Before the digital era, transistor radios, Walkmans, cell phones, the internet, personal computers and laptops, people were wasting time in different ways and some of them were violent.
Movie „Gangs of New York“ painted a picture of 19th-century Manhattan’s Five Points neighborhood as a place where it was common to see mass fight scenes on the streets.
While I was talking to my grandfather I realized that even in my neighborhood such fights were a regular occurrence. (I live in Europe.)
It seems that there were no real reason for these brawls at the streets.
As my grandfather recalls, young men, “troublemakers” as he calls them, fought without a particular reason.
Usually opposing teams were divided by where they lived.
Boys from one village would fight against another village. Sometimes, they were living in hostility for several months.
Brawls would usually take place near a church or any other place where large groups of people were gathering.
Excerpt from a newspaper article from 1939. described this weird customs.
„And why all this? If it were because of land, houses, grazing, livestock, or something similar, it would be easier to understand. But fights rarely happen because of this. A fight develops out of nothing: namely, after mass in the church, the guys from the whole parish get caught in a circle and start dancing. During the dance, someone is pushed, sometimes willingly and sometimes inadvertently and then boys from his village start to defend the man who is pushed, they threaten the man who pushed him, his whole village jumps to his defense and fights broke out“.
„Consequences of these battles are, of course: a fine, a prison, some end up severely wounded, it is not uncommon that sometimes someone even ends up dead. This youth of ours fight against each other with such fierceness and perseverance, village against village, brother against brother, it is no exaggeration to say, as if in one village is in China and another in Japan! Why all this?” pondered one reporter in 1939.
The answer could be that this was the only thing these young men had for fun.
The life was hard then, costs of labor was much lower.
My granddad recalls that all jobs were hard.
For example a man would spent his day digging from sunrise to sunset on the field and he was paid just enough to buy five kilograms (11 pounds) of flour.
This was the time of hard-working men trying to make the best of a bad situation.
For some participating in street fights was a way of venting out. This was perhaps the only adrenaline-rush activity in their lives.