James Hannon, a Bronx boy who grew up in the area between Bedford Park and Fordham Road, kind of stumbled upon the subject of his first book, “Lost Boys of the Bronx: The Oral History of the Ducky Boys Gang.”
Hannon was obsessed with “The Wanderers,” the movie about the borough’s 1960s street gangs based on the novel by Richard Price. But he was too young to attend a screening of the rated R movie when it came out in theaters in 1979 and was forced to wait until the invention of the VCR a few years later to finally watch it.
The movie focused on the Wanderers, an Italian gang from the Belmont area. It also featured a host of other gangs who the Wanderers encountered, including the Ducky Boys.
Hannon grew up and eventually moved out of the Bronx, but his
“Wanderers” obsession remained. After completing a documentary about an obscure garage rock band, Richard and the Young Lions, in 2004, Hannon went looking for a new project.
He thought about trying to make a documentary about the Wanderers (actually a composite of three gangs Price created, according to Hannon), but he settled on the Ducky Boys for two reasons: they came from the Fordham-Bedford area he grew up in and their membership would actually speak to him.
Through a couple of nostalgic Bronx websites — the Bronx Board and Back in the Bronx — Hannon began meeting and interviewing Ducky Boys as well as their friends and girlfriends. He discovered that several lived in a house near where he grew up. And like Hannon, many Duckies attended Our Lady of Refuge School and the public school across 196th Street, PS 46.
Hannon scrapped the documentary plan because the Duckies were camera shy and footage was scarce. But the resulting book, which Hannon self-published, reads much like a documentary. He sets up themes or ideas and just lets the Ducky Boys and associates talk: about the fights they got into, the pranks they used to pull and even the crimes they committed.
For the most part, Hannon says, “They were the clown gang. They’d do things that they didn’t think would hurt anybody.” For example, Hannon says, they stole the Botanical Garden’s tram vehicle three times. Their most infamous crime, which they cop to in the book, but were never convicted of, came when they robbed Honig’s, a big appliance store once located on Webster Avenue.
After the book was completed, Hannon planned a book release party that doubled as a Ducky Boys reunion on Sept. 12 at the American Legion in Yonkers, which Hannon calls “a central place” for the scattered gangsters.
Hannon wasn’t sure more than a dozen or so friends and family would show up, but the event blew up to the tune of around 200 people. About six or seven Ducky Boys showed and then countless others who grew up in the neighborhood came as well.
Hannon says he sold about 250 books that day and more on Amazon.com, which ranked “The Lost Boys of the Bronx” as the 22,000th best seller of the day.
Not bad for a Bronx boy.
Ed. Note: You can find “Lost Boys of the Bronx: The Oral History of the Ducky Boys Gang,” on Amazon.com or barnesandnoble.com. For more Bronx nostalgia, check out bronxboard.com and backinthebronx.com.
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