Thursday, April 13, 2017


4/13/1933 - Thinking they are about to arrest a group of penny ante bootleggers, five Missouri officers of the law are surprised to suddenly be outgunned in an armed confrontation with a group of killers that will vault into the national news as a result of the gunfight they initiate ... unaware that the occupants of an apartment at 334 1/2 Oak Ridge drive, in the southern Joplin region of Freeman Grove are the Bonnie & Clyde Gang (22-year-old Bonnie Elizabeth Parker, 24-year-old Clyde Chestnut Barrow, 16-year-old William Daniel "W.D." Jones, 30-year-old Marvin Ivan "Buck" Barrow, and 22-year-old Blanche Iva Caldwell Barrow).
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Gunfight Site

Released on parole from his conviction on burglary charges less than a month before (after escaping jail and having his wife convince him that the only way the couple could have a life together would be his surrender ... which takes place two days after Christmas of 1931 due to the surrender, numerous early release pleas from friends and family, and the Texas governor trying to bring down the dangerously overcrowd prisons of her state), Buck Barrow decides to spend some time with his younger wayward brother in an attempt to talk Clyde into surrendering too, unaware that by 1933, Clyde is wanted by various Southwestern law enforcement agencies for five different murders.  Contact made while Blanche is visiting her mother, Buck buys a 1929 Marmon sedan, and with wheels available, the couple drives to Checotah, Oklahoma and meets up with Bonnie, Clyde, and W.D. at a local tourist camp.  Enjoying their reunion, the group decides to take a vacation together, and head for the outlaw friendly town of Joplin, Missouri.
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1929 Marmon Sedan

Lead discovered in the Joplin Creek Valley shortly before the start of Civil War, the city of Joplin, Missouri is founded in 1871 by John C. Cox, and named for one of the region's first residents, Reverend Harris G. Joplin.  Mining a mainstay of the town (75% of the city sits above various mines and sinkholes that remain an ongoing issue), with trolley cars and railroad lines soon built, the city quickly becomes a major economic hub for the southwest portion of Missouri (and the leading spot in the world for the mining of lead and zinc) ... one that draws hardy souls wanting to put down roots, and crooks seeking to exploit its citizens or use the town as a base of operations for slipping across the nearby state's border for nefarious operations in Kansas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas.
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Downtown - Joplin, Missouri - 1913

Rent ad seen in a local newspaper, on 3/31/1933, a well dressed civil engineer from Minneapolis, Minnesota, named W. I. Callahan, shows up at the home of Paul Freeman, a Joplin real estate entrepreneur in the process of developing the southern portion of the city into an area now known as Freeman Grove, and requests to rent Freeman's property at the corner of 34th Street and Oak Ridge Street ... a two bedroom. one bathroom apartment of hardwood floors with a kitchen and living room, built over two garages with limestone tough exteriors.  Telling Freeman that he can't move in until the following day due to the site being occupied, the men exchange $21 for a month of use ... $50 for the apartment for a month, and $1 a day for a month's protection from the neighborhood night watch group (an inside joke to the highly amused gang of bandits).  A great deal he thinks, Buck Barrow, aka Mr. Callahan, returns to the waiting group on the outskirts of the city with a large smile on his face ... it is vacation time for the Barrow brothers, and their friends and family.
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Freeman Grove Apartment     
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Layout Inside The Apartment

Moving in on April Fool's Day of 1933, the group immediately discovers that "furnished" must have meant only the barest of necessities, some furniture and not much more ... so the women begin what will be one of their routines while in Joplin ... shopping in the downtown portion of the city at the local S. H. Kress five-and-ten-cent and S. S. Kresage Company (in 1977 the company will rename itself, K-Mart) stores for knick-knacks (ashtrays, glassware, picture frames, and jewelry, with the women being most appreciative of the diamond look to the multiple 20-cent glass rings they buy) and decorations for the apartment, along with necessities like linen and bedding, with the #1 priority purchase being a mattress for Jones to sleep on in the living room.  Also discovered is that while the site has a two car garage with separate doors, the gang has room for only one of their two cars, the other space has been rented to a nearby neighbor, Harold Hill ... so Buck rents a nearby vacant garage (at Clyde's insistence, he also registers the Marmon in Kansas so his license plates will be less suspicious locally than being in a ride from Texas), and begins talking to Hill about maybe swapping garages (eventually Hill gives up his spot).
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Shopping For The Girls!

Settling in, Blanche and Buck take the front bedroom, while Bonnie and Clyde take the back space that looks out on the nearby extra garage Buck has rented.  Vacationing from robbery, murder, and sleeping in tents or cheap motels (Bonnie loves having indoor plumbing available for a change), for twelve days the group charges their batteries for their next run of lawlessness by sleeping in (Bonnie's routine is to stay in bed until noon or 1:00 in the afternoon), staying up late, playing cards (everyone is into Poker except Blanche, who puts together jigsaw puzzles while the others play cards ... and quickly hooks Clyde on the activity too when he has a bad night at cards and quits, joining Blanche and her puzzles), enjoying home cooked meals (Clyde has a favorite pea dish daily, and sometimes for breakfast too), and listening to musical radio shows.  Additionally, along with shopping, Bonnie spends time writing poetry (she is working on a piece of verse that will come to be known as The Story of "Suicide Sal"), Blanche plays with her dog (with Bonnie having almost no domestic skills whatsoever, Blanche takes care of most of the cooking and cleaning duties for the group), a white mutt named Snow Ball, the women take in movie matinees downtown, and the men repeatedly clean their many weapons and work on "their" cars (and when money runs low, the men vanish for hours, looting the region and stealing a Ford roadster to go along with their other two cars).  And there is a lot of drinking ... after beer is once more legalized in Missouri in the first part of April, the gang goes through a case of brew every day.  
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Bonnie's Hidden Talent

Hiding in plain sight, pretending to be average folks ... but the average folks notice things like the curtains always being closed, the women never allowing anyone inside the apartment, always meeting the daily laundry service delivery boy, and the kid who delivers supplies from Snodgrass' Grocery Store at the bottom of the steps leading up into the living area, the late noise of partying during the wee hours of the evening, the cars seeming to have an array of license plates (one car is even noticed being driven with no license plate on it at all), no socializing with their neighbors (though Bonnie does play with a little girl who lives down the block a couple of times), and booming is heard from the garage when while cleaning his Browning Automatic Rifle, Clyde makes a goof and sets off a burst of bullets from the weapon.  Gossip for the local party line, a neighbor finally brings the neighborhood's suspicions to the attention of Sergeant George B. Kahler of the Missouri State Highway Patrol. Intrigued, thinking he can bring a band of bootleggers to justice, the officer contacts the Joplin Police Department's Chief of Detectives, Ed Portley, also interested, the men get a search warrant from Newton County where the apartment is, and plan a five man raid in two cars for the next day, 4/13.   
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A fateful Thursday, at the apartment on the thirteenth day of April, the group is preparing to leave for greener pastures the next day ... Buck and Blanche are planning to return to Texas to try and start a normal life, and Jones, Bonnie, and Clyde are interested in pulling off a few robberies on their way back to Dallas to visit their parents and family (Clyde had planned on staying a whole month, but after a major argument with Bonnie the night before about the heat that could come their way from stealing the Ford Roadster, in which the bandit bounces Bonnie of the walls of their bedroom several times, panther instincts awakened, he decides a change of scenery is also in order). And so the day slowly passes ... Buck checks the tires and changes the oil in the Marmon (along with giving it a nice wash and filling it with gas at a nearby service station), Bonnie wakes late as usual, and wearing a kimono style night gown and slippers, sits on the living room floor working on her writing, Blanche amuses herself with games of solitaire, plays with the dog, and takes off her wrist watch to do the dishes (and at Bonnie's request, prepares a boiled egg for her roommate), while Jones and Clyde leave in the roadster to illegally acquire some traveling cash for any expenses they might encounter on the road.  Returning without committing a robbery due to car problems, at roughly 4:00 in the afternoon, Jones and Clyde are just putting the troubled car back in its spot in the garage (newly freed up finally by their neighbor) when the police arrive.
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Blanche And Snowball

Thinking they are only dealing with some bootleggers, the five officers arrive designated to investigate whatever is going on at the apartment arrive in two cars, armed only with their service revolver's ... in the lead car, Kahler is accompanied by fellow Missouri patrolman, Walter E. Grammar, while the second car is driven by Joplin police detectives Thomas DeGraff (Portley is sick and does not attend the raid as was planned), Harry McGinnis, and Newton County Constable, John W. Harryman.  Kahler parks on the street in front of the apartment, but DeGraff, seeing two men in the process of parking a car and closing the garage door, pulls right into the driveway.  "Stop them," DeGraff yells, and leaping from the car before it has even stopped, Harryman tries to do just that, attempting to duck into the garage before the door closes ... an action that is instantly greeted by Clyde blasting him with pellets from a sawed-off shotgun that hits the officer in the shoulder and neck, severing arteries (he gets off one shot as he goes down).  Bleeding out as the battle rages around him, the 41-year-old constable passes away, leaving behind a widow and five children (taken to a hospital, the futile attempt to safe the lawman is made by Dr. Charles Cummings, the father of Hollywood actor, Bob Cummings).
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Constable Harryman
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Clyde And Several Of His Weapons

Right behind Harryman, McGinnis jumps out of the car and fires three quick shots through the glass window in the garage door ... one of which hits Jones in the side.  No fourth bullet comes though as Clyde unloads with his shotgun once more, this time causing instant death to his target by hitting in the McGinnis in the face, left side, and right arm (the appendage is almost severed from the officer's body). 53-years-old at his death, the longtime detective is three weeks away from getting married for the second time.
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Jones And Stolen Ride
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Responding to the shooting now erupting from the apartment, DeGraff exits the vehicle, and snapping off shots as he runs, picks up McGinniss' revolver, jumps around a corner at the side of the garage, while Kahler takes cover behind his car, and Grammer runs around the structure, where he meets DeGraff ... who orders the patrolman to go find a phone and call for backup.
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Chaos At The Garage Door

Inside, the reaction to gunshots downstairs and Clyde's call to Bonnie that the law has arrived is almost instantaneous. Napping after his car prepping activities, Buck jumps out of bed, arms himself, and heads down the stairs to help his brother ... where he meets a blood soaked Jones trying to go up.  Outlaw trained, Bonnie grabs a suitcase and throws a few emergency items in, and then heads down the stairs.  Also heading down the stairs, and out the door too is Blanche ... heedless of the bullets flying all about, chasing the panicked Snow Ball down the street (she never catches the dog and it is never seen again by anyone in the neighborhood).
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The Stairway

Immediate flight necessary, the outlaws find they can't get away from their hideout as quickly as they'd like to, DeGraff's car and Harryman's body are blocking the gang's egress.  A major survival problem, Clyde fires away at Kahler, wounding the officer with wooden splinters in his face as the lawman hides behind a tree, Buck moves Harryman's body out of the way, and a bleeding Jones tries to move the police vehicle (during this period, a ricochet hits Buck in the chest, causing a painful bruise, and Clyde is hit in the chest by a Kahler bullet that is slowed up enough by a button on Clyde's shirt that it doesn't kill the bandit, but causes more blood to soak the car (barely penetrating Clyde's skin, Bonnie will later remove the slug with her fingers and a hairpin from her purse). Frustrated by Jones not being able to disengage the vehicle's parking brake, Clyde gets Bonnie, Jones, and Buck in the car, and launches the Ford V-8 sedan into the front of the cop car, pitching it down the sloped driveway, across the street, over the curb, and into a stand of trees. Impediments dealt with, Clyde goes down the driveway with the gas pedal floored, makes his way along 34th Street, turns on to Main Street and heads south, out of town (pausing only to pick up a running Blanche about a block from the apartment), almost crashing as he hustles through the curve on to Reding's Mill Bridge.
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Back at the apartment, arriving officers discover who had actually been occupying the hideout ... along with clothes, jewelry, family letters, Bonnie's poems, a camera, and the two cars left behind, investigating lawmen find an automatic rifle, four high-powered rifles, a sawed-off shotgun, a revolver, ammunition, a badge for the Police and Sheriff's Association of North America, Buck's and Blanche's marriage license, Buck's parole papers (signed by the governor of Texas, Miriam Ferguson), and an empty bank bag belonging to the National Bank of Springfield.  The most important find though is several cans of undeveloped film ... taken to the Joplin Globe newspaper and developed, the exposures show the group in various poses, some with weapons used in the shootout.  Deaths and pictures of the responsible culprits, Bonnie and Clyde suddenly move from being a couple of Texas punk crooks, to being a national celebrities dueling with John Dillinger, Pretty Boy Floyd, the Barkers, and other 30s desperadoes for front page headlines ... while the authorities use the same photos on wanted posters that go up all around the country.
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The Infamous "Cigar & Gun" Photo Found In Joplin

Heading back to the familiar grounds of Texas, pausing only to acquire aspirin and rubbing alcohol at a service station once they are out of Missouri, Clyde drives through the night, over 600 miles, arriving in the town of Shamrock, about 95 miles east of Amarillo at dawn.  Finding a cheap motor court, the group mends their wounds (determining Jones will not die, a Clyde whittled tree branch wrapped in a Bonnie handkerchief is poked into the hole in the teenager's right side and out his back, no bullet removal to worry about) and tries to determine their next moves.  Once sought only in Texas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico, the group now has a whole nation looking for them ... a hunt that will kill Buck before July of 1933 ends, put Blanche behind bars in July of 1933 for six years, Jones behind bars for six years before the month even ends, and Bonnie & Clyde turned into human Swiss cheese in thirteen months.  Successful getaway completed from the first of three major gun battles the gang gets into in 1933, the Joplin shootout actually marks the beginning of the end for the Texas outlaws!     
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Joplin Wanted Poster
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Joplin Wanted Poster
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The End

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