Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Bonnie & Clyde Holiday Polls-- "Ho Ho Oh"-- A Most Challenging Lot

The Holiday Edition Bonnie & Clyde Polls lived up to expectation, in being challenging to many. So along with the wonder of the Holidays-- an always keen interest in Bonnie & Clyde and perhaps a well deserved Holiday beverage in place-- here we go.

Prentiss Oakley's death certificate, reveals that Dr. J. L. Wade noted Arthritis as being a contributing cause of the vascular heart disease which killed Prentiss Oakley. Oakley died on October 15th, 1957 at his home at 904 Third Street in Arcadia, Louisiana. There have been rumors published, that Prentiss Oakley may have committed suicide. That dramatic an end for Oakley would appear to fit well to some, in drawing a macabre Bonnie & Clyde connection-- with the mysterious head on collision which killed Henderson Jordan not long afterward in June 1958. However Oakley's death certificate, which a well respected Dr. James Wade affixed his signature to-- seems to rebuff that assertion.

Ivy Methvin was struck and seriously injured in a reported hit and run accident on December 21st, 1946-- on highway 71 outside of Elm Grove, LA. A week later on December 28th-- Ivy would die from his injuries. Whether Ivy Methvin and/or his son Henry were killed deliberately as retribution for the deaths of Bonnie & Clyde as some believe, or died as a result of a tragic accidents-- has been a matter of contention for decades.

The Livingston Ranch was a suspected Bonnie & Clyde hideout near Sayre, Oklahoma. It was located in the area near the bridge where Bonnie, Clyde and W. D. Jones along with their lawman hostages Corey and Hardy-- met up with Buck and Blanche Barrow after the Wellington incident. The ranch was owned by Col. Bert Livingston, who it's said positioned machine guns as a deterrent to those who would snoop there. This suspected outlaw stronghold apparently also had a more official protection in place, as according to the U.S. Bureau of Investigation-- law enforcement near the Livingston Ranch couldn't be counted on. It was also thought The Barrow Gang, may have been harbored by Bert Livingston's son George Livingston who lived nearby.

It was U. S. Bureau of Investigation Dallas Special Agent in Charge Frank Blake, who called The Barrows "the toughest bunch of outlaws at large". And not surprisingly to some, it was Tommy Harryman brother of slain Joplin lawman Wes Harryman-- who showed up in Dallas in July of 1933, admittedly resigned to wanting to kill Bonnie & Clyde or assist others in doing so.

Concerning the January 6th, 1933 shooting at the Lillie McBride house-- reportedly a wanted and on the run Odell
Chambless (Gene O'Dare's brother in law)-- had come and gone at the McBride house at an earlier time, having looked to Ray Hamiton's sister for assistance. As such, it was Clyde Barrow who it's said showed up at the McBride house at about sundown on January 6th, to check on the unrelated status of hacksaw blades being smuggled to Ray who was jailed at Hillsboro. Clyde, Bonnie and W. D. Jones would return later that night, for what would result in the deadly encounter with Tarrant County Deputy Sheriff Malcolm Davis. Davis was part of a joint Dallas and Tarrant County lawman's task force, charged with locating Chambless. Unbeknownst to Clyde-- and thanks to quick thinking by the law who figured out the outlaw's warning light, he walked right into the wrong trap-- and escaped in a hail of bullets, shotgun blasts and death.

It was a pretty good bet, that Bonnie & Clyde were involved in the hold up of the 1st National Bank of Stuart, Iowa on April 16th, 1934-- once the Iowa license plates 13-1234 witnessed during the robbery were found in the B&C death car. Until that time-- Bonnie & Clyde had not officially been linked to that robbery. And finally I suppose, Blanche Barrow would be most closely associated with Christmas-- as Blanche passed away on Christmas Eve 1988, at the age of 77.

So there you have it, the 2010 Holiday Bonnie & Clyde Polls. The inaugural batch of 2011 polls will be up and running by mid January. As always, I hope you've found the B&C Polls interesting and informative. Might I suggest that at some point-- all obtain a copy of the Bonnie & Clyde Dallas FBI Files from whatever source you can. They're great historical reading, and to my thinking provide a vital historical supplement-- to the many B&C books written prior to this newly found wealth of B&C knowledge being available. In addition, the Dallas files can sometimes come in handy concerning the B&C Polls. If interested, look for my dual CD offer here on the blog-- and I'll be happy to send some indispensable B&C info your way. Thanks as always-- for your participation in The B&CHB Bonnie & Clyde Polls.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Bonnie's Bloodied Glasses-- Another Bonnie & Clyde Mystery Searching for Focus

With thanks to Cindi-- a teaser of a 2010 year end Bonnie & Clyde topic. Cindi had e-mailed asking about Bonnie's bloodied glasses, which were said to have been worn by Bonnie Parker at the time of the ambush of Bonnie & Clyde. I as many have been aware of Bonnie's purported eyeglasses, which possess such a uniquely personal and poignant reminder of Bonnie's life through the image of her blood-- but I must admit I've never spent an adequate time focused upon them.

The story goes that after Bonnie Parker, the next owner of the glasses was Sheriff Thomas R. Hughes of Caddo Parish, Louisiana. Caddo Parish includes the Shreveport area of the state, which is located approximately 50 miles from the ambush site. How Sheriff Hughes obtained them, I'm not sure is known. In 1938 Sheriff Hughes was said to have presented the glasses to Art Olson of East Tulsa, Oklahoma. To my knowledge, what connection these 2 men shared is also a mystery. There was also an intermediary noted within that transaction named Cecil Harberson. Mr. Olson was then said to have given Bonnie's glasses to a man named D. A. Bryce. Upon the death of Bryce, his niece in settling his estate-- returned the glasses to A. O. Olson in 1976. The current owner of the glasses is a man from Massachusetts known as Steve E. At least one photo of Bonnie's Death Glasses, depicts the glasses within a case from the Southern Optical Company-- which if this case was found along with the glasses, may well indicate these to have been prescription eyeglasses.

Cindi points out that there is no mention of Bonnie needing glasses within popular Bonnie & Clyde accounts. Also, I don't believe there are any photos known with Bonnie wearing glasses. This leads us to the obvious question of why and when Bonnie needed help in seeing clearly?? Also why no one over the years has seemingly thought to research mention of these glasses from the death car, and attempt to link them to the provenance documented concerning these spectacles of Bonnie's-- is also unclear.

Interestingly-- Clyde's sunglasses were most conspicuously noted at the time of the ambush, and can be seen still dangling from his face both when Clyde was removed from the Warren car-- and also when photographed upon 1st being displayed in Congers. Mention of Clyde's sunglasses, is also written of within Professor Carroll Rich's Bonnie & Clyde accounts. There are also accounts known, of Bonnie having had a road map in her lap when killed. If so, then glasses would make perfect sense with which to read the fine print of that road map. I've viewed images of a 1934 road map perhaps similar to the one Bonnie was scouring. I know even when blown up-- it's hard for example, to discern the route number (LA Route 418)-- that Bonnie & Clyde were traveling that fateful day.

Perhaps it was just never thought of, to reveal Bonnie's need for glasses within family accounts concerning her. I found the same held true within my B&C Signatures investigation, in trying to determine whether Bonnie & Clyde were right or left handed. As it turned out, those who would ultimately provide that human detail not found elsewhere-- had never been asked that question before. A close examination of Bonnie's bloodied glasses shows perhaps a small crack within the right lens-- but otherwise sans the obvious blood present along with a missing nose guard-- these glasses seem in remarkably good shape for the number of shots Bonnie took to the head. Whether or not they were still resting upon Bonnie's face when the shooting stopped, or found later within the car and by whom would be interesting to know-- as no clear image of Bonnie's face in death, seems to exist prior to those taken at Congers.

Many thanks to Cindi, for a great B&C talking point for this year end post.

Monday, December 6, 2010

A Bonnie and Clyde Q&A-- What Affect Did Bonnie & Clyde Have On Society??

The fact that throngs of strangers felt compelled to attend their funerals-- is a testament to the living legends Bonnie & Clyde became within their time. But what impact did Bonnie & Clyde's well publicized reign of terror and subsequent bloody demise, have on a Depression torn populous-- and what lasting legacy if any, did their martyrdom have which may have survived until today??

One way to ponder these compelling thoughts is to ask-- what affect did Bonnie & Clyde have on society?? Now that's as loaded a question as a BAR locked on full auto-- and one asked here often in one form or another. But as I suppose a doctoral thesis could be disseminated on this subject, I'm not sure an historical post can do this topic the justice it deserves. However I'm willing to take a stab at this engaging query, while also asking others to please add their perspectives as well.

Outside the parameters of the Southwestern United States and within a much larger picture, Bonnie & Clyde were very much a product of their times-- The Great Depression. This impoverished paradox of a time period, created "both" some of the most painful malaise and heroic feats of human determination ever witnessed. Those uniquely dramatic years, were filled with more than their share of heartache and misery for many-- which levied heart wrenching pressures on people's hopes, dreams and lives.

Gender roles were altered during the Depression, when the traditional image of a strong male breadwinner was lessened. Wives and children of most any age, were thrust into odd but necessary positions as family providers. Often, just keeping families intact was a challenging task. Otherwise motivated couples put off weddings, while many delayed divorce-- as often it wasn't deemed a responsible choice, to contemplate beginning or dissolving a family during such hard times. Indeed the reality of The Great Depression from a perspective of survival-- was "all hands on deck". Young children were compelled to grow up fast, and often forgo schooling-- in order to be useful for more practical endeavors. Pressures within the family unit ran high, as both money matters and disagreements over the most basic of human necessities-- lay at the heart of everyday life.

Not unlike the pressures exerted on families-- pressures tearing at the fabric of society during the Depression Years could be extreme. Mistrust in government and institutions ran high, as many in the mainstream seemingly lost trust in the ability of their leaders and others in authority-- to make a difference in helping facilitate basic human needs. While it's been reported that the general crime rate decreased during this period-- crimes of passion and murders due to robbery increased. Suicide rates also rose, although the image of people jumping to their deaths wasn't as common as has been portrayed in Depression Age lore. However 17.4 suicides per 100,000-- did become a painful statistic and reminder of a most troublesome time.

Concerning outlaws such as Bonnie & Clyde, they seemed a not unexpected by-product of what some might call an understandable lawlessness. At it's worst, this rash of violent crime had the potential of erupting into anarchy. And as within Civil War times just 70 years before-- any hint of anarchy needed to be repelled. Although the vast majority of law abiding citizens were just that-- when times were bad and champions were hard to come by-- emboldened criminals could indeed be envisioned as heroic figures. Then just as in creating the perfect blend of anything-- add the components of Bonnie & Clyde. Add the passion of 2 young lovers, who formed an exceedingly rare outlaw couple along with their gang. Throw in the image of a woman viewed as tough and gritty, flirting with people's imaginations and grabbing headlines. Then top it off with stories of this couple, who fought against all odds to survive over and over while pulling off nearly impossible feats of escape and bravery-- and well, the law perhaps never stood a chance-- in the court of public fascination versus such an impassioned pair of opponents.

In reporting on Bonnie & Clyde, the print media although portraying B&C events as accurately as they could-- also spun editorial content and satirical expressions-- which sometimes appeared to mock law enforcement's inability to bring one smallish man and his woman companion to justice. But of course in the end, the newspapers were also quick to point out 'ol sparky's patience-- in waiting in the wings for this loving pair of Texans, should they be caught. However the Texas electric chair would never be warmed by Bonnie & Clyde-- as instead, an ambush posse of 6 in Louisiana enacted their own brand of justice-- by both shooting their way to a much needed victory and propelling Bonnie & Clyde to immortality, through the sheer carnage of their actions. But some might question the level of victory these men achieved?? To me it's a fair question to ask, whether martyrdom has been more kind to Bonnie & Clyde-- than victory ever was to law enforcement?!?

I've chosen to comment, when others feel it fair to draw some comparison between today's moral standards and those of the 1930s. Based on a lack of public outcry-- as I view it, May 23rd, 1934 may have well been considered just another day in Depression Age America. Although the end for Bonnie & Clyde made for great headlines-- to my knowledge, this event caused little admonishment of the law, nor reform of outlaw hunting-- nor some congressional call for criminal rights adjustments. If anything quite the opposite seemed true-- as advantages held by outlaws of the '30's over law enforcement, fueled frustrations which led to laws and tactics being strengthened-- to help battle those who would aspire to be the scourge of society. The advent of a national law enforcement presence to combat using state lines as a shield, along with radio patrol cars and improved law enforcement weaponry-- would prove to be the undoing of many a criminal in the post Bonnie & Clyde era. And those criminals have Bonnie & Clyde to thank in part, for their more modern tactical misfortunes.

Indeed the tenor of the times in the '30's were so much different than today-- that realistically, a comparison of the 2 for purposes of providing argument supported by superimposing today's moral standards upon those which existed then-- seems uniquely unfair. As the 1930's were closer in both years and reality (just 50 years removed)-- from the mentality of an 1880's Wild West-- than we are now to the '30's (some 80 modern years later)-- things were more aptly "the way they were" then. Truly a different time and place in history. Bonnie & Clyde being hunted down and brutally ambushed by a posse laying in wait-- apparently just wasn't that unusual for those times. Imagine if that ambush occurred today. Many gangsters of the '20's and outlaws of the '30's met violent ends-- although not as dramatically. And just as within Wild West times, the bullet riddled bodies of Bonnie & Clyde were displayed before a morbidly curious public-- who didn't think twice of making it "an event" to view the dead bodies of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, and then discuss it later over dinner.

Even Bonnie & Clyde's family members were noted to have held differing opinions of the inevitable and it's aftermath. It's been said, that Henry Barrow in talking with Ted Hinton told Hinton something to the effect that-- I know you're going to have to kill my boy, for he won't go back to prison. And then in a remarkably honorable expression, Barrow told Hinton-- I just want you to know there are no hard feelings. But conversely after the ambush, it was Emma Parker who may have echoed what many felt-- in seemingly criticizing the cowardice of the ambush posse-- for employing stealth laden tactics in waylaying Bonnie & Clyde, instead of facing them straight up. A similarly reported comment by Charles Stanley "The Crime Doctor"-- while displaying the Warren Death car at Austin, Texas-- resulted in Frank Hamer taking the stage and slapping Stanley for his right of free expression.

So what was learned concerning the deaths of Bonnie & Clyde?? I'm not sure. Perhaps a reinforcement of the age old adage that crime doesn't pay. Or that true love never dies. Or maybe some lesson in needing to end deadly rampages sooner, to prevent additional loss of life. Or for newsboys, it may have been thought "Shoot-- there go our best headlines". I'd love to find some well researched account of what affects Bonnie & Clyde had on society. What was the affect of the ambush carnage among members of law enforcement?? Were children counseled by teachers, in learning lessons from the example of Bonnie & Clyde?? And what about Bonnie & Clyde's influences on the treatment of criminals in their wake??

Perhaps we can point to the strengthening of public safety as a societal impact of Bonnie & Clyde, with law enforcement learning from weaknesses turned to strengths-- as a result of battling these and other 1930's outlaws, who turned the law's shortfalls into criminal advantages. However much as we might like to learn of these societal impacts, in reality it seems The Story of Bonnie & Clyde may be a more personal one-- filled with personal recollections, one on one anecdotes and family impacts. I'm also not sure it could be said that dubious police actions were in any way corrected, as a result of Bonnie & Clyde's ambush. Many famous examples exist, where loss of life may have resulted from questionable police judgment-- such as the 1993 Waco siege and 1969 Chicago Fred Hampton raid.

It was the '67 movie Bonnie & Clyde, that brought memories of the actual outlaws back to life after having fallen into obscurity. But the ambush scene as filmed-- somehow seems kinder to me, than I envision the hell and finality of the actual event having been. I would think just the overwhelming smell of cordite in the air, would have made breathing difficult and burned the eyes of the ambush posse members. In that regard it may have taken more than a few seconds, to really focus on the 2 shattered bodies which lay in front of them-- as a reminder of a job well done in the eyes of the law. Realistically Bonnie & Clyde had to be stopped-- and they were.

Whenever this topic arises, I can't help but think in terms better understanding the pain filled and socially complicated Depression driven years of the 1930's-- as providing the best opportunity to address this multifaceted historical question. To me it's wrong of us now, to attempt some self righteous moral kidnapping of 1930's America. Our grandparents and great grandparents were their own people in their own time, with their own values and sense of right and wrong. I'm sure many times that fateful May evening it was said-- "Yep--they got Bonnie & Clyde today-- shot 'em to pieces". I suppose comments like "it's a shame" or "should've gotten them sooner"-- were all the rage.

What impact did Bonnie & Clyde have on society?? That's a good question, but one with perhaps few clear answers. It may be that because it occurred within The Depression Age, the ambush which propelled Bonnie & Clyde to iconic status, was in fact a horrific event camouflaged among many horrific events. As such, I'm not sure being part of such tough and hardened times-- that Bonnie & Clyde had much of any specialized impact at all?? For among the pain and hardships of May 23rd, 1934 upon so many, with the exception of their families who knew no greater pain-- the deaths of Bonnie & Clyde may have been just a poignant part of another desperate day. And for the families of Bonnie & Clyde's victims, the events of May 23rd-- may have provided a sense of closure and redress.

Somehow-- I can see that being just the way it was. We remember the impact this daring duo and loving pair made based on a dozen murders-- their devotion to one another and for an unwavering love for their families. We remember the paradox of a murdering gang, who could also be kind to others. But in addition to those who knew Bonnie & Clyde had to be eliminated, these West Dallas desperadoes did seem to have a grass roots appeal for many. Let's not forget those throngs of common citizens, who went out of their way-- to pay their respects to Bonnie & Clyde upon their deaths. In such difficult and reflective times-- perhaps that outpouring of allegiance, was some sort of silent tribute to the defiance these outlaws represented within many?? I wonder what the law must have felt, in standing among so many mourners who chose to mark the passing of Bonnie & Clyde??

I welcome your comments.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Arcadia Update-- Perhaps Now Closer to Redemption

Behind the scenes, there have been efforts made on the part of many caring individuals-- to affect a positive outcome concerning Prentiss Oakley being assured his rightful place, upon the Henderson Jordan Memorial Park Plaque. A reliable source has informed me, that according to an Arcadia official-- an updated plaque including mention of Prentiss Oakley has been created and is in the possession of Mayor Eugene Smith. At this point, it's believed Mayor Smith whom I will attempt to reach for comment-- is out of state celebrating the Holidays.

Besides working with others involved in this cause and posting blog comments to spur awareness-- I've reached out to a major Louisiana news outlet, for their help in trying to make a difference. It will be a great day for Bonnie & Clyde History, should this reported 3rd Henderson Jordan Park Plaque with Prentiss Oakley included-- prove to be true and be installed. Perhaps I should have been born in Missouri, as my reaction although hopeful is-- "Show me". It's often said the 3rd time's a charm.

I'll keep you updated as more is known.

Update-- 12/9/2010. Good news on the Arcadia front. I've now re-approached Arcadia Mayor Eugene Smith by e-mail to learn the truth re: info recently provided, that a 3rd plaque has been created for Henderson Jordan Park-- which includes mention of Prentiss Oakley. Mayor Smith has responded by saying "Yes, we did re-make the necessary changes. I have it in my office and when we get the proper materials we will have it installed. Eugene." I've responded with my thanks to Mayor Smith for his reply-- and thank him here as well.

I also got a lesson today in Arcadia politics, from a Louisiana based investigative reporter who's well acquainted with the down home realities there. She's going to try and help explain more of this story. I hope to learn what I can, of this seemingly inexplicable historical miscue. But of course most importantly-- when I know the historically correct plaque is in place-- you'll know here on the blog.