Ponyboy and Sodapop have learned to live without the nurturing of their parents, who were killed in a crash. They rely on older brother Darry for guidance and adult supervision. Johnny has learned to live without the support of his parents, who fight all the time. He discovered through a beating at the hands of the Socs that a knife was necessary for protection. Dallas lives alone; his parents are not a part of his life. More than any of the boys, he has learned the life of the mean streets--first in New York and then in Tulsa. Dally, like Two-Bit, resorts to small-time thievery when necessary. All of the boys find the support they need from one another, and they come to each other's rescue when the need arises.
that ponyboy smokes in a very small age.
When you think that this story deals with the two groups - the socs (the socials - read the 'haves') & the greasers (read the have nots) - the quote you have chosen is apt. The greasers spend a lot of time together just 'killing time' or hanging out. This could be seen as 'training' for their futures (if you believe the socs) as bums. For many 'working' or even fighting (as in the final rumble or at the fountain) is an essential part of learning the necessary skills (or putting them into action) to be "successful" in life. In the case of Dally here we have a young 'career' criminal. He has already spent time inside and wears it like a badge of honour. Like a graduation if you will. For Ponyboy the journey is a little different because he is a little different from his peers. He experiences his friends being injured/killed & along with his brother has little adult guidance. For him learning the lessons 'of the street' have shaped him in a way (enlightens?) that he must escape or die (as he nearly does) sooooo he writes his memoirs which IS the story.