Wednesday, July 29, 2009

An "Onerous 8"-- A Challenging Group Of B&C Polls

Based on the results, I can say with confidence, this was the most challenging group of B&C polls so far. Loyal fans of the polls were "skunked" on 2 of these 8 stunners and almost shut out on 3 more. So here goes-- All got it right in saying that Buck Barrow used the alias of W. I. Callahan, an engineer from Minneapolis, Minnesota-- when speaking with Harold Hill prior to the Joplin shootout. On April 1st, 1933, Buck was also said to have used this alias, when renting the Joplin apartment from Freeman Grove developer Paul Freeman. According to a newspaper report, while Joplin Motor Car Detective Harry McGinnis lay mortally wounded-- he was said to have exclaimed to Officer DeGraff "You know-- I've been thinking about this. I had a hunch, it might happen this way". And in perhaps a controversial report, after the Joplin shootout-- the press reported that "the murderers" were said to have bowed, smiled and waved to horrified spectators.

According to Blanche Barrow, while staying in the Joplin apartment, the Barrow Gang kept their weapons in a living room closet-- as well as in Clyde and Bonnie's bedroom. The press reported the weapons were kept in a closet beneath the stairs. But as Blanche was there-- I went with Blanche's insider's account of this. Speaking of Blanche, she felt "both" the night watchman and the man who shared the Joplin garage beneath them-- seemed too curious when pausing to listen to the Gang's happenings, while at the Joplin apartment. Beer was legalized in Missouri, while The Barrow Gang was present in Joplin on April 7th, 1933. Apparently in having difficulty accepting her sons' ways of crime, Cumie Barrow reportedly thought Clyde and Buck were being framed. And finally both Blanche and an officer on the scene, recounted seeing Clyde stagger and then rise to his feet-- after being shot while in the driveway of the Joplin apartment. It was officer Kahler, who said he had one bullet left-- and who briefly felled Clyde with this single shot.

Look for more challenging B&C Polls to be posted soon. As always-- my "thanks" to all-- for participating in what has become a favorite feature, of The B&C History Blog.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Hattie Crawford-- The Nurse Informant

In examining Barrow Gang informants, last time we looked at the Sowers Informant. This go round, I'd like to profile Hattie Crawford-- The Nurse Informant. I'm sometimes asked about Hattie, and the time she administered medical aid to Clyde Barrow. Explanation of this incident also goes a long way toward revealing an age old B&C question-- as to whether when seriously hurt, The Barrow Gang doctored themselves, or instead risked exposing their whereabouts-- by seeking medical attention from others.

The Hattie Crawford story goes-- that Sheriff Dee Watters of Miami, Oklahoma, notified an Agent of the U.S. Bureau of Investigation, saying that he had information regarding B&C, which might result in their capture. On December 14th, 1933 Sheriff Watters informed the Bureau that on the evening December 6th of a nurse named Hattie Crawford treated man suffering from gunshot wounds. This man matched the description of Clyde Barrow, and was positively identified as being in the company of Bonnie Parker.

The background of this case is as follows: On the afternoon of December 6th, 1933 while exiting her apartment, Mrs. Hattie Crawford, a nurse from Miami, Oklahoma-- was approached by a man who asked where he could find the nurse who lived in the apartment building she lived in. Mrs. Crawford identified herself as that nurse. The unidentified man asked Hattie if she would go on a call-- and she agreed. The man instructed her to take a bus to Afton, Oklahoma. She left on the 6PM bus. Upon arriving in Afton, she was met by the same man who had spoken to her earlier, plus another man who was unknown to her.

All drove to Vinita, Oklahoma-- and proceeded to a house on the outskirts of the city. They were admitted to the home by a woman whom Mrs. Crawford identified as Bonnie Parker. Hattie later explained to police, that approximately 8 years before, Bonnie and her mother lived in Miami, Oklahoma-- and that she was well acquainted with Bonnie. After entering the house, Nurse Crawford was taken to a bedroom where a man lay in bed. She was provided an alcohol solution and bandages made from a bed sheet. She stated the man had 2 gunshot wounds-- one on the left leg and one on his left arm. Mrs. Crawford then proceeded to dress these wounds.

Thereafter, she was taken back to Miami, by the same 2 men who had brought her to Vinita. The men asked if she could return the next night. Mrs. Crawford said she could. The men paid her $5 (about $75 today). They also warned Hattie about informing anyone concerning the matter. She later said it was her intention to immediately notify the police-- but as she felt she may have been watched, she didn't. Finally on December 14th, she mustered the courage to go to the authorities with her story.

Mrs. Crawford provided a description of the house and furnishings where she helped the man. She was unable to positively identify a photograph of Clyde Barrow, but said the man fit his description. However, she did identify a photograph of Bonnie Parker. She said she wasn't able to closely observe the parties in the house, as they had her work by flashlight. The Sheriff of Vinita, John York was present when Hattie Crawford was interviewed regarding this incident. He identified the house in question as belonging to Mrs. Jane Hall of Vinita. It was said, Mrs. Hall had not lived in the house for several years (except for a few months), and at the time-- she had been staying on a ranch in Texas. Bob Hill of Vinitia, was known to be the custodian of the property.

Mr. Hill said he was unaware of anyone occupying the Hill house. He allowed the authorities access to the home. Accompanied by Sheriffs York and Watters, a Bureau Agent and Mr. Hill-- the residence in question was examined on December 15th, 1933. Bloody bandages and a bloody undershirt were found. Later, Hattie Crawford was taken there. She positively identified the house, as being the place she was taken to offer assistance to whom was believed to be Clyde Barrow. After the investigation, the house was placed under surveillance, and Mrs. Crawford agreed to notify Sheriff Dee Watters with any additional information she might have.

This incident along with others now revealed through the Dallas FBI Files on Bonnie and Clyde, clearly show that when seriously hurt, The Barrow Gang sought medical care whenever they could. The 2 doctors now known to have examined Bonnie at Ft. Smith, and the doctor said to have aided Clyde again with bullet wounds at Bell Chaney Springs-- are further proof of this. Unless another incident could be shown to have occurred after the Sowers ambush attempt, where Clyde would have been wounded-- I think it's fair to say Hattie Crawford may have been dressing Clyde's wounds from Sowers. I've never known, whether Nurse Hattie Crawford was charged in any way criminally in having assisted Bonnie and Clyde. Perhaps someone might know this, and would please comment.

Although the fear of retribution delayed Hattie Crawford from telling the authorities of her story of helping Clyde (which was likely the only goal of the threats)-- Mrs. Crawford as many did come forward, to help police in their tracking of B&C. As such, I've described her as the Nurse Informant. I hope she won't mind. Next time, I'll profile another who betrayed B&C to help lead to their capture. Please let me hear from you with your comments or questions. My best to you as always.

"History" Is The Only Goal Here

Based on the war of words between some within the B&C historical community having now occurred here, as it has elsewhere in the past-- let me make my feelings clear.

I feel these personal issues should be dealt with via e-mail or telephone, just as with personal issues we all face every day-- rather than through a blog or public message board. It seems the very nature of this or any public forum, only serves to incite the potential of mean-spiritedness being exercised to no good result, for the blog or anyone viewing it-- when a forum such as this, is mistaken for a personal communication device or deliberately misused.

So in response to comments I've read-- no-- I don't expect a lull in the action until the next comment that's "needed" to be responded to. I don't expect an angry follow up or antagonistic comment will be posted between any combatants, in response to or in anticipation of any comment-- made here or anywhere else. And that at least here, for those old enough to remember-- Romper Room is closed.

Energies spent posting and responding to "historical" reports and commentary is what this forum is all about. If desired, I would support someone's formation of The Diabolical Agenda or some such Blog, where such "pointed" personal issues can be aired-- as an extension of the free speech we all covet. But I "must" have rules here for the benefit of all, within this exclusively focused forum. As this is a forum dedicated to the history of Bonnie and Clyde-- please feel free to comment to your heart's content, regarding these iconic outlaws or anything related to them. But for those who see this as a place to level disrespectful and harsh personal attack upon others, seemingly for the sake of doing so-- please know I do not share in your views, and cannot provide a forum with which to exercise them.

And while I'm at it, for those who would come here (as someone did yesterday)-- "only" to make "hit and run" insults, apparently without the benefit of any discernible knowledge of American Depression Age History-- I might suggest they start (to quote them) a "who gives a rats ass-- about 2 homicidal white trash psycos who have been in the ground 3 times longer than they were ever on it" blog!!

I would also think being able to spell the word psycho, might be a prerequisite for using it in the derogatory way it was advanced.
In addition, when I express my viewpoints-- I'm proud to place my name and reputation behind every historical comment I make. Seemingly this was not true with this individual. So to my most impolite detractor who left such a "hateful" comment-- I would respond by saying that hit and run, rude & anonymous-- are not good ways to go through life son.

All are of course, entitled to their opinions, and I will accept and be responsive to all comment-- provided it is responsible and polite. We have "great" people on this blog, and a quality B&C forum for all to share. Please know-- it's my aim to keep it that way. I would hope all would respect my desire for an intelligent, honest and polite forum-- in discussing Bonnie and Clyde History.

I would welcome your comments regarding my thoughts and actions. Thanks.

Update-- Based on a hateful comment being posted, after I posted that no hateful comments would be allowed here-- I have deleted that comment and will delete any similar comments I see. Also based on a request to expunge comments previously left, which describe individuals in a derogatory way, I will honor this request-- and remove any comments I deem unacceptable. I tried self regulation, which unfortunately didn't work. I'm confident 99% of those who participate here and enjoy this blog, will support my actions-- in assuring the quality, integrity and good nature of The B&C History Blog. History is such a wonderful thing. Let's all enjoy it!!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Who Was The Sowers Informant??

Having detailed info on Barrow cousin and U.S. Bureau of Investigation informant Bailey Tynes, I thought I'd profile some of the other betrayers, who were so integral in helping to apprehend Bonnie and Clyde-- beginning with the infamous Sowers informant. It seems near the dawn of 1934, many were beginning to "turn on" B&C. I wonder whether the furiously hunted outlaw couple knew, how much danger they were truly in-- based on information being furnished from within??

One of the great ongoing mysteries within B&C History, is the identity of the Sowers informant?? As I addressed this in my talk at Gibsland this year, and since it's currently topical debate on the Boodles message board-- I thought I'd recount my feelings about this one here, on The B&C History Blog as well. Here's what's known thanks to the Dallas FBI Files:

The informant is mentioned, although not identified by name-- a number of times within the files near the time of the Sowers ambush attempt. Doug Walsh, the Dallas Police Superintendent of Identification-- reveals that Bob Alcorn has an informant, who regularly contacts Clyde Barrow. Dallas Sheriff "Smoot" Schmid is also said to be getting info from one "closely connected with the Parkers or Barrows". As Alcorn and Schmid were working together, this would seemingly be a reference to Bob Alcorn's informant. Schmidt was also thought to have garnered significant information from a captured W. D. Jones-- including the knowledge that B&C were meeting their families during certain nights of the week, in a pasture in the vicinity of Dallas.

Based on reconnaissance from the mystery informant, Schmid and Alcorn spy on not just 1 but "2"-- clandestine meetings between B&C and their families. Its apparent the purpose of these dry runs, was to verify the accuracy of the information provided by Alcorn's informant--
in preparation for the Sowers ambush attempt. With this pair of spying sessions complete, the Sowers ambush was deemed a go. It was Bureau informant Red Webster, who knew "Smoot"-- who relayed the info to the Bureau of Investigation, that B&C were meeting their families on a little used road between Irving and Dallas.

The reason I included the iconic MAD magazine Spy Vs Spy characters at the end of this post, is for the "remarkable" reality-- that based on Red Webster's info regarding "Smoot" and the Dallas Sheriff's Office informant-- it's documented, that while Bob and "Smoot" were busy spying on B&C-- the Bureau was somewhere out in the weeds, spying on Bob and "Smoot" spying on B&C. You just can't make this stuff up!! The Bureau its said, didn't act to apprehend the outlaws on those occasions-- out of respect for Sheriff Schmid's upcoming ambush attempt. So it's clear-- the accuracy and effectiveness of the mystery informant's knowledge was quite good. Therefore I think it's fair to say, the Sowers informant's reputed closeness to the families-- can almost be assured.

Although many have surmised perhaps one of the Parker or Barrow women, might have been responsible for tipping off the Dallas Sheriff's Office regarding the family meeting at Sowers-- Marie Barrow's husband Joe Bill Francis, has long been thought the prime suspect, to have been the Sowers informant. Although nothing is certain within this quest for the truth-- I'm not sure it can be supported, that one of the immediate family members would risk putting their loved ones on the spot, and thus perhaps assure their deaths. However, there may be good reasons to believe in the possibility of Joe Bill being responsible for this betrayal. First as a criminal himself, the authorities in Dallas could have easily "leaned on" Francis for information-- including threatening or torturing him at the "Trinity Valley Confessional". This technique of physically abusing those, who the Dallas Authorities wanted information from, reported occurred on the banks of the Trinity River in Dallas-- thus the reference to its name. Another candidate who would fit all the clues provided, (depending on availability) would be Floyd Hamilton. Floyd was trusted by Clyde-- and also was said to have driven the Barrows, to a number of their clandestine meetings with B&C.

But to me, perhaps the smoking gun, and reason I would support Joe Bill Francis as the Sowers informant-- is a short but most curious letter, from the Dallas FBI Files dated February 6, 1934. This seemingly innocent correspondence, from Dallas Special Agent in Charge D. L. McCormack to Bureau Director J. Edgar Hoover involves Joe Bill Francis. It states that fingerprints of one Joe Francis were forwarded to the Division by the Dallas Police Department, and were obtained "confidentially". Francis' prints were to be compared to latent prints secured from the rear-view mirror of a Ford V-8 coupe recovered at Gilmer, Texas. But oddly, after just stating that the Francis prints were forwarded by the Dallas Police-- it is asked of Hoover, that in the event the prints were not forwarded by the Dallas Police to the Division-- that the Division "not" write direct to the Dallas Police Department for this information.

One is left to wonder, why all the stealth over a simple set of fingerprints being shared between law enforcement agencies?? Also with all the notorious criminal elements involved in the B&C probe, what makes Joe Bill Francis "so special"-- that a request for info concerning him, be treated with such secrecy?? Hmm. Upon reading this document, I keep asking myself what would make a 2 bit hood like Francis so important-- that Hoover himself is asked to assure, that info regarding Joe Bill Francis "not" be requested directly through the Dallas Police??? Why not?? Perhaps to not bring attention to him-- because he was known or suspected of being the Dallas Sheriff's Office Barrow family informant?? This explanation for this document seems plausible to me.

I keep looking for the identity of the Sowers informant to be revealed somewhere within the Dallas FBI Files. However so far, this well guarded secret-- seems to have been preserved. One would hope at some point, this key betrayer within B&C History would be revealed. But unfortunately, as is sometimes the case within the saga of B&C-- the Sowers informant, may be one fascinating element of this history-- which may never be known.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A Surprising End For SA Lester Kindell-- And The Rest Of The B&C Poll Answers

It's that time again-- time for the latest B&C Poll answers. This seemed an eclectic batch of questions, capped off with what is likely new info for almost everyone-- regarding Bureau SA Lester Kindell.

Most people knew it was Weber Wilson's car, that Buck and W. D. ran into, just prior to the gun battle where H. D. Humphrey was killed. The damning evidence Sheriff Maxey had linking Clyde and Buck to the rape and beating of Mrs. Harry Rogers, were 2 eyewitness accounts-- including one by Mrs. Rogers herself. Most curiously, Maxey cleared Clyde, thinking he didn't have time to have committed the Rogers crime-- as Clyde was witnessed paying a Dr. to examine Bonnie in Ft. Smith, at the same time Maxey believed the Rogers rape to have occurred. However, a careful analysis of the timing of the Dr's testimony, perhaps contradicts Maxey's logic. Anyway-- after The Barrow Gang including W. D. Jones exit the Ft. Smith area, Sheriff Maxey apparently had the real Hubert Bleigh in custody, and tried to pin the rape and beating of Mrs. Rogers on him. But as none of the witnesses seemingly could ID Bleigh, although the resolution of this action by Maxey is unclear-- it doesn't appear Bleigh could be implicated by Maxey-- in substituting him for Clyde. Those who have the Dallas FBI Files, will note the similarity between W. D. Jones and Hubert Bleigh-- who's mug shot appears near the end of the file.

As reported in a newspaper-- a cigar butt with small teeth marks, was the piece of physical evidence said to have been found, linking Bonnie to the Grapevine murders. According to Jim Knight, Mary O'Dare was thought to have run with The Barrow Gang for about 3 weeks. The 1st 2 way police radio was credited to Constable Frederick William Downie of the Victoria Police in Austrailia. The year of this first successful attempt at 2 way police communication, was 1923. The distinction of the first operational 2 way police radios in America, goes to the Bayonne, New Jersey Police Dept.-- who used them in 1933. So 2 way police radios "were" a reality during the time of B&C-- but not in the Southwestern U.S. Getting back to Jim Knight's research-- it took 4 days for Bonnie to receive medical treatment after the Wellington crash.

And finally the question I'm sure most are interested in. Not many know of this one, and I've never seen it published-- so this could be the first en mass release of this Lester Kindell info. According to FBI Historian Dr. John Fox-- Lester Kindell was said to have become involved with the wife of the New Orleans District Attorney, and was forced out of the Bureau in 1935-- just 1 year after his heroic work in helping to apprehend B&C. Kindell's inauspicious and early departure from the U.S. Bureau Of Investigation, may have much to do-- with information on him being so hard to come by. Little seems known, regarding what happened to Kindell after his New Orleans law enforcement years. Tres Amigos are on the hunt, for additional information regarding Bureau Special Agent Lester Kindell. So stayed tuned. Thanks as always, for your participation in the B&C Polls. Please look for new B&C Polls to be posted soon.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Protecting Bonnie & Clyde History From the Vultures of Opportunism-- and Seekers of 5 Minutes of Fame

Ah the accuracy of history. Those who know me, know I'm not only passionate about this noble cause, but feel it "essential" to maintaining the vital integrity of documenting human ki
nd. The photo and caption above are from the Jones/Fischer report, It's Death To Bonnie And Clyde-- published in 1998 and used most recently by Jeff Guinn, in spinning his version of the ambush-- which is "fraught" with shameless sensationalism and inept inaccuracy. My response to the caption published above-- is "no" this photo does "not" graphically show an exit wound to the left side of Bonnie's face. Nor has it ever been documented with any credibility, that Bonnie was shot from the right side of the Warren car multiple times by Frank Hamer, in firing his powerful Colt Monitor machine rifle, or by anyone else-- firing multiple times directly into Bonnie from the right side. To put it politely-- BS. This fantasy account of the ambush was published in Guinn's book, admittedly based on the Jones/Fischer report-- which bases it's supposition on the photo pictured, along with ballistics interpretations by non-experts.

But in fact, as Bienville Parish Coroner Dr. J. L. Wade witnessed and documented on May 23rd, 1934, and as verified by the King Murphy morgue photos taken of Bonnie-- the gaping wound on Bonnie's left cheek was an "entrance" wound which exited the top of Bonnie's head. "Only" left handed and rear entrance wounds are noted in Bonnie, by Dr. Wade. The error made by Jones and Fischer, was in thinking the bloody indentation evident on the face of Bonnie Parker-- somehow signified a bullet wound that didn't exist. However in viewing other photos of Bonnie when cleaned up, this natural facial characteristic is revealed not to have been pierced by a bullet's path. By ignoring other morgue photos available to view which didn't fit their scenario, along with not taking into account Bob Alcorn's interview conducted on May 23rd, 1934-- in which Alcorn states "he" fired at the right of the Warren car, thus likely making the holes present above Bonnie's door-- in my view and most unfortunately-- Jones and Fischer did a great disservice to history.

The sensational supposition passed from Jones and Fischer to Guinn, follows the lines of 1930's rumors involving Hamer targeting Bonnie, which apparently had no basis in truth then-- and still don't today. But hey it sure sounds good, and what a splash it can make-- especially when picked up and used within a well publicised new book-- which along with this dubious claim, sports other instances of sensationalized and non-historically based fodder. Admittedly, Guinn's telling of the ambush, is based mainly on the Jones/Fischer report-- right down to the millisecond by millisecond analysis of the firing order of the officers present that day. With all the years that have passed, no witnesses left to interview and so many assumptions used (which may or may not be accurate)-- I'm not sure how or why, this "carefully crafted" firing order would have validity or usefulness.

Most historian's I've spoken with agree, once the firing started-- it was likely a simultaneous assault of lead flying toward the death car. Why it was deemed necessary to portray a firing order, which realistically could only be guessed at-- is a mystery to me?? Perhaps, if those who purport this creative recreation of the ambush with Hamer assassinating Bonnie et all-- had training in ballistics, criminal forensic science and photographic arts-- or employed experts who could support their theories, perhaps someone like myself wouldn't be all over them in pointing out the obvious. When you cannot substantiate your claims-- don't proceed as if you can, and state that's the way it was. Truth is rarely supported by supposition. Truth is most often proven by fact.

To me the most ludicrous claim made within the ambush reenactment, is the incredible statement of how Clyde manipulated the Warren car pedals-- to make the death car proceed toward the ditch once the shooting started. A slight point to remember was that by all accounts, Clyde was killed by either the 1st or 2nd shot fired by Prentis Oakley. Therefore with all respect, Clyde was likely killed instantly-- and thus was unavailable to manipulate anything, much less the clutch pedal of the Warren car, to make it move in any particular way.

Even though some may be familiar with my analysis of the great Bonnie/Hamer assassination controversy, as many are not-- I thought I would dust off my feelings about this, and post an updated version of this furor here on The B&C History Blog. As I am proud to call "Boots" Hinton a friend, I am quite familiar with his caring quest, to assure the purity of B&C history-- and to fight against, hearsay, lore and errant supposition becoming legitimized by its being published in a book (which doesn't make it true)-- and thus become thought of as fact. I stand firmly beside "Boots"-- in protecting B&C History, from those who would cloud and muddle it. Regarding Bonnie Parker's wounds, Dr. Wade's expert observations were this:

Bonnie Parker:

2 Diam rings -- gold wed ring 3rd finger left hand, Small watch on left arm, 3 acorn brooch on dress in front, 1 Catholic Cross under dress Red dress and Red shoes = Tattoo on right leg 2 hearts with arrow 6 inches above R knee Roy on R Bonnie on Left side: G shot wound edge of hair about 1 1/2 in above left eye another entered mouth on L side Made exit at center of top skull + another about middle and Just below left Jaw bones another entering above clavicle left side ranging into neck. Another entering about 2 in. below inner side of left shoulder. 2 bullet wounds 1 about 2 in. below left shoulder another mid way arm fract the bone Another wound elbow left arm breaking into joint. Another shot in left breast going to chest 4 inch below Excela 1 shot ent left ibid 4 in below Excela breaking ribs. 6 shots entering three inches back region of left scapula. 5 bullet wounds about middle of left thigh. Number of of cut places on left leg outer side seems cut from glass, 1 cut on left ankle. 1 on top on left foot apparently from glass Bullet wound inner aspect and center of right thigh. Scar apparty from burn 6 inches in length about 3 1/2 width on outer center of right thigh appears effect of burns, another scar 6 in length 4 in width outer aspect right nee extending on across & front of knee extending 6 inches on inner side of right leg. Flesh wound inner side of right knee.

Gunshot wound entering fleshy portion left thigh 8 bullet wounds striking almost in parallel line left side. 2 striking parallel right side back from base of neck to angular right scapula to side backbone one striking mid way back breaking back bone.

Bullet wound right leg about mid way ankle and knee. Another B wound anterior ankle, inner aspect foot about 2 in. above base of great toe. gunshot wound bone of first finger another middle finger -- at bone severing the member.

Dr. J. L. Wade

Those are the facts-- supported by both Dr. Wade's life long reputation and by photo evidence documented at the time. Bob Alcorn was quoted on the day of the ambush as stating it was he, who fired at Bonnie's door, thus most likely making the holes evident above her window. There are no credible accounts known, which detail Frank Hamer firing through either the passenger door or window into Bonnie multiple times-- and no physical evidence to support such claims. As Hamer and Alcorn likely fired the same caliber weapon, and with Alcorn's admission to the Dallas Morning News-- its less likely to assume Hamer shot at the right of the Warren car. I'm working on obtaining a copy and source of a report said published in England-- which details an account of Hamer, which states-- when he approached the death car and saw there was nothing left to do, Hamer holstered his weapon without firing another shot.

It seems there's always a John Toland. As pointed out so aptly by Nelson Algren, in his strikingly good introduction to The True Story of Bonnie and Clyde in 1968-- it seems there's always a John Toland. Years ago, within a book called The Dillinger Days, Toland painted Clyde as a homosexual, Bonnie as a nymphomaniac-- and henchmen like W. D. Jones as being useful to drive, fix cars and satisfy Bonnie's sexual desires. As some still seem to buy into Toland's claims regarding B&C's aberrant traits, it seems Toland's sensational words stuck-- and all these years later, still bear repeating within the "history" of B&C. But that's exactly my point. To me, it appears Jeff Guinn has now assumed the mantle of most sensational B&C claims from John Toland. Now thanks to Guinn-- Hamer fired wildly into Bonnie in a fit of spiteful rage against her-- and Bonnie may forever be characterised as a prostitute, based on unsubstantiated claims-- backed by a dubious poem which Bonnie may have never written, and that Jeff Guinn didn't even know the correct provenance of. Help me Lord, for those who write of history, need to pay attention-- and have a greater appreciation for trying to get it right.

But I suppose, these boldly sensationalized claims made within Go Down Together are not surprising-- as they were authored by a man who revealed to me within an e-mail, his thought that "all written history is ultimately best guess". So I "guess" that when one of this author's fortes has been writing so prolifically of Santa Claus (5 books worth)-- perhaps fantasy may be hard to separate from reality. Therefore in writing a "hit and run" true crime book about Bonnie and Clyde, who cares if some facts are wrong?? Why not just guess-- that's alright isn't it?? I'm willing to wager, that years from now-- Guinn's errant work within Go Down Together, will echo with the same twisted resonance, that Toland's words from yesteryear still enjoy today. I wish the Tolands and Guinns of the world to know-- that I am "proud" to protect Bonnie & Clyde history, from less than caring revisionists and profiteers. When I was in Gibsland for the B&C Festival recently, I heard that Jeff didn't show in Gibsland because "Boots" and I were there. That's fine. The way I see it, if I can keep just one person interested in the history of Bonnie and Clyde, from paying undue attention to unsubstantiated "best guesses"-- then I feel I'm doing my part for this history.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Public Enemies-- 2 Guns Up (With Reservations)

Warning: For those who would rather not read a review of Public Enemies, until you've seen the movie-- please pass over this post, and explore other posts on The B&C History Blog for now. However in being timely, I offer this review of the new '30s based, mega blockbuster outlaws feature. In searching for images depicting 2 guns up, it seemed I had a choice between the Hitman guy and Lara Croft. I hope you don't mind, but Lara's easier on the eyes. My review of Public Enemies is simple. Great acting, and a strong and mostly accurate portrayal of Dillinger-- although some of the peripheral history is wrong. Of course the principle players including Johnny Depp are fabulous. Also the use of many actual locations, such as North Lincoln Avenue in Chicago, and Little Bohemia are coups for this movie-- and add a "wondrous" period authenticity, that make you feel as though you were there, when it all happened.

However if I have a criticism, it would be that-- what likely should have been a 3 hour movie, was cut down to 2 1/2 hours. Thus to me, the story seemed compressed-- with one part running into the next, almost without the context of time passing. The best way I can describe this, is to say in movie form-- Public Enemies reminded me of what the Beatles attempted and achieved, with their musical "suite" on side 2 of Abbey Road. Abbey Road was genius-- however I'm not sure what I perceived as a similar connected flow of images, worked as well in Public Enemies. Perhaps within the hard hitting pace of this film, a breath could have been taken here and there-- in order to allow time for characters and situations to develop.

Maybe as was the case at the movie's start, if dates were shown on the screen here and there, you would be more a tune to significant periods of time passing. But as it was, without some knowledge of Dillinger-- one might think the entire movie was portraying, the passing of perhaps just a few month's time. Whether this pedal to the metal editing technique was intentional or not I couldn't say. Apparently it worked from the viewpoint of eliminating boredom. But next thing you knew, you realized it was the afternoon of July 22nd, 1934 and then without much ado-- Dillinger was dead. The sporadic and almost polite applause at movie's end, was perhaps a sign this movie didn't quite hit the mark.

One aspect of the story which I feel could have been employed but wasn't, was the reported confusion and confrontation under pressure, between Chicago Police and the Bureau of Investigation-- who hadn't adequately warned the police of the the Bureau's doings outside the Biograph. This would have added an historically accurate element to the story-- "and" would have enhanced the ending by injecting considerable suspense, which seemed somewhat lacking throughout the movie. Its always been my understanding, the Chicago Police could have inadvertently foiled the Dillinger capture attempt-- through their response to a call from the ticket agent at the Biograph, saying that unknown men (Federal Agents) were acting oddly, outside the theater prior to Manhattan Melodrama letting out.

The other disappointment if there was one-- is the inaccuracy of certain historical elements-- such as Lester Gillis dying at the hand of Melvin Purvis, while escaping from the Little Bohemia shootout. A great last dying breath though, in the case of Baby Face Nelson. In reality, Pretty Boy Floyd lived until October '34 and Nelson until November, but I guess to support continuity with Dillinger-- in Public Enemies, both died prematurely, to support the screenplay. "Boots" Hinton commented to me, that those of us who know the facts, are always going to be more critical of facts being missed. This is true. On a positive note-- a most interesting aspect for Bonnie and Clyde aficionados, is that Bureau Special Agent Charles Winstead, who played a key role in the tracking of B&C for the U.S. Bureau of Investigation in Dallas-- is highlighted in this movie. Winstead of course, turned the corner of the alley right behind Dillinger, and was credited with firing perhaps the 1st and fatal shot, in felling John Dillinger.

All in all 2 guns up. Public Enemies is a good movie, but at least for me-- not the epic I had envisioned. Now all can look forward with great anticipation-- to Tonya Holly's The Story of Bonnie and Clyde.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Bonnie's "Sweet 16"-- Revisited

It seems few matters, have inspired as much comment here on The B&C History Blog-- as those concerning Bonnie's "Sweet 16" shotgun. I received an e-mail from J.T-- who asked about the inventory made at the time, which details 15 weapons from the death car-- which includes 2 shotguns. Apparently this inventory describes these weapons, as being 10 and 20 gauge shotguns.

I can only go by what was said to me directly, by "Boots" Hinton-- who bases his knowledge, on what both his father Ted Hinton and Bob Alcorn told him directly. "Boots" has also conversed with the man who says he has Bonnie's "Sweet 16"-- which has apparently resurfaced again recently. According to "Boots", the 16 gauge shotgun in question-- was sitting next to Bonnie Parker in the Warren car when Bonnie was killed. Prentis Oakley was said to have taken this weapon, when Lee Simmons told Frank Hamer-- to let the boys have whatever weapons they wanted from the car. Oakley was then said to have given this shotgun to a friend of his, who kept it all of his life. Upon the man's passing, his wife gave it to a nephew. This man apparently walked into the B&C Ambush Museum not long ago, looking to sell the historic weapon. "Boots" impression, is that this man claims to have a letter of provenance signed by Prentis Oakley-- regarding this shotgun's origin and authenticity.

At the time I posted my article concerning this weapon, I received an e-mail from Historian Jim Knight. He said a good photo of the 2 sawed off shotguns found in the Warren car-- can be found on page 177 of Ted Hinton's book Ambush. Jim points out, the 16 gauge, could have been either a 16 gauge Browning, or a Remington Model 11. During those years, both of these weapons were referred to by duck, quail and rabbit hunters as "Sweet 16's". Thus the designation of this weapon as being "Bonnie's "Sweet 16" by Hinton and Alcorn, appears to have been a blending of this weapons already given nickname-- along with the apparent fact, of it being found by her side at the ambush site. Jim mentioned Clyde may have killed 4 men with a 16 gauge shotgun. Jim and I exchanged thoughts, on why Clyde may have preferred the 16 gauge to a more powerful shotgun. Jim supposed that the 16 gauge when adapted as a "whipit gun"-- could be wielded quickly, but still possessed the stopping power needed. As an aside, there does exist a photo of a captured Barrow Gang weapon-- identified as a Remington Model 11. The Model 11 was produced between 1905 and 1947-- was the 1st auto loading shotgun produced in the U.S.-- and was available in 12, 16 and 20 gauge versions. My thanks as always to Jim Knight for his valuable insights.

"Boots" said both his father and Bob Alcorn independently and on different occasions, referred to this specific shotgun from the death car in "Boots" presence-- as being "Bonnie's "Sweet 16". Both men of course were at the capture site, witnessed the weapons taken from the Warren death car-- and surely would have recognized the gauge of the gun in question. Also, as weapons were said to have been taken by lawmen and possibly others from the car, and at what point is unknown-- I'm not sure its fair to cite the official inventory published, as being an iron clad listing of weapons present within the death car. For example, I personally know of at least one weapon (a 45 auto)-- said to have been taken from the Warren car, by one of the first civilians on the scene. This story was relayed to me by this man's son, who still has the weapon.

within the most famous photo of the weapons displayed from the death car, and within Hinton's 16 MM footage taken that day-- it seems not all weapons said to have been there, are visible in any instance. For example, one of the 3 BAR's said to have been present, is not visible in the photo taken showing the weapons together. And of the "7" 45 caliber auto pistols within the inventory, only 3 can be seen in this photo. Also, Bonnie's pearl handled 45 (currently on display at the Texas Ranger Museum)-- is not visible. In addition, it's hard to tell whether the military issue 45 revolver (said found under Bonnie)-- that ended up in Bill Decker's desk drawer, is the holstered revolver in this same photo-- or whether that's the 380 revolver?? Only 1 of the 2 revolvers is visible. Based on the photo evidence available, if guns were indeed lifted as events unfolded that day-- I would ask how it could it be known, precisely what weapons were within the car-- as it came to rest still smoking in the ditch?? I would think the lawmen who were present, before anyone else got to the car-- would be the best witnesses to that.

So without speaking to the owner of what is believed to be the 16 gauge shotgun in question, I would think there would be little chance of learning much more about it. However, with both Hinton and Alcorn referring to this shotgun as "Bonnie's "Sweet 16"-- I'm not sure there could be much doubt, as to the proper identification of this weapon. This gun having been taken from Bonnie's side within the Warren car-- seems to be the basis for this particular shotgun, being identified in the colorful way that its known. My thanks to you J.T. for your question.

Update: B&C author and historian Jim Knight, has weighed in providing clarification-- regarding the weapons inventory mentioned in J.T.'s question. His comments follow. "Thanks" as always Jim.

"In your comment about the "Sweet 16," you said somebody mentioned the inventory showing a 10 gauge and a 20 gauge. This version of the inventory came from the book "I'm Frank Hamer," by Frost and Jenkins, page 233. In their footnote, they reference the 1935 book "Texas Rangers' by Webb which gives Hamer's inventory on page 543. Like many other things in their book, Frost and Jenkins didn't get this quite right. Either by design or just a typo, they mis copied Hamer's inventory. Webb gives the two shotguns as 16 and 20 gauge. Ted Hinton, in "Ambush," leaves out one shotgun and adds an extra BAR. He also insists that Clyde had a BAR at his knee and actually tried to raise it before he was killed. I'll invite anybody to sit in the driver's seat of my 1934 Ford with a full sized BAR and see how likely that is! There was no 10 gauge shotgun in the original inventory or in any of Hinton's pictures taken at the scene, and all the BARs are full size."