Heraled as the Romeo and Juliet with guns, Bonnie and Clyde has garnered quite a reputation during America’s Great Depression for their passion for love and crime. Driven by the hard times, the life of crime they have chosen and their undying love for each other is indeed a story worth telling. Drama, action, romance and tragedy–whoever thought going against the law to live fast and die young could bag these young couple the notoriety they’re known for.
I have been a fan of these two ever since I came across their story. However, it was only yesterday I got the chance to further delve in the history that is Bonnie and Clyde. Here’s ten things I found out.
Clyde Barrow has been molested in prison.
Clyde had a habit of getting in and out of prison since he was still at the age of 17. His first arrest was due to a failure to return a rental car. His second arrest was for stealing a truckload of turkey along with his brother Buck. From the year 1927 to 1929, while Clyde maintained a stable job working for his father in their gas station business, he committed a series of robberies that the following year by April 1930, he was sent to Eastham Prison Farm, a detainment institution known for its violent and inhumane treatment of inmates.
For a juvenile delinquent, Clyde was too young to be among bigger and tougher criminals. He was constantly beaten by prison guards and raped by a fellow inmate, Ed Crowder. One day he couldn’t take it anymore, he conspired with another inmate to kill Crowder. That inmate took the blame simply because he had a life sentence already. Clyde should have served 14 years in prison but was released a year and a half later on parole because of her mother’s constant plea to the governor of Texas.
Bonnie and Clyde were both talented artists.
Born to a poor family during The Great Depression, Clyde was a huge music fan. He liked singing and playing either his guitar or saxophone, and he was so good at it he almost pursued a music career. However, the times are hard and being a musician didn’t put food in their stomachs as fast as robbing banks and stealing cars did.
Clyde was also good with wood working. While in Eastham Prison, Clyde made this wooden stool and picture frame for Blanche, who was then already married to his older brother Buck.
Bonnie was your typical high school sweetheart. Pretty and talented, she would usually join pageants and talent shows where she’d sing her broadway or country favorites. She has always envisioned becoming a famous star one day. She eventually became one, and it wasn’t for her talent.
If there was any other proof of Bonnie’s passion for the arts, it’s the poems she left behind. Even as a prison inmate for a short time, she managed to write ten odes including “The Story of Suicide Sal”, a famous poem about a girl being lured by her lover into a life of crime. This poem, “The Street Girl” also became famous as it stirred a controversy about whether Bonnie succomed to prostitution or she just felt like a girl with a reputation so bad that she didn’t deserve to marry any man. That is, however, if Clyde dies and she’d survive.
Two weeks before their tragic death, she wrote “The Trail’s End”, more popularly known as “The Story of Bonnie and Clyde”. She has written the poem for her mother, who then was the biggest antagonist in her relationship with Clyde. It is in this poem where she must have accepted the fact that their days are numbered. The most memorable lines of which are:
“Someday 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”
This has probably been the most famous poem of Bonnie Parker, and one of the articles they left behind that catapulted the love story of Bonnie and Clyde into an international sensation.
Bonnie and Clyde both had difficulty walking.
Clyde was too desperate to get out of prison. The few months of pure violence inside the prison cells were too much and his sentence too long. There’s no escaping prison. Inmates managed to get out either wrapped in white linen or heavily injured. So he cut off two of his toes hoping to be taken to the infirmary. I’m not sure whether he was actually brought to the hospital because of that but it sure made his walking quite uncomfortable.
Bonnie’s right leg was injured at a later time. Together with Clyde and the Barrow Gang, Bonnie spent almost all of their time inside their Ford V-8, at an unending escape from authority. One time, Clyde was recklessly speeding through the roads of north Texas that he missed a detour sign that warned against a bridge under construction. At approximately 70 miles per hour their vehicle smashed through the barricade and projectiled into the riverbed. The car battery was destroyed and it led out a scalding acid that crept through Bonnie’s right leg. Luckily, they spotted a nearby farmhouse where her wounds were treated with herbal medicine. Despite that treatment, the damage the acid left on Bonnie’s right leg, which was said to have been that of a 3rd degree burn, made her walking painful. Clyde was always at her side to assist her and carry her at times.
The Barrow Gang didn’t live as luxurious despite the many establishments they robbed.
Despite living in a thrill ride and leaving their names in the minds of everyone they robbed, Bonnie and Clyde has only robbed enough just to get by with life. The fact that they managed to escape authority then and again made them superstars of that time. Unfortunately because of that, they were accused of more crimes than they actually did. We’ve all heard how the justice system worked then. Police forces were so uncoordinated at that time so whenever a rumor spreads that the gang are around, every other crime committed within that area would be pinned on them to cut the officers some slack. Bonnie mentioned this in her poem “The Trail’s End”.
“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”
The Great Depression back then was so devastating that the gang would go out their way to survive even if they had to embrace the life of crime. However, they didn’t have enough supplies, men and tactics to pull off a major heist on banks so they had to make do with small shops. More often than not, since most of the shops they robbed were also struggling, they would escape with only $5-$80. Their bounty may have exceeded the amounts they have stolen.
As much as possible, Bonnie and Clyde didn’t want to kill people.
Murder has been one of the attributes the media sensationalized about the Barrow Gang but unknown to many, Clyde doesn’t have the heart of a murderer. It’s not as if he can bear the thought of gunning people down just for cheap thrill and entertainment. Clyde was a control freak and when things went beyond his control, pulling the trigger was his last resort. The last thing Clyde wanted was to get arrested and sent back to prison. He’d usually take people hostage and free them after. At one instance, he even gave one money to go back home. One of those may have been the embalmer who serviced their impossibly embalmable bodies for their funeral at a later time.
One particular incident though gave them the title of ruthless killers who would gun down everyone who’s on their way. Two young highway patrolmen, one of them on his first day on duty, came near the group as they were taking a short rest at the side of the road. These patrolmen had no idea they were to come across with the notorious Barrow Gang. The group have been chased everywhere by cops that Clyde, upon seeing the two approach them, immediately sprang into action and killed the two. Later on a statement was released that Clyde didn’t want to kill the cops. He told Methvin, “Let’s take them”, which meant as hostages but Methvin got the wrong interpretation and started “taking the officers down”.
During the whole crime spree, there wasn’t any evidence that Bonnie killed anyone.
Her image of a bloodthirsty hellcat was merely based on the infamous picture of her posing like a man with a cigar on her mouth and a gun on her hand. In the 1930s where women still had this lady-like conservative fashion, it was so easy to assume she’s the badass bitch her photo seemed to project.
They were betrayed by a prisoner they freed.
Henry Methvin was an inmate at Eastham Prison Farm when Clyde and his gang went back and freed at least five prisoners, him included. He decided to join the gang. The Barrow Gang had a habit of visiting their families while on the run. Unknown to them, Frank Hamer, the bounty hunter/investigator who has been tracking them, along with other officers assigned to the case, have conspired a plot with Methvin’s father to ambush them. They have chosen Methvin’s residence as their rendezvous. Methvin’s father has placed his truck near the cops’ hideout to make it seem broken and needed some fixing. As the car stopped to a side, the four posse members opened fire which resulted to the horrific bloodbath that took the lives of the infamous couple.
Henry was tried and convicted for his crimes only to be pardoned after 8 years. His father died from a hit-and-run incident in 1946 and subsequently, after 2 years, Henry was said to have been hit by the train either drunk or pushed by an angry Bonnie and Clyde fan. Talk about karma.
Clyde received 17 bullet holes while Bonnie had 26.
This is one of the most gruesome facts I didn’t know about Bonnie and Clyde. The four-men posse each emptied their guns into Bonnie and Clyde’s Ford V-8 leaving possibly more than 130 holes in the car. Frank Hamer even approached the scene and fired more bullets to an already dead Bonnie. Why? I mean really. Why would he fire bullets on a dead person, let alone a woman. That defines a cold blooded killer, or a moron who couldn’t tell whether a person’s dead or not. It’s just not right. They’re supposed to take down two people, not an immortal monster. The coroner’s report said 17 bullets were found in Clyde’s body and 26 in Bonnie’s. Totally heart-breaking. Nobody deserves that gruesome plight. The 1930s justice system is messed up.
Bonnie was a married woman when she died but not to Clyde.
At the age of 16, Bonnie was already married to high school lover, Roy Thornton. She thought marriage was her escape from the desolate life of waitressing at local restaurants. They weren’t a happy couple. Thornton had several brushes with the law so they don’t see each other often and there was also this rumor that Bonnie was a battered wife. He’d go out to lie, cheat and steal and come home drunk and angry. In the year 1933, he was sentenced to 5 years prison for burglary. Bonnie died with her wedding ring on and a tattoo of interconnected hearts on her right thigh that said “Bonnie and Roy”. Most likely divorce was too expensive at that time, they didn’t even have the time for that, and tattoo removal has not been invented yet. But a question still lingers in my mind, why didn’t they pawn the wedding ring? Anyway, Roy died in 1937 during a failed prison break.
Bonnie and Clyde fans tried to cut off parts of their idols for souvenir after the shoot out.
After the bloody shootout, a few gawkers came rushing to the site in order to get their hands on a couple of blood-tinged souvenirs. Some of them almost cut off Clyde’s ear and his trigger finger with a pocket knife if it weren’t for officers who apprehended them. It was said that one escaped with a clipped lock of Bonnie’s hair. True enough most of these stolen souvenirs were sold for extremely high prices in auctions later on. This was claimed to be Bonnie’s blood stained reading glass.
Their car is on display at a casino and there’s a festival dedicated to Bonnie and Clyde.
Indeed, the couple’s story has garnered more fans than bashers. After the ambush, a Louisiana sheriff claimed the stolen Ford V-8, still in its hole-filled and macabre state, but a federal judge figured it should be returned to its rightful owner, Ruth Warren from Kansas. Who’d want to ride a car where two people were previously murdered, right? Soon Warren sold the car to Charles Stanley, who was an anti-crime teacher and an avid fan of the armed Romeo and Juliet. He toured the “death car” around together with the mothers of Bonnie and Clyde as sideshow spectacle. The car, a vestige that contains a year of memories built together by the once unstoppable Barrow gang, is now seated in the lobby of Whiskey Pete’s Casino in Primm, Nevada.
An Authentic Bonnie and Clyde Festival is held every year in Gibsland, Louisiana on a weekend closest to the death anniversary of the lovers, May 23, 1934. The festival includes the Lorraine Joyner Historical Meeting where guest speakers talk about the short lives of dear Bonnie and Clyde. A fair including several food and souvenir shops is set up along the streets, two museums are opened for general viewing and a look-alike contest is held. Of course, what fan festival does not include a cosplay event.
This festival is held annually not to celebrate the life of crime Bonnie and Clyde chose but it serves as a small gathering of family members, historians and curious individuals who would like to remember and exchange opinions in the lovers’ escapades.