Chi West | Chicago and Western Gang
Chi-West in Clubhouse
Chi-West YouTube video: Chi-West
History of Chi West Gang
The basic turf claimed by the CHI-WEST was bounded by Damen Ave on the East to Rockwell Ave. on the West, Chicago Ave. on the South to Cortez St. on the North. This turf is encompassed by the area known as "Ukrainian Village". There were many corners within these basic borders which the guys & their girls gravitated to depending on the circumstances within the basic turf. Although Chopin schoolyard was their main gathering place, large numbers of members could rush to the schoolyard from any one of a number of corners, basement and garage hang-outs within ten minutes without having to go to the older Seniors hanging in the many bars and private clubs in the neighborhood. When talking to senior citizens who have lived in the "Ukrainian Village" since the middle late 1940's about the CHI-WEST you hear quite a few of them say that their young men and boys have been congregating at Chopin schoolyard along Iowa St and Rice St and Columbus schoolyard on Augusta at Leavitt St. as long as they've been living in the neighborhood but that violence by those young men and boys didn't become a problem until the mid 1950's when some of them started coming back from the Army after serving in Korea. They came back hooked on drugs and defying the authority of their parents and the civil authorities as well. This behavior started showing up on the younger teenagers and so much so that by the late 1950's they were actively involved in gang style activities like stealing cars, drunken brawls involving large groups and by the early 1960's large fights against Puerto Rican gangs that climaxed in the late 1970's to early 80's. When asked specifically about the name CHI-WEST, most of those older people in the neighborhood just laugh and will tell you that the boys have used that name as far back as they can remember. The Chicago Police Dept. records show the name CHI-WEST on contact cards as early as 1958. The name CHI-WEST appear on records from outreach programs and studies by university groups as early as 1959 & 61 respectively.
Chi-West on "My Bloody Life" Book
Chi-West disputes story about the shooting mentioned in the book "My Bloody Life - The Making of a Latin King." The incident at Colombus schoolyard with the Jr CHI-WEST (that's who hung there) never happened. I talked to one of the leaders of that crew after I read the account and he said it wasn't true. I talked to some of the older guys from my era (they hang at J&M tap just off the corner on Leavitt) and they said it isn't true as well.
We did rumble with the Spanish Lords daily for months at a time during the school year during the mid 60's through 70-71 as they and the LD's, Haddon Boys, Sabin Boys, UK's, Dragons etc would group together to pick their girls up at Chopin school and of course it would continue through the night, generally with one club at a time in the evenings as they wouldn't unite during the night. They hated each other too but they needed to come together in large numbers like several dozens at a time to feel safe in the daytime when they couldn't sneak around under cover of darkness. Also the cops couldn't harass them as much directly after school for the obvious reasons. We did have our share of S/L's sweaters etc so that part might be true but they never shot anyone at the schoolyard he mentioned in the book. As a matter of fact, the only guy who got shot and died was shot a block or so away from Columbus schoolyard (many were shot and survived over the years) was KONG from the Playboys when DC got shot up but that chop was still in diapers when that went down.
Although we had quite a few battles at Columbus with Haddon Boys, Spanish Lords, Dragons, Young Lords, Latin Disciples, Unknowns, Latin Kings, Warlords just to name a few during my day but more so at Chopin, but we first of all never had anyone killed for a Warlord sweater, they never got any of their colors back from us. Secondly, none of our girls was ever shot dead, that incident never happened period. As Far as the Latin Kings & Spanish Lords teaming up, it happened often but we always sent them running back across Division by the time the fighting was over. Yeah, some of us got shot or stabbed, or hurt bad but from what I remember Buggsy was the only one who had a sweater taken off his back by the Division & Spaulding Latin Kings when he was dropping the newspapers off at the drug store on Division & Kedzie. He hadn't earned a patch yet but he wore it everywhere he went even to work on the paper truck.
Retired Chi-West: believe me when I say that I know how hard it is to see the area where you live decline. Fortunately for me, an overwhelming majority of the inhabitants of my neighborhood decided to make a stand. They too couldn't afford to move elsewhere. it was not easy to hold the line when the PR invasion westward took over block by block all around us. Again we (Ukrainian & some Polish) were fortunate to be a huge % of the population and the neighborhood economic leaders like the Ukrainian banks, the churches as well as the other merchants had all come together with a long range plan. Part of the reason the plan succeeded was because we (Chi-West) made it incredibly difficult for a Hispanic family to want to move into the hood. Chopin school was even closed down during the week as the Hispanic parents were afraid to let their kids go to school because of the intense daily fighting. We (C/W) proclaimed a "kill a PR day" on a certain day and lo & behold, they canceled all classes on that day. The economic community, churches, clubs and organizations kept up the language, which made another barrier that the Hispanics couldn't crack. Plenty of guys were killed over the years and a heck of a lot more were severely injured but in the long run, the combined efforts seceded. The neighborhood is thriving. Ukrainians from the Ukraine are immigrating to the U.S.A. and a lot of them are settling in the neighborhood.
What became apparent is that people become frightened (mostly for the sake of their kids)when someone "different" moves in, and they move to get away from a perceived threat whether real or imaginary, it generally motivates others to do the same and the next thing you know there is a handful or more moving. When that happens, who moves into those empty units? Does the neighborhood get together to help the landlord rent the place to some family who isn't a threat to their peace of mind? Usually not, they're stuck renting it to who ever has the income to support the rent etc. And it's usually more of the same "different" people and so it starts. More families start to move as the fighting and violence in the neighborhood worsen. Eventually, what's left? Unless urban renewal or gentrification come to the hood it will most likely not be a safe or easy place for anybody (white, black or Hispanic) to raise a family. Also when that happens, look out, because the taxes go thru the roof and the blue collar families can't afford to live there anymore.
As for the "club", why did people gravitate to "the club", it was for the activities that the club provided. It was to get a break from pressure of the daily grind, to play some sports, to socialize, maybe dance or just hang out. I have no problem with guys calling their gangs a club, I use the term often myself. But I don't fool myself or try to fool anybody else, our type of club was to protect ourselves from a specific daily threat and we used every form of violence to uphold it. We didn't have any choice, ours was a small island of whites surrounded on 3 sides by Hispanics and the 4th side by blacks and they wanted our island.
All the sweaters in the photo are war trophies other then the CHI-WEST sweater.
Chi West Leadership
Vice President: Jack "The Jew"
War Counselors: Tony Rome and Terry J-horse
Each of the various crews within the club had their own hierarchy but they all were subject to the officers.
Tulley High Connection:
Formed around the year 1960 in the Tulley High School District of Chicago. Chi-West rumbled against Latino gang rivals like Latin Angels and the Spanish Kings. December 4th, 1962, Chicago Police broke up a rumble between Chi-West, the Latin Angels, and the Spanish Kings in the Chopin School Playground.. Chi-West was armed with molotv cocktails and bricks.
Chi-West and President
"The guys" has one of the only photos our president "Mickey" would let me take of him, he didn't want his face showing so he kept raising the bottle of beer to his mouth to hide his face. The guy to his right is "The Word". Middle row starting left: Tony Rome, Soodie, Professor and Gerrard. Back row left: Ozzie, Byrski, & JC sporting his colors.
Former Joker Speaks
A Former Joker had this to say: I remember several nights during that period that I was in the back seat of a '54 Chevy, Molitov Cocktail in hand, cruising Division Street looking for the bad guys. I came within seconds of firebombing Moishe Pipics hot dog stand when word came in that some Latin Kings were inside. When we got there they were gone.
JUNIOR LA COMPANERO - CHI-WESTETTES:
Chi-West Caveman Card
There were La Companeros, and were great girls. I guess I always thought we were more of a club, but that was never to be said. We loved being in that GANG. Our guy counter-parts were the CHI-West, in time the girls became the CHI-WEST-etttes! What a great time we had!
Without a doubt Polish youths played as big a part as any nationality in the street scene of urban America and realistically maybe slightly more then other nationalities because of their being perceived by many as being "dumb" which lend-ed itself to them being picked on as "dumb Pollocks". The unschooled incorrectly thought that the term or initials "DP" which originally was short for "displaced person" stood for dumb Pollock which was the cause of quite a few fights among the poor but proud immigrants. Although it wasn't unique to them as a peoples there certainly were a lot of them, especially in Chi-Town and the other big industrial cities. To all my Polish friends out there...... POLSKA do KOSCH
Chi-West Tony Rome Card
The six corners area of Division, Ashland & Milwaukee Avenues was a huge entertainment district back in the day. Division st was affectionately known around the country (during that era) as Polish Broadway. The streets were "full" of people until the wee hours of the morning. They were many polka bars and clubs from Noble West down Division to Oakley, but popular music of the day was also available. My grandfather on my mother's side was a big base player in a regionally popular polka band who played the clubs regularly. My mom still has some of his recordings on 78 rpm vinyl. If you look closely at Division st, you notice how unusually wide the sidewalks are on either side of the street. This was done specifically to accommodate the huge number of people who flocked to Division st from all over to party, dance, listen to music and take in one of the two huge movie theaters at the six corners. Although I can only remember one of the names (Paramount). For almost 30 years, that was the place to be especially if you were a central or Eastern European immigrant.