Providence, Redux, Again as Always

The ProJo is currently featuring a “favorite mob story” survey section.

Tell us your Rhode Island mob story

Here’s one, from Tony “The Broom” Laroche

My family lived on Federal Hill for most of the 1960s and it was like living on the set of Goodfellas.

My sister Rita remembers us running up Dean Street one night when two young mob punks got thrown through the plate-glass window of a drugstore on Atwells Avenue. My sister Betty recalls one day walking to the neighborhood pool and passing a restaurant right after someone had been gunned down in the restaurant’s phone booth. She stood there on the sidewalk with all the other gawkers, but says she didn’t get to see the body.

We lived in a first-floor apartment in a tenement on Dean, right at the apex of the triangle made by Dean, Solar and Atwells. At the base of the triangle on Atwells was Raymond Patriarca Sr.’s vending machine storefront, beside an auto garage and a couple of other business. Behind the auto garage was an overgrown alley of old car parts and oil drums that we loved to explore (I still can remember the oily smell), and a gravel parking lot made up the rest of the triangle.

Rita remembers a day when she and I were hunting in the gravel lot for diamonds when Patriarca’s Cadillac limo pulled up and he got out and gave us ice cream cones. It was around then that I started working for him. I was about 6 at the time, so I don’t remember how it started. I played with a boy who lived over the market that used to be at the corner of Solar and Atwells, and the other corner was the vending machine business. We were always playing right around there, so I guess Patriarca just said, “Hey kid, you wanna make a quarter?”

My memories are pretty vague, but I remember sweeping the sidewalk in front of his business and him leaning in the door frame, looking out over Atwells, and smoking a cigarette. I don’t remember ever going into the vending machine shop, although I probably must have at some point.

Betty remembers it differently. She says I used to run errands for him and that I used to tell my parents that the money he gave me I had found in the gutter. (Although that seems pretty advanced thinking for a 6-year-old.)

Whatever it was, my father made me stop.

There’s one other story, though. Family lore has it that my father used to park his car in the gravel parking lot and that Patriarca’s driver used to always block him in with the old man’s Caddie. My father, an amateur boxer in his youth, a World War II veteran and a construction worker, walked into the vending machine shop to settle the matter. The way I heard the story is, he simply asked them not to block him in; he was also carrying a shotgun. And they respected that, because the story has it that they never blocked him in again.

Tony Laroche is The Journal’s assistant city editor.

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