Sunday, March 13, 2016

Bonnie and Clyde – 13 Things You May Not Know About This America's Most Infamous Outlaw Couple

Possibly the most famous and most romanticized criminals in American history, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow were two young Texans whose early 1930s crime spree forever imprinted them upon the national consciousness. Their names have become synonymous with an image of Depression-era chic, a world where women chomped cigars and brandished automatic rifles, men robbed banks and drove away in squealing automobiles, and life was lived fast because it would be so short.

Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, sometime between 1932 and 1934, when their exploits in Arkansas included murder, robbery, and kidnapping. Contrary to popular belief the two never married. They were in a long standing relationship. Posing in front of a 1932 Ford V-8 automobile.

1. Bonnie died wearing a wedding ring—but it wasn’t Clyde’s.

Six days before turning 16, Bonnie married high school classmate Roy Thornton. The marriage disintegrated within months, and Bonnie never again saw her husband after he was imprisoned for robbery in 1929. Soon after, Bonnie met Clyde, and although the pair fell in love, she never divorced Thornton. On the day Bonnie and Clyde were killed in 1934, she was still wearing Thornton’s wedding ring and had a tattoo on the inside of her right thigh with two interconnected hearts labeled “Bonnie” and “Roy.”

Bonnie Parker with her first husband Roy Thornton

2. Bonnie and Clyde were both short.

Bonnie was only 4’11” and Clyde 5’4″ at a time when average heights for women and men were about 5’3″ and 5’8″.

Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow posing together in front of car, 1933.

3. Bonnie was an honor student and a poet.

During her school days, Bonnie excelled at creative writing and penning verses. While she was imprisoned in 1932 after a failed hardware store burglary, she penned a collection of 10 odes that she entitled “Poetry from Life’s Other Side,” which included “The Story of Suicide Sal,” a poem about an innocent country girl lured by her boyfriend into a life a crime. Two weeks before her death, Bonnie gave a prescient poem to her mother entitled “The Trail’s End” that finished with the verse:
Some day they’ll go down together;
And they’ll bury them side by side,
To a few it’ll be grief—
To the law a relief—
But it’s death for Bonnie and Clyde.
One of Bonnie's notebooks; her writings and poems.

4. Bonnie didn’t smoke cigars.

The most famous picture of Bonnie Parker shows her holding a pistol, her foot up on the bumper of a Ford, a cigar clamped in her mouth like Edward G. Robinson in Little Caesar. This is part of a collection of comic photographs clearly made for Bonnie and Clyde’s own amusement. They were found on undeveloped film that was abandoned at the gang’s Missouri hideout when police attacked the house. In one picture, Bonnie points a rifle at Clyde’s chest, as he half surrenders with a smile on his face; another picture shows Clyde kissing Bonnie in exaggerated movie-star fashion.

These photographs, as well as Bonnie’s poems, also found at the hideout, were largely responsible for making Bonnie and Clyde famous. Newspapers all over the country reprinted the cigar picture. All evidence shows, however, that Bonnie was a cigarette smoker like Clyde (Camels seemed to be their preferred brand). The mythic image of Bonnie as a mean mama puffing away on a stogie is just that: an image. On the other hand, Bonnie liked to drink whiskey, and several eyewitnesses from the time remember seeing her drunk. Clyde shied away from alcohol, feeling that it was important for him to be alert in case they needed to make a fast getaway.

Parker poses with cigar and is branded by newspapers as "cigar smoking gun moll" based on film found at Joplin apartment.

5. The Navy rejected Clyde.

As a teenager, Clyde attempted to enlist in the U.S. Navy, but lingering effects from a serious boyhood illness, possibly malaria or yellow fever, resulted in his medical rejection. It was a hard blow for Clyde, who had already tattooed “USN” on his left arm.

Clyde Barrow holding a rifle and a shotgun while sitting on the front fender of a car, circa 1933.

6. Clyde’s first arrest came from failing to return a rental car.

The notorious criminal was first arrested in 1926 for automobile theft after failing to return a car he had rented in Dallas to visit an estranged high school girlfriend. The rental car agency dropped the charges, but the incident remained on Clyde’s arrest record. Just three weeks later, he was arrested again alongside his older brother Ivan “Buck” Barrow for an even more farcical crime—possession of a truckload of stolen turkeys.

Clyde Barrow in 1926, aged 16.

7. Bank robberies were not their specialties.

Although often depicted as Depression-era Robin Hoods who stole from rich and powerful financial institutions, Bonnie and Clyde staged far more robberies of mom-and-pop gas stations and grocery stores than bank heists. Oftentimes, their loot amounted to only $5 or $10.

Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow posing together in front of car, 1933.

8. Clyde chopped off two of his toes in prison.

While serving a 14-year sentence in Texas for robbery and automobile theft in January 1932, Clyde decided he could no longer endure the unforgiving work and brutal conditions at the notoriously tough Eastham Prison Farm. In the hopes of forcing a transfer to a less harsh facility, Clyde severed his left big toe and a portion of a second toe with an axe, although it is not known whether he or another prisoner wielded the sharp instrument. The self-mutilation, which permanently crippled his walking stride and prevented him from wearing shoes while driving, ultimately proved unnecessary as he was released on parole six days later.

A young Clyde Barrow.

9. Bonnie and Clyde remained close to their families, even on the run.

In fact, it was their predictable pattern of stopping to visit family that aided the team of Texas Rangers and deputies who ambushed and killed them.

Bonnie and Clyde on the run.

10. A car accident impaired Bonnie’s walking.

On the night of June 10, 1933, Clyde, with Bonnie in the passenger seat, was speeding along the rural roads of north Texas so quickly that he missed a detour sign warning of a bridge under construction. The duo’s Ford V-8 smashed through a barricade at 70 miles per hour and sailed through the air before landing in a dry riverbed. Scalding acid poured out of the smashed car battery and severely burned Bonnie’s right leg, eating away at her flesh down to the bone in some places. As a result of the third-degree burns, Bonnie, like Clyde, walked with a pronounced limp for the rest of her life, and she had such difficulty walking that at times she hopped or needed Clyde to carry her.

Bonnie Parker, 1933.

11. Souvenir hunters tried to cut off parts of Bonnie and Clyde at the scene of their deaths.

On May 23, 1934, a six-man posse led by former Texas Ranger captain Frank Hamer ambushed Bonnie and Clyde and pumped more than 130 rounds of steel-jacketed bullets into their stolen Ford V-8 outside Sailes, Louisiana. With acrid gunsmoke still lingering in the air, gawkers descended upon the ambush site and attempted to leave with macabre souvenirs from the bodies of the outlaws still slumped in the front seat. According to Jeff Guinn’s book “Go Down Together,” one man tried to cut off Clyde’s ear with a pocket knife and another attempted to sever his trigger finger before the lawmen intervened. One person in the throng however managed to clip locks of Bonnie’s hair and swathes of her blood-soaked dress.

Bonnie and Clyde after ambush.Their bodies are still in car.

12. Their bullet-riddled “death car” is on display at a casino.

Following the ambush of Bonnie and Clyde, a Louisiana sheriff who was a member of Hamer’s six-man posse claimed the pockmarked Ford V-8 sedan, still coated with the outlaws’ blood and tissue. A federal judge, however, ruled that the automobile stolen by Bonnie and Clyde should return to its former owner, Ruth Warren of Topeka, Kansas. Warren leased and eventually sold the car to Charles Stanley, an anti-crime lecturer who toured fairgrounds with the “death car” and the mothers of Bonnie and Clyde in tow as sideshow attractions. Still speckled with bullet holes, the “death car” is now an attraction in the lobby of Whiskey Pete’s Casino in Primm, Nevada, a small resort town on the California border 40 miles south of Las Vegas.

Bonnie and Clyde's death car.

13. Bonnie and Clyde were buried separately.

Although linked in life, Bonnie and Clyde were split in death. While the pair wished to be buried side-by-side, Bonnie’s mother, who had disapproved of her relationship with Clyde, had her daughter buried in a separate Dallas cemetery. Clyde was buried next to his brother Marvin underneath a gravestone with his hand-picked epitaph: “Gone but not forgotten.”

Bonnie Parker's grave, inscribed: As the flowers are all made sweeter by the sunshine and the dew, so this old world is made brighter by the lives of folks like you.

Clyde and Buck Barrow's grave, inscribed: Gone but not forgotten.


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