquent Boy's Own Story, Chicago, 1930.
Slawson, John, The Delinquent Boy, Boston, 1926.
Thrasher, Frederic M., "How to Study the Boys' Gang in the Open," Journal of Educational Sociology, 1928, Vol. I, pp. 244-54.
Thomas, W. I, and Thomas, D. S., The Child in America, New York, 1928.
Thurston, Henry W., Delinquency and Spare Time, Cleveland, Survey Committee of the Cleveland Foundation, 1918.
Van Waters, Miriam, Youth in Conflict, New York, 1925.
Wickes, Frances G., The Inner World of Childhood, New York, 1927.