Anthony Wilson (left) interviews his coworker Leo Smith.
Wilson: What’s the first time you remember committing a crime?
Smith: I think it was like in ’64.
W: So you were a young kid?
S: Yeah, I was very young. I started out like 13. First thing I did was we used to snatch pocketbooks back up in the South Bronx. And back then I thought it was a game. And the first time I got arrested, I went straight to the Big House. I went there for burglary.
W: How’d you get caught?
S: Somebody told on me. Two days later. Police came to my house and got me, my mother was hurtin’. And that’s something I’ll never forget. When the police come and take you out your own house in front of your parents. It’s a hurtin’ feeling. At that time, they said I was 16 years old, I was only 14. So they did say, ‘Well, you big tall, you 16.’ So they sent me with the big boys. And they sent me to a block which was called ‘Two-block’ back then. That was a murderers’ block, and they sent me there. I was scared to death. Scared of what these guys were gonna do to me. It’s like going into a hole that you might not climb out. And you just ‘Yes sir, no sir’ because you scared.
W: How is it being legit?
S: It feel good. Nine to five, ain’t nothin’ better than the nine to five, and I always never believed that.
W: Is it hard sometimes working, doing labor for 15, 20 dollars an hour or whatever when at one point in your life you were making 10 grand a week?
S: It’s strange, so it’s like a big difference, a big change. You learn today to buy your money more than you do before.
W: And then—because we’re about to run out of time, but tell me real quick about a grandkid or two.
S: I got three grands. Those are my little boo-boos. That’s what I live for today. They need something, I go out of my way for them. I feel that my childhood that I didn’t have, I want them to have a better one. Don’t do what I did, don’t make the wrong mistake that I made in my