Growing Up in Wheeling: Gang Warfare in Woodsdale

Gang warfare was an important part of Woodsdale culture. What always comes to mind first is the “Mary Wheat Gang”. Mary Wheat must have been a bit of a Tomboy, and she lived right next to my cousin’s house. She had a couple boys in her gang. If memory serves me correctly Mike Gaydosh, and the kid on the other side of my cousin’s house were her main henchmen. Somehow I remember a lot of the battles with the “Mary Wheat Gang” involved a bizarre three wheeled bike. The bike was like a giant version of a child’s little toy tricycle. I am not sure who the bike belonged to, but there were always accusations about the bike being stolen by one gang or another.

Gang warfare usually involved throwing snowballs, and sometimes mud balls. I don’t know what the Wheat gang called our group. Our gang operated out several hiding places. As kids we discovered that there was always a secret little door that let you get under the enclosed porches of the old Victorian style homes. If you were lucky the door was hidden buy bushes. A real bonus was the fact that often the back porch also had the same set up. Under these porches we had everything a gang needed. Cigarettes, cigars, and Playboy magazines. Most of the supplies were stolen either from parents or the little drug store down the street. It was a miracle none of us died of lung cancer by the age of eleven. Lord Kadizzle never got addicted to nicotine, but by highschool Steven Leibold was hooked. I can remember Steve out on his attic roof at night enjoying a weed. The little red glow of the cigarette could be seen from our house across the street.

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I clearly remember one frightful day when we were all under the back porch smoking Winston cigarettes. We heard the door open and it sounded like my father had stepped out onto the porch. In a loud voice my father said to himself, “ It smells like smoke is coming out from under this porch, I’ll have to go down there some time and see where it is coming from”. It appeared a raid was inevitable. All the cigarettes were placed in a large seven up bottle and secretly buried beside the house. As luck would have it the next day someone put my little sister Patty out in the yard to play in the dirt, right where the bottle was buried. Of course with a little digging it was not long before she found it, and ran into the house with her treasure.

As we got older and ventured into other neighborhoods, we began to see they also had gangs. I was very impressed when he saw the weapons of mass destruction the gangs on Washington Ave. had. They fought battles across Wheeling creek, (which would be considered a river where I live now in North Dakota). The weapon of choice was a giant sling shot. The sling shot was made from a small tree and stood about five feet tall. Between the forks of the tree a bicycle inner tube was tied. This device could hurl rocks about the size of a baseball across the creek. Why no one was ever hit and killed is still something I wonder about.

Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared on Mike’s blog, Kadizzled. He has generously agreed to look the other way while we pilfer his material that pertains to Wheeling.