In the 1970s, Olneyville was a desolate neighborhood of rundown, multiple family homes and small manufacturing shops, which sat in a valley across an overpass that ran above the Route Ten connector to I-95.
It was a short walk from the Italian, Federal Hill section of Providence. No emblems on street signs showing demarcation points, nothing separated one neighborhood from the other, yet it needed none. The intersection of Atwells and Harris Avenue was the boundary. Along Atwells, up on the Hill, sat cafes, restaurants, salumerias, social clubs, laundromats, pastry and veal shops, live poultry markets. All part of the fiefdom, the unofficial headquarters of one of the most feared of all Mafia Don’s, Raymond L. S. Patriarca.
When gang-banging, street criminals thought about edging out of their Olneyville neighborhood, and moving toward the Hill, the thought was a fleeting one. Patriarca deplored all street crime, unless, of course, he ordered it. Bad for business, it brought unwanted attention from the police. Olneyville gangsters stayed in Olneyville; it was safer.
One day, a blond-headed, blue-eyed scary guy, who scared very scary guys, crossed that bridge. Back then, Bobby Walason understood it would be suicidal to challenge the supreme power, it was far more sensible to join it.
This story casts a light onto the ebb and flow of a dark side of American society, a look at the forces that play havoc with lives that go adrift on the streets of all our cities.
As a child, Bobby held out against cruelty no boy should ever endure. Thrown from his own house at the age of twelve, he lived in a cardboard box and survived. Though the word survived is a stretch.
As an adolescent, there were turnstiles of reform schools, escapes, and then, even though he was underage, the adult correctional institution, known as the ACI. A prison for adult criminals where he was misdiagnosed, beaten by guards, and fought extraordinary battles holding his own against overwhelming numbers. Finally, they wrapped him in canvas and chains and shot him full of Thorazine—a drug he was allergic to.
As a young adult, there was little thought of a future, he lived hour to hour. Adrift in a world where no one would notice if he lived or died, he found a harbor of refuge in an even darker place.
A career path tailor-made for Bobby Walason as custom fitting as the expensive clothes he would soon come to wear. He became an enforcer in a Mafia crew. A manic-depressive Bipolar Type I enforcer for the mob.
A very scary guy who scared very scary guys.