West Village History: My Father and The Irish Hooligans

By Lorraine Gibney

PARENTLESS IN THE WEST VILLAGE: Growing up in the West Village under a different type of supervision, Francis David Gibney (above) learned how to become a hustler at a very young age. Photo courtesy of Lorraine Gibney.

Children need supervision to become law abiding citizens. Since my father was parentless, he learned to run the streets of the West Village with unsavory characters. He was a citizen of his time and place, under a different type of supervision.

Francis, nicknamed “Shorty”, was an elf-like little character. As the youngest of the Gibney children, Frankie learned how to become a hustler very young.  Mimicking male radio icons, Frankie developed a taste for gambling and liquor. His repertoire for gambling was betting, craps, and cards. His winnings were given to his older sister, and guardian. The gap in age between the oldest and youngest was significant. Elizabeth attempted to discipline her younger siblings; however, she was soft on the youngest. In her opinion, life had become hard enough in New York.  Most families in the West Village were poor, or working class. In later years, Greenwich Village became a hub for artisans, nonconformists, political erudites. My family consisted of blue collar workers, barely scraping by, and struggling to make ends meet.

In Grammar school, Francis attended the Guardian Angel School. His level of academic proclivities was scarce if none. Francis was more interested in baseball. He was a diehard Yankees fan. His diminutive stature was a hinderance; however, that never prevented him from betting on his ability to hit the spaulding at great distances on Perry Street or other stick ball games between locals.

Perry Street was a popular thoroughfare. On this block lived the infamous Joe Banano, the Italian mobster. Mr. Banano was a local of Perry Street, and very generous to the local boys for a price. My father was prohibited to speak, or hang out with any undesirables. Nevertheless, his curiosity and stubbornness got the best of him. Francis and his nephew Francis “Brother” Schaffer learned to drink beer, and run with the Westies.

The Westies were a gang of Irish Hooligans. Francis Schaffer Jr. had an affinity for beer, guns, and gambling. He was a longshoreman on the docks of New York City.

These characters are part of the Village’s rich history and my own.


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