Billy lived in the Old Harbor Village as a kid. Like with many things the name of the place has been changed because some politician had the power to name it after a relative. The person with the power was John William McCormack the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives from 1962 to 1971 who decided his mother’s name should be affixed to it. It is now McCormack Housing Project. The name always grated at me. I always preferred thinking of it as a village rather than a project.
Billy in his book tells about the cops looking for someone who broke a street light. That was a big event back in those days in the Village. The cops impounded the neighborhood basketball and wouldn’t release it until someone squealed on the culprit. All the kids who knew the miscreant’s identity were upset but kept their silence. The stalemate ended when another light was broken.
Billy explained why everyone remained silent. Referring to his Irish background he noted ”we loathed informers. It wasn’t a conspiratorial thing – Our folklore bled with the names of informers who had sold out their brethren to hangmen and worse in the lands of our ancestors.”
If that feeling of childhood continued we’d all have been better off. Whitey started as an informant in the early 1970’s. Like all informers Whitey felt he was an exception to the opprobrium attached to being an informant. But didn’t every informer that ever existed feel like that when he was undermining his friends and neighbors?