Interview with Bonnie and Clyde
Interview with Bonnie and Clyde
Now that I have substantial supernatural experience in interviewing the undead – those folks who just won’t lie down and die and stay there – I have graduated to the level of talking with two people together. Our victims today, I mean subjects, are Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow.
Do you remember these two outstanding examples of Depression-era Americana? Here is their fascinating story directly from them.
me – Hello, Mr. and Mrs. Barrow. May I call you Bonnie and Clyde.
Bonnie – Sure.
Clyde – Whatever.
me – There have been so many stories and even a few movies about you both, I thought I would try to get the real story from you in person.
Clyde – Are you going to pay us for our story?
me – No, I hadn’t planned to. I didn’t think there was a way for you to spend any money I might pay you.
Bonnie – That’s for damn sure. Forget it.
Me – Bonnie, tell me a little about yourself. When and where were you born?
Bonnie – My natal day was October 1, 1910. Most people don’t know that my middle name is Elizabeth. I was born in Rowena, Texas – a very small town of less than 500 people. I was the middle child of three kids – like Bill Gates – that could explain a lot. You know what they say about middle children.
me – which is?
Bonnie – Middle children are often insecure because they may have a sense of not belonging – not getting the attention of the oldest and the youngest child. But they are often artistic and creative. I know I was; I loved to write poetry.
My dad was a bricklayer who died when I was four. Then my mother moved us to my grandparents’ home in Cement City, a suburb of Dallas. She worked as a seamstress there. In high school I was one of the best students and I won top prizes in writing, spelling and would you believe it, public speaking. I always have had the gift of gab.
Books about Bonnie and Clyde
me – How about you Clyde, when and where were you born?
Clyde – Bonnie and I grew up in the same area. I was born in Ellis County, Texas – just a hop, skip and a jump from Dallas/Fort Worth. It was a big city of 150,000 people compared to Rowena.
Bonnie – Any city was a big city compared to Rowena.
Clyde – See, I told you. She likes to get in the last word. For me, March 24, 1909 was the auspicious date. If she can say ‘natal’ I can say ‘auspicious’. I never use my middle name - Chestnut. Bonnie is complaining about being the middle child of only three. I was the fifth of seven and we were really poor when I was growing up. Go on, ask me, “How poor were you?”
me – Okay. How poor were you?
Clyde – I was so poor growing up . . . if I wasn't born a boy . . . I would have had nothing to play with.
me – Isn’t that one of Rodney Dangerfield’s famous one-liners?
Clyde – Yeah, I met him after he passed away in ‘04 and he is one funny guy. You were asking how poor I was. My family had been farmers and when they could no longer earn a living by farming in the early 1920s, they came to West Dallas to settle. At that time there were few real houses – just shanties and tent cities. We were too poor for either a shanty or a tent. For several months my family lived UNDER our wagon - that's the truth! - until my father, Henry, earned enough money to buy a tent. That was a major move upward.
Me – Was Clyde your first love, Bonnie?
Bonnie – Not really. I didn’t even date until my second year in high school but that year I fell in love with a fellow in my class, Roy Thornton. He was a handsome guy and a sharp dresser – what we called the ‘cat’s pajamas’. Both of us quit school and we were married in September, 1926, six days before my 16th birthday.
There’s no happy ending there, like in the talking pictures (movies) which I love, because Roy was seldom home and frequently in trouble with the law. After January 1929, I never saw him again. We never divorced but strangely enough, I kept wearing his wedding ring.
Me – Clyde, what do you remember about first meeting Bonnie?
Clyde – I met her in January 1930. She was living with her mom and working as a part-time waitress in Dallas. She was only 19 and had been married to a guy who was in prison for murder. I was 21 and unmarried. I think it was love at first sight. She wasn’t quite five feet tall and didn’t weigh more than 90 pounds but she stole my heart.
me – How about you, Bonnie, how do you remember Clyde?
Bonnie – He talks about me being a talker but he talked a mile a minute. I could not get even one word in edgewise. His family had been even poorer than mine, and I knew he hated being poor and wanted to make a name for himself. I knew he had been in jail but I was bored with my life and knew I wanted something more. He was my Prince Charming.
me – When were you first arrested, Clyde?
Clyde – When I was 17 (late 1926) I was arrested for failing to return a rental car on time. The second arrest was for possession of stolen goods. My brother, Marvin “Buck” Barrow, and I had a bunch of turkeys – yes, live turkeys – that we couldn’t account for.
I did hold a few jobs in the late 20s but I also did typical guy things – cracked safes, robbed stores, and stole cars. I escaped once from jail using a gun Bonnie smuggled in for me. But I was recaptured and sent to Eastham Prison Farm. In February 1932, I was paroled and rejoined Bonnie.
Bonnie – It was Clyde’s terrible experiences in prison that made him a bitter criminal. He doesn’t talk about it but he was assaulted repeatedly for more than a year by a brutish inmate. With a length of pipe, he fractured the skull of this monster. That was the first person he killed. A former cellmate once told me that he watched him ‘change from a school-boy to a rattlesnake’.
me – The years between 1931 and 1934 are often referred to as the ‘public enemy era’ – the time when John Dillinger, Pretty Boy Floyd and Baby Face Nelson captured the public’s interest. Why do you think both of you became such legends?
Bonnie – Well, Dillinger had his good looks and Floyd and Nelson had the most intriguing nicknames but I think it was because of the ‘illicit sex appeal’. I mean, Clyde and I were young, together, and unmarried, so . . .
Clyde – I think it was the photo of Bonnie with a cigar in her mouth. A girl who smoked cigars was a wild woman to the public. Like the Lindsay Lohan of her day.
Bonnie – And the funny part of it is I did chain-smoke Camel cigarettes, but never cigars. As a joke, I grabbed Clyde’s cigar one day, put it in my mouth and posed for a picture with it. I left the undeveloped film rolls in an apartment, the police confiscated it, and a Joplin, Missouri newspaper published the photo for all to see. Bonnie – the cigar-smoking gun moll.
me – What was your primary motive during all of your dozen or so bank robberies and all those smaller jobs robbing grocery stores and gas stations. Fame? or fortune? or both?
Clyde – I was seeking revenge against the Texas prison system for the abuses I suffered while doing time. We became known as the Barrow Gang who would shoot anyone who got in our way, police officer or civilian. Others who joined us from time to time were my brother, Buck, his wife, Blanche, and other rotating members of the gang including Raymond Hamilton, W.D. Jones, and Henry Methvin.
Bonnie – I watched the glamorous movie of us with Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty but our real life was anything but glamorous. For two years we robbed gas stations, small village stores and the occasional bank taking hostages when we got into a tight spot. Clyde was good with a gun and didn’t hesitate to use it. I was his willing accomplice. But I never fired a shot. Not once.
Death Scene - 16mm film shot by posse member Ted Hinton
me – What happened on January 16, 1934?
Clyde – I finally made my move against the Texas Department of Corrections when I orchestrated the escape of Henry Methvin, Ray Hamilton and three others during the infamous Eastham Prison Breakout. The Texas prison system received national publicity – all negative – from this brazen raid and I achieved the burning passion of my life – enacting revenge.
End of the Era
me – I know the law finally caught up with you both in 1934.
– Yes, The FBI finally got into the act – they had jurisdiction solely on a
charge of transporting a stolen automobile across a state line. Can you imagine that? "Borrowing" cars was the end of us. Bureau agents joined the hunt for us in 1933 and used their considerable resources to track us down.
Bonnie – Early in the morning of May 23, 1934, a six-man posse composed of five police officers from Louisiana and Texas, and Texas Ranger Frank Hamer, concealed themselves in bushes along a dirt road near Gibsland, Bienville Parish, Louisiana. We were driving on that road and slowed down because we thought we recognized the guy standing by the side of his car. We thought he needed our help. It was a trap. When we tried to drive away, the officers opened fire. We were killed instantly.
In the end, Bonnie and Clyde, the most notorious crime couple in American history – suspected of 13 murders - died as they lived - in a hail of bullets. Their murderous days were over, but their legend, often rooted more in fiction than in fact, has continued to grow over the years.
Note: Bonnie’s husband, Roy Thornton was in prison in 1934 when he learned of his wife dying in an ambush. His reaction was, "I'm glad they went out like they did. It's much better than being caught.”
Irony: One of
Bonnie’s regular customers in the Dallas restaurant where she worked was postal worker,
Ted Hinton, who would join the Dallas Sheriff's Department in 1932, and as a
posse member participated in her ambush in 1934 and photographed the death scene.
“The Trail’s End” by Bonnie Parker
You've read the story of Jesse James,
of how he lived and died.
If you're still in need; of something to read,
here's the story of Bonnie and Clyde.
Now Bonnie and Clyde are the Barrow gang
I'm sure you all have read.
how they rob and steal; and those who squeal,
are usually found dying or dead.
There's lots of untruths to these write-ups;
they're not as ruthless as that.
their nature is raw; they hate all the law,
the stool pigeons, spotters and rats.
They call them cold-blooded killers
they say they are heartless and mean.
But I say this with pride, that I once knew Clyde,
when he was honest and upright and clean.
But the law fooled around; kept taking him down,
and locking him up in a cell.
Till he said to me; "I'll never be free,
so I'll meet a few of them in hell"
The road was so dimly lighted
there were no highway signs to guide.
But they made up their minds; if all roads were blind,
they wouldn't give up till they died.
The road gets dimmer and dimmer
sometimes you can hardly see.
But it's fight man to man and do all you can,
for they know they can never be free.
From heart-break some people have suffered
from weariness some people have died.
But take it all in all; our troubles are small,
till we get like Bonnie and Clyde.
If a policeman is killed in Dallas
and they have no clue or guide.
If they can't find a fiend, they just wipe their slate clean
and hang it on Bonnie and Clyde.
There's two crimes committed in America
not accredited to the Barrow mob.
They had no hand; in the kidnap demand,
nor the Kansas City Depot job.
A newsboy once said to his buddy;
"I wish old Clyde would get jumped.
In these awfull hard times; we'd make a few dimes,
if five or six cops would get bumped.”
The police haven’t got the report yet
But Clyde called me up today.
He said, “Don’t start any fights; we aren’t working nights,
We’re joining the NRA.
From Irving to West Texas viaduct,
Is known as the great divide.
Where the women are kin; and the men are men,
And they won’t “stool” on Bonnie and Clyde.
If they try to act like citizens
And rent them a nice little flat.
About the third night; they’re invited to fight,
To a sub-gun’s rat-tat-tat.
They don’t think they’re too smart or desperate
They know that the law always wins.
They’ve been shot at before; but they do not ignore,
That death is the wages of sin.
Some day they’ll go down together,
They’ll bury them side by side.
To few it’ll be grief, To the law a relief,
But it’s death for Bonnie and Clyde.
Final Ironic Note: 1934 really was the end of the Public Enemy Era.Two months after Gibsland, John Dillinger was ambushed and killed on the street in Chicago, Illinois next to a movie theater.
Three months after that, Charles Arthur "Pretty Boy" Floyd took 14 FBI bullets in the back in East Liverpool, Ohio. One month after that, Lester ‘Baby Face Nelson’ Gillis shot it out, and lost, in Barrington, Illinois.
Wait there's more! The Bonnie and Clyde Festival. I kid you not. Every year around the time of the anniversary of the ambush. a 'Bonnie and Clyde Festival' is hosted in the town of Gibsland, Texas.
The death scene location is commemorated by a stone marker that has been defaced over time by souvenir hunters and gunshot. So a small metal version of the marker was added to accompany the stone monument. It was stolen.So was its replacement!
Bonnie Parker's Poetry
Joplin police discovered some scrawled poetry left behind by Bonnie in her apartment. Her poem, ‘Suicide Sal’, was published in newspapers all over the U.S. Her poem, ‘The Trail’s End,’ is known as ‘The Story of Bonnie and Clyde.’ She gave her handwritten notes to her mother two weeks before her death and Emma Parker gave them to the press.
"Suicide Sal" by Bonnie Parker
We each of us have a good “alibi”
For being down here in the “joint”
But few of them really are justified
If you get right down to the point.
You’ve heard of a woman’s glory
Being spent on a “downright cur”
Still you can’t always judge the story
As true being told by her.
As long as I’ve stayed on this “island”
And heard “confidence tales” from each gal.
Only one seemed interesting and truthful-
The story of “Suicide Sal”.
Now Sal was a gal of rare beauty,
Though her features were coarse and tough;
She never once faltered from duty
To play on the “up and up”.
Sal told me this tale on the evening’
Before she was turned out “free”
And I’ll do my best to relate it.
Just as she told it to me.
I was born on a ranch in Wyoming;
Not treated like Helen of Troy.
I was taught that “rods were rulers”
And ranked as a greasy cowboy.
Then I left my old home for the city
To play in its mad dizzy whirl,
Not knowing how little of pity
It holds for a country girl.
There I fell for the line of a “henchman”
A professional killer from “Chi”
I couldn’t help loving him madly,
For him even I would die.
One year we were desperately happy
Our “ill gotten gains” we spent free,
I was taught the ways of the “underworld”
Jack was just like a God to me.
I got on the “F.B.A. payroll
To get the inside lay of the “job”
The bank was turning big money!
It looked like a cinch for the mob.
Eighty grand without even a “rumble” –
Jack was last with the loot in the door,
When the teller dead-aimed a revolver
From where they forced him to lied on the floor.
I knew I had only a moment –
He would surely get Jack as he ran,
So I staged a “big fade out” beside him
And knocked the forty-five out of his hand.
They “rapped me down big” at the station,
And informed me that I’d get the blame
For the “dramatic stunt” pulled on the teller
Looked to them, too much like a “game”.
The police called it a frame-up
Ssid it was an “inside job”
But I steadily denied any knowledge
Or dealings with underworld mobs.
The gang hired a couple of lawyers,
The best “fixers” in any man’s town,
But it takes more than lawyers and money
When Uncle Sam Starts shaking you down.
I was charged as a scion of gangland
And tried for my wages of sin,
The dirty dozen found me guilty –
From five to fifty years in the pen.
I took the rap like good people,
And never one squawk did I make.
Jack dropped himself on the promise
That we make a sensational break.
Well, to shorten a sad lengthy story,
Five years have gone over my head
Without even so much as a letter -
At first I thought he was dead.
But not long ago I discovered;
From a gal in the joint named Lyle,
That Jack and his moll had “got over”
And were living in true gangster style.
If he had returned to me sometime,
Though he hadn’t a cent to give
I’d forget all the hell that he’s caused me,
And love him as long as I lived.
But there’s no chance of his ever coming,
For he and his moll have no fears
But that I will die in this prison,
Of flatten this fifty years.
Tomorrow I’ll be on the outside
And I’ll drop myself on it today,
I’ll bump ‘em if they give me the “hotsquat”
On this island out here in the bay …
The iron doors swung wide next morning
For a gruesome woman of waste,
Who at last had a chance to “fix it”
Murder showed in her cynical face.
Not long ago I read in the paper
That a gal on the East Side got “hot”
And when the smoke finally retreated,
Two of gangdom were found on the spot.
It related the colorful story
Of a jilted ganster gal
Two days later, a sub-gun ended
The story of “Suicide Sal”.
© Copyright BJ Rakow 2010, 2011. All rights reserved. Author, "Much of What You Know about Job Search Just Ain't So"
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