Frank started shining shoes up and down Grand Avenue. One day he noticed a short kid about his age shining shoes on the opposite side of the street. The competitors glared at each other for several seconds.
The stranger hollered, “What the fuck are you lookin’ at?”
Frank replied, “I’m looking at you. What about it?”
Like a pair of Wild West gunfighters ready to do battle, the boys walked toward each other. Stopping a few feet apart in the middle of the street they put their shoeboxes down.
The stranger said, “This is my fuckin’ territory and I don’t want you on this street. Understand?”
“I don’t see your name on any street signs and I’m not leaving,” was Frank’s reply.
The challenge had been made and answered. Some pushing, shoving and name-calling followed. As the confrontation ended the other boy said to Frank, “I’m coming back here tomorrow and if I see you we’ll have to fight.”
Not backing down, Frank said, “Then that’s what we’ll have to do.”
Frank returned to the same spot the next day as promised, but the other kid wasn’t there. In fact, the two didn’t meet again until about a week later. Frank didn’t think he had intimidated the other shoe shiner. He figured the guy was around and they were simply missing each other.
The next time the two met the stranger approached Frank, but he wanted to talk, not fight. “I’ve been asking around about you. What’s your last name?”
“Cullotta,” Frank replied.
“Was your father Joe Cullotta?”
“Yeah. So what?”
“Your father and my father were friends. Your old man helped my old man out of a bad spot one time.”
As the boys talked, the stranger explained that his father ran a well-known Italian restaurant on the east side called Patsy’s. Joe Cullotta frequented the restaurant and liked Patsy Spilotro. Joe had come to Patsy’s rescue when he was being harassed by a gang of criminals known as the Black Hand. Frank’s adversary-turned-friend was Tony Spilotro.
After listening to Tony’s story Frank remembered hearing about the incident at Patsy’s restaurant. The Black Hand was comprised of Sicilian and Italian gangsters that extorted money from their own kind, and Frank’s father hated them with a passion. Their method was to shake down business owners by demanding money in return for letting the business stay open. They were making Patsy pay dues every week. When Joe Cullotta heard about it he and his crew hid in the back room of the restaurant until the Black Handers came in for their money. Then they came out and killed them. After that Patsy wasn’t bothered anymore.