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Bonnie and Clyde
Traveling History with Bonnie and Clyde:
A Road Tripper's Guide to
Gangster Sites in Middle America
if their only information comes from the venerable movie, most people
know at least something about Bonnie
Parker and Clyde Barrow. Theirs is a story that continues to fascinate,
though we’re not really sure why. Perhaps we’re curious about the
love they had for each other, which seemed to grow stronger as their
lives on the run became bleaker. Maybe we wish we could be rebels
ourselves, except for the ambush part, of course.
and Clyde are not only interesting because of their love or their
devil-may-care attitude, but because of their driving. Clyde was a
fast but sometimes careless driver, who could put hundreds of miles
behind him for days on end without ever really knowing where he’d
end up. In her poetry, Bonnie herself alluded to the road as a metaphor
for their lives. The places he and Bonnie saw, the highways they traveled
– these have become a huge part of their history and much of it is
still on display today.
Take Dallas, for instance.
and Clyde grew up in and around West Dallas, which the Dallas
Times Herald called “little Cicero” and where cops only patrolled
in pairs. Shot gun houses and open sewers characterized this unincorporated,
predominantly poor-white neighborhood that sat in the Trinity River’s
flood plain. While West Dallas is no longer a slum, Clyde’s some-time
home, the Barrow gas station, still sits along Singleton Boulevard.
Around the corner on Winnetka Street are the former homes of fellow
partners-in-crime, the Hamilton Brothers, and the “safe house” where
Clyde shot Tarrant County Deputy Malcolm Davis (said “safe house”
was also home to a Hamilton sister). To the west are Bonnie’s old
elementary school on Chalk Hill Road, and the Fish Trap Cemetery,
Bonnie’s first grave site. She was moved to Crown Hill Memorial Park
on Webb Chapel Road in the 1940s, with, arguably, the best tombstone
dedication in Dallas, offered
without a hint of sarcasm:
|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.
home, which he shares with his brother Buck, is inside Western Heights
Cemetery on Fort Worth Avenue. Just like Bonnie’s, his stone is encased
in cement, as a few misguided souls have vandalized or stolen the
tombstones over the years.
|Top of the Hill
Terrace, a former speakeasy, is now the Arlington Baptist College.
Photo by Robin Cole-Jett
and Clyde lived lives on the run, they were purported to have
stayed in many places during their brief lives. It’s hard to tell
where legend and reality meet, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun
speculating. The Arlington Baptist College, located on the old Bankhead
Highway (US 80) between Dallas
and Fort Worth, is
just such a place. The campus consists of pretty sandstone buildings
atop a large hill, a quite serene setting – but during Prohibition,
this used to be Top of the Hill Terrace, an illegal gambling casino
and speakeasy. Bonnie and Clyde may have dined here on occasion in
relative safety from the law. The couple also supposedly stayed in
a room at the Stockyards Hotel in Fort
Worth, where it is claimed Bonnie left her pistol inside a third
story room that overlooks North Main and Exchange Streets. The pistol
is displayed in a glass case inside the western-themed room.
Other Texas towns have their own Bonnie and Clyde history. The panhandle
town of Wellington
was the site
of the little-known crash that crippled Bonnie’s leg. Eastham
Prison Farm near Trinity saw the escape of five inmates orchestrated
by Clyde. An oil and gas field agent was kidnapped in Electra,
Falls, and the calaboose in the Kaufman county town of Kemp served
Bonnie and fellow criminal Ralph
Fults as overnight accommodations when they were arrested for
trying to break into a hardware store.
calaboose once held Bonnie Parker and Ralph
Photo by Robin Cole-Jett
attempting to retrace Bonnie
Parker and Clyde Barrow’s run from all that was decent in society
can at times seem to be an exercise in the macabre, it does serve
a purpose. By just simply taking a journey to the places where their
lives took place, one can gain a sense of history that books just
can’t replicate. Often, the past is best preserved when one can experience
it in the present – even if experienced through the lives gangsters.
Published May 15, 2009