12/11/15

POMONA 12 STREET SHARKYS


Pomona is a city of 160,000 about 30 miles east of Los Angeles. Founded in the late 19th Century as a railroad spur for nearby citrus groves, the city's economy was historically married to annual fruit harvests. Migrant workers flooded the town, mainly settling in its southern section.

The south part of town developed an especially dangerous strip along 12th Street that was punctuated by a number of bordellos and speakeasies. Gang toughs from other hard bit railroad towns like El Monte and Casa Blanca section of Riverside ventured down the red car trolley line to the strip, and after a night of carousing often battle with the locals. Young Latino Pomona men banded into their own gang called 12th Street to help them with these brawls.

In the 30's, as the gang grew to two dozen or so, members of 12th Street were regularly making police blotters for stealing cars and sticking up stores. And now they did their own incursions into other gang areas; sometimes even to the clubs on Whittier Boulevard in the Maravilla section of East LA. In the 1940's, members rushed to East L.A. to take part in the Zoot Suit Riots.

By the 1950's, Pomona 12th Street gang was a multi-generational band that fought rival gangs from El Monte and Riverside. And they went Hollywood. In 1954 ,Pomona gang members were the subject of a short film, Gang Boy, the true story of a truce between 12th Street and a white motorcycle based gang that had formed on the north side of town. With help of police, gang members proclaimed they were rejecting violence, instead volunteering to help the community's children. It was a short time after this that an especially ferocious generation of 12th Street adopted the name Sharks, the name of the Puerto Rican gang that battled the white Jets gang in the play West Side Story; this tag was soon adopted as the nickname for the gang.

In the 1960's, younger 12th Street members in an area off Hamilton Boulevard -isolated by railroad tracks, vacant lots and an industrial district-rebelled and broke off from 12th Street, forming their own gang. Because they were a young crowd, a Cherries generation, they came to call themselves Cherryville. Because the gang drew from an insular four block crescent with a mere 75 homes, it was more cohesive then its larger Sharkie's neighbors.

By 1970, 12th Street had a membership of about 100, while Cherryville claimed about 40. Attending the same two schools, Pomona and Garey High School, the gangs were constantly in conflict. At wits end because of the violence, the Pomona City Council held a number of peace conferences between the gangs. They helped the gangs elect leaders, and threw city sponsored dances for the teens. In an effort to push the two gangs into athletics, the city constructed two parks within respective turfs, naming one Cherryville Park and the other Sharkie Park.

By 1989,both parks had deteriorated into heavily vandalized gang hang-outs, central locations not only from which to plan raids on each other, but also for each other to be raided. Almost every patch of grass in each park, at one time or another had been watered by the blood of a stabbing or gunshot victim.

In an effort to change their gangster haven images, the city renamed Cherryville Park as Hamilton Park, and Sharkie Park to Madison Park. The city also decided 12th Street needed a new name after two skateboarding sixteen-year-olds were gunned down on its sidewalks. City officials changed 12th Street to Cabrillo Street, a nod to 16th Century explorer and perceived Latino hero Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo.

to be continued..

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

12st is cabrillo street...much has changed in pomona due to inter agency law enforcement the shark gang has been picked apart,in-house feuds, and drugs change the face of a neighborhood that at one time was a proud thing to be...pomona twelfth street los sharkies

Daughter of Royce said...

😕 /sadgirl

my dad was the best educator - teacher (autoshop - Gary High & vocational welding - Park West) that the Pomona Unified School district ever had, past and present and forever.
oftentimes a liaison of the originals and the new cherries, when that all came about in the 60's - cars were the middle ground.
Some of the old old school generation from the 60's, 70's & 80's mostly men and yes, some women, have shared fond memories reflecting of not just mechanical skills but the lifetime skills their mentor, my father.. had thoroughly taught them..
Time surely has changed with the times.
such fond childhood and teen memories etched into my soul of Pomona, California, Garey High and the Park West Skill Center.