Michael Farmer 


A Chalice for Michael

Time Magazine - Youth: The Scavenegers





The following is an article written and published in Time Magazine on Monday, August 12, 1957:

"In crowded parts of a crowded city like New York, youngsters are thrown daily into seething currents that begin beyond their ken and frequently sweep beyond their depth. Shouldered into canyons created by bleak, impenetrable tenements of brownstone and iron, shifting across noisy pavements before the exhaust-spewing lines of cars and trucks, they battle to save themselves from anonymity and the apathy of their elders. They form clubs or they run in gangs, and some learn to gamble with violence as quickly as they learn to step out of the path of cars. Roaming the parks and roads, scavenging for pride, for some kind of self-identification and for excitement, the gangs (125 in all New York) too often base their conduct on moviedom's version of swaggering honor, red-blooded achievement. They call themselves Egyptian Kings, Dragons, Beacons, Imperial Knights, Fordham Baldies, Comanches.

Stickball Revenge. One night last week two boys walked through an uptown Manhattan park. One was 15-year-old Michael Farmer, who limped as a result of a childhood polio attack. The other was his friend, Roger McShane, 16. Suddenly, from the bushes sprang 17 members of the Egyptian Kings. Slashing with knives, the gang knocked the two boys to the ground, killed Mike Farmer and hurried away as Roger McShane, badly wounded, dragged himself into the street for help.

Reasons for the attack were easy to find—such as they were. Days earlier, the Egyptian Kings had played stickball (a street version of baseball) with the Jesters. The Kings had lost, refused to pay off a 50¢-a-man bet on the game. Aroused by the Jesters' protests, the Kings decided to whip a few Jesters. Mike Farmer and Roger McShane were the first boys that the Knights met on their caper—although, as far as the police could learn, neither victim was a member of any gang.

"Thanks a Lot." Rounding up more than 40 known teen-age gang members in the area, the cops sifted their way down to the suspect 17. Nine of the gang, 15 to 18 years old, were held for murder. The remaining eight, all under 15, were charged with juvenile delinquency. One of these, a 14-year-old boy known to his pals as "The Little King," proudly bragged to detectives that he plunged his knife deep into Farmer's back "to get the feeling of a knife going through bone." As he withdrew his blade, he told the dying boy: "Thanks a lot."

At week's end city police strengthened their coverage of uptown gang areas. But their blanket was too thin. One night, only 73 hours after the Farmer attack, 18-year-old George Marshall, standing on a Bronx street with a friend, was set upon by five boys and two girls, stabbed to death as his companion ran for help.

As the headlines blossomed, fearful mothers pulled their children from parks, police began patrolling from one corner of the city to another, and a magistrate called for a midnight curfew for everyone under 18."