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Bonnie & Clyde is routed thru Middletown
Sunday, November 21, 2004 10:27:22 AM - Monroe Ohio
Bonnie & Clyde is routed thru Middletown
Kay Kirkman
Columnist
11/21/04
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You've read the story of Jesse James

Of how he lived and died.

If you're still in need

For something to read

Here's the story of Bonnie and Clyde.



That's the first verse of "The Saga of Bonnie and Clyde." It was written by Bonnie Parker while she and the Barrows gang were holed up in Joplin, just a year before she and Clyde Barrows were caught and killed by a posse of police officers. Who were these two whose names have passed into legend?

Bonnie Parker was born in Rowena, Texas, on October 1, 1910. Her father died when she was four. Growing up in West Dallas, Bonnie was a good student who enjoyed writing poetry and reading romance novels. When she was 16, she married her childhood sweetheart, Roy Thornton, but their marriage was a disaster. In 1929, Thornton was sent to jail for five years, and Bonnie found a job as a waitress. In January 1930, a handsome dark-haired young man walked into the caf where she worked and she felt an instant spark. It was just like something out of the romance novels she read.

The young man was Clyde Barrow, who had been born in Telice, Texas, on March 24, 1909. He was one of eight children, poorly educated, and already a criminal. He had been committed to the Harris County School for Boys when he was only nine as a runaway, thief, and truant. When he got out, he joined the Square Root Gang in Houston where he committed a series of petty thefts. By the time Clyde met Bonnie, he and his brother, Buck, had begun to rob grocery stores and gas stations.

In a short time, Bonnie and Clyde were living together. Although she was still married to Thornton, she considered Clyde to be her own true love. Their romance was cut short when Clyde was sent to jail, just a month later. But Bonnie smuggled a gun into the prison for Clyde and he escaped, fleeing to Middletown, Ohio, where he bungled a robbery, was caught and sent back to prison.

It was in this prison that Clyde Barrow killed for the first time, taking a lead pipe and smashing in the head of a fellow prisoner who had told prison officials that Clyde was breaking the prison rules by gambling.

When Clyde got out of prison in February 1932, he and Bonnie began robbing grocery stores, filling stations, and small banks.

In April, Clyde murdered a merchant in Hillsboro, Texas. In Atoka, Oklahoma, Bonnie and Clyde killed two lawmen who approached them as they left a dance. They gunned down a grocery-store owner in Sherman, Texas; killed a man in Temple; and murdered another law officer in Dallas. The law couldn't seem to catch them.

On April 1, 1933, Bonnie and Clyde came to Joplin, where they rented a garage apartment at 3347 Oak Ridge Drive from Paul Freeman. They also leased a garage at 3339 Oak Ridge to use for a second vehicle. The man introduced himself as W. I. Callahan, an engineer from Minneapolis. They moved in, and a delivery boy who brought them groceries said they seemed like ordinary folks, quiet and nice.

But the group was far from nice. It was actually the Barrows gang, which at that point, included Bonnie, Clyde, Buck and his wife, Blanche, and another accomplice named W. D. Jones.

Someone tipped the police who moved to surround the home, but the gangsters were too quick and in a barrage of gunfire, J. W. (Wes) Harryman, 41-year-old Newton County constable, and Harry McGinnis, 53, Joplin motorcar detective, were shot to death. Three other officers who took part in the raid escaped injury, and the Barrows gang managed to get away.

In their haste, the gang members left behind most of their belongings, including various guns, five diamonds they'd stolen from a jewelry store in Neosho the previous day, costume jewelry and, most important, a camera and two rolls of film which had been shot by Blanche Barrow. When the pictures were developed, all five gang members were clearly identified. Among the snapshots was a picture of Bonnie with a cigar clenched in her teeth, holding a gun. The picture was quickly picked up by newspapers throughout the country, which infuriated Bonnie. She wrote letters to several papers, protesting that she did not smoke cigars. Even Bonnie Parker had standards!

Bonnie and Clyde continued on their spree, killing two highway patrolmen near Grapevine, Texas, and another policeman just five days later near Commerce, Oklahoma. They were pursued by law officers from several states and were finally trapped near their hideout at Black Lake, Louisiana, on May 23, 1934, where they were killed in a barrage of 167 bullets.

The 1967 movie, "Bonnie and Clyde" starring Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, glamourized the criminal pair. In fact, they were barely successful as outlaws, robbing small businesses and banks, and committing 13 murders. Their largest take in any robbery was barely more than $1,500. Bonnie Parker's poem ended prophetically:



Someday they'll go down together

And 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.



Sources:

"Angling in the Archives" edited by Charles E. Gibbons

"Bonnie and Clyde" at http://www.censusdiggins.com

"Bonnie and Clyde" at http://en.wikipedia.org

"Bonnie Parker" at http://www.rra.dst.tx.us

"There Goes the Neighborhood" by Leslie Simpson in Joplin Souvenir Album



Address correspondence to Kay Kirkman, c/o The Joplin Globe, P.O. Box 7, Joplin, Mo. 64802, or kkirkman@joplinglobe.com

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