A Ginney Block Kid Goes to Prison


Mr. and Mrs. Beniamino Puellella lived in the third last flat at the easterly end of the Ginney Block, on the third floor. They had three children, Jimmy, Maria and Anita. This is the story of Jimmy, the oldest, who was twenty-one at the time. Jimmy was a handsome young man, of average height, with fine features. He had pitch black hair. The neighbors used to say that he looked like Richard Barthelmess the movie star. Up until this time, Jimmy had lived a rather quiet life, working at odd jobs since he had quit school. On completion of the tenth grade in 1926, Jimmy had decided that he had had enough of school and that it was time for him to start making money.

As a youngster and through his teens, Jimmy had earned the love and respect of all the neighbors in the Ginney Block. It was a well deserved reputation because he was courteous, kind and generous, forever going out of his way to do chores, errands, and to help anyone who needed help of any kind. Yes, he had been the type that helped old ladies and old men to cross the street. I remember the many times that I saw him run up to one or another of the Ginney Block mothers who were returning from the Old Market House, carrying heavy baskets of food on both arms, to relieve them of their loads and carry the baskets of food into their homes, not ever expecting a cent for his services.




Central Market sidewalk stands circa 1931.
Courtesy of the Plain Dealer, Cleveland, Ohio




Within two year after leaving school, things changed for Jimmy. His lifestyle changed. His appearance changed. He had always been well groomed. He had always worn white shirts, ties and suits on Sundays, even though they were bought at the Salvation Army store on Prospect Avenue. In two years there was a complete metamorphosis. Jimmy no longer wore ties or suits. Day in and day out, he would appear in unpressed, unclean trousers, rumpled shirts, sans ties. As time passed, he neglected his hair and shaved less and less. Before too long, we learned that he had gotten in with the wrong crowd, a gang of a dozen young men who did not work, who slept late and stayed out all hours of the night.

This new and very different Jimmy had become a serious problem for Mr. and Mrs. Pullella. Those of us who lived on the third floor of the Block began to hear loud arguments between Jimmy and his parents. Every now and then, we would hear Mrs. Pullella weeping and begging Jimmy to change his ways. When the Pullellas learned that Jimmy had become a member of the gang known as "The Dirty Dozen," they told him to quit the gang or leave home. Jimmy left home. For a year thereafter, it seemed as though he and the gang had disappeared from the face of the earth. Everyone surmised that "The Dirty Dozen" had left the city. Some of the neighbors thought that the gang had gone to Pittsburgh. Before the end of the second year of the gang's disappearance, we learned that a gang had been caught in a large payroll robbery in Pittsburgh and that the members of the gang had been identified as "The Dirty Dozen," and that they had been sent to prison.




It so happened that the day that the Pullellas received the news that Jimmy was involved, I was in their home as the guest of their daughter Maria, doing homework since we were in the same grade in junior high school. I shall never forget the grief, sorrow, and trauma that the news brought into that household. Mr. Pullella began to cry silently. Hugh tears slipped down his timeworn, leathery face. Mrs. Pullella began to scream and tear at her hair and clothing. At one point, it seemed as though she had lost her mind completely, and seized a large knife from the kitchen cupboard drawer and was about to stab herself. Fortunately, her husband was quick enough to disarm her, while wrestling her to the floor. I, as a youngster of thirteen, having never seen such violent self destructive behavior, fled the Pullella home in great terror.