Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow

An essay by Danielle Van Dyk (Grade 8)

In the 1930's, many people existed in fear because of the Depression. They were afraid they would lose their jobs and homes.  If they could not keep up their payments, the Banks would foreclose on them and seize all of their property. 

The depression was mainly caused by the collapse of the stock market.  Many people blamed the banks, greedy speculators, and the government.  Soon 50 to 80 percent of the people were unemployed. Many men committed suicide, ran from their families, and begged for jobs. Perhaps this is why Bonnie and Clyde were so popular. Most people felt helpless in the face of tremendous adversity, but Bonnie and Clyde rebelled against the government and banks, and they stuck together right to the very end. Clyde was sometimes compared with Robin Hood and Bonnie was his Maid Marian.

Bonnie and Clyde were the main enemies of policemen, bankers and businesmen. The police men hated them the most for Bonnie and Clyde helped many dangerous prisoners to escape Dallas and did numerous robberies and 13 murders.

The story of Bonnie and Clyde starts on March 24 1909 when Clyde Chestnut Barrow was born in a small town in Texas. Clyde's father was a farmer and had to bring his children up by poverty.  Nell, Clyde's sister, believed that Clyde became a criminal because the of  lack of discipline. When Clyde was young he had an obsession with playing and naming guns. He also liked music and later on in his life he learned how to play the sax.

Soon, because the family could not afford the farm anymore, they moved to the poorest area in West Dallas. There Clyde went to Cedar High School but he played hooky most of the time. At age 16 Clyde dropped out of high school to work at the Proctor and Gamble factory. Clyde's brother Buck led Clyde to his first criminal act. Buck was considered to be a hard, cold and silent man. Buck also liked to drink but Clyde never did, while Clyde had an explosive temper. Clyde's first criminal act was stealing wild turkeys but they were caught and Buck took the full blame and served a 3 day sentence. After Buck served his sentence Clyde joined his brother and two close friends to form a gang, for Clyde was sick of all the poverty in his family. Together they robbed a home and a garage. Soon they were caught and Clyde received a suspended sentence.

Clyde went to visit a old girl friend who had broken her arm and that is where he met a woman whose name was Bonnie Parker. It is said he never fell in love with another girl again.

Bonnie was born in Rowena, Texas, on Oct 1 1910. Bonnie’s father died when Bonnie was just four years old and Bonnie's mother was left to take care of three children by herself.  Later the family moved to West Dallas to live with Bonnie's grand parents.   Bonnie went to Cement City High School were she won numerous awards for poems, drama and spelling which she always enjoyed. When she was little she had always hoped to become an entertainer.

Bonnie was very popular with boys and soon, at age 16, she got married to Roy Thorton, a man with a criminal record. But the marriage did not last because Bonnie was very devoted to her mother which Roy Thorton did not like.  He left her and they were divorced.  Bonnie was greatly depressed and got an job as a waitress in Marco's cafe.

Bonnie met Clyde while she was helping her neighbor with her housework, for she had broken her arm. Bonnie fell instantly in love with him but before they could really get to know each other Clyde was arrested for burglary and was put in jail.  While he was in jail, Clyde asked Bonnie to smuggle a gun into his cell, and that is exactly what she did. This was her first criminal act. With this gun Clyde robbed numerous stores in Illinois in 1930 but was soon caught again and was sentenced to 2 years.

Clyde did not like physical labour so he got a fellow immate to cut off his toes on his left foot. After his sentence was finished in 1932 he and Bonnie were reunited and because Bonnis loved Clyde so much she joined up with him to rob small businesses. One time, while Clyde and Bonnie and a friend were robbing a store in Kauffmen near east Dallas, a watchman noticed them and started to chase them. Because of the fast speed Clyde always drove, which was 70mph (140kph), he lost control and he escaped but Bonnie did not. She felt very betrayed so she wrote a poem called Suicide Sal which is about a girl who was used by her lover and had to take all the responsibility for his criminal acts. Bonnie was not charged for the other partner in the gang took the blame.

Clyde and Raymond Hamilton, a vicious murderer, and Frank Clause formed a new gang. They planned to rob a convenient store but something went wrong and it turned out to be a murder. By accident, Raymond Hamilton pulled the trigger of his gun while he was pointing it at the clerk  After this ordeal, Clyde knew he could not turn himself in so he decided to continue with his criminal life.  Bonnie joined up with Clyde in Dallas where they committed more robberies.

Clyde was always found with fancy clothes usually with a business suit, vest, white shirt and tie and was sometimes found with a fashionably wide brimmed hat  Clyde's facial appearance consisted of brown parted hair on his left side, brown eyes, and usually had a slight squint in his eyes. Bonnie had strawberry blond hair, freckles placed on her nose, deep dimples and was very small.  She weighed about 90 pounds and was just a tad shorter than Clyde.  She liked to wear a red dress, red hat, and red high heels.

Bonnie and Clyde knew the importance of family therefore whenever they got homesick they would visit their family. In order to contact their family they would use a code word for the telephone consisting of "red beans", for that was Bonnie's favorite dish. Most of the time when Bonnie and Clyde went to visit their family they would meet in a valley or a hillside, so they could not be seen by any passengers or officers.

Bonnie and Clyde would always have an partner with them. The most popular partners were Raymond Hamilton and W.D. Jones. Later Buck and his new wife, Blanche, a preacher's daughter, joined the Barrow gang. Bonnie was very picky about the people that joined the Barrow gang and Bonnie was known to hate Blanche the most of all.

The Barrow gang was always on the move, travelling through Texas, Kansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma.  Most of the time, Clyde would use stolen Ford sedans with a V-8 engines. He even wrote a letter to Henry Ford thanking him for the wonderful engines and the excellent speed the cars had.  Clyde would always drive fast. Clyde would change cars constantly for he worried that the police could track him down.

Because of the speed Clyde would sometimes lose control. One time while Bonnie, Clyde, and W.D Jones were driving over a bridge in Wellington, they slipped into a ravine where the car rolled down several times. Clyde and W.D. were not hurt but Bonnie got severely burned, for the ammunition set the car on fire. Bonnie's leg would never be the same again.

Another close call was when Blanche, Buck, Clyde,W.D. Jones and Bonnie were renting a tourist cabin in 1933 in Great Bend. Blanche and W.D. Jones, as the least recognizable members of the gang, were sent out to get some food. But a cop that happened to be at the café noticed W.D. Jones' gun.  Later, at midnight, the policemen surrounded the tourist cabin with armored tanks, machine guns, and other weapons. Then a sheriff began to knock loud on the cabin which caused Blanche to scream out waking  the rest of the Barrow gang.  The police were having trouble for Clyde, Bonnie, W.D Jones, and Buck were shooting constantly with powerful Browning guns. While they were shooting, Buck got hit in the head with two bullets. Soon a stray bullet hit a horn, causing the policemen to think that the Barrow gang had surrendered. They stopped shooting but this allowed the Barrow gang to escape in a car.  As they were pulling away, a bullet hit the   window on Blanche's side causing the glass to shatter into her eyes.  This was not a pleasant sight. Buck was delirious, Blanche could not see for blood was covering her eyes, and Bonnie was tearful, for her burns were not treated.  Clyde continued to drive for about two days until reaching Dexter Park. There they set up camp but before long the police found them and hid by the trees. At the crack of dawn the police started to open fire but the Barrow gang quickly got in a car. But they were surrounded and in haste Clyde banged the car into a stump for he was shot in his arm. So they quickly ran to the bushes leaving Blanche to take care of Buck who had been shot in the chest and back. Bonnie was  hit by several pieces of buckshot but did not notice until she saw her dress full of blood. W.D. Jones was hit in the head and Clyde was hit in the leg but Clyde managed to find a car and Bonnie, Clyde, and W.D. Jones got in. Buck died in the hospital on July 29 and Blanche was put in state prison. She was never heard of again.

W.D. Jones left the group when Clyde got better and soon Clyde and Bonnie began to rob again in West Dallas.  But they knew death was near at hand and Clyde begged Bonnie to agree to surrender to police but she would not hear of it.

A new partner joined the gang: his name was Henry Merthin. His father ended up betraying Bonnie and Clyde.  In 1934, a detective, a former Texas Ranger named Fred Hamer, had started to chase them. Finally, he contacted Ivan Merthin, Henry Merthin's father. Hamar told Ivan that he would let his son off the hook if he could tell them where Bonnie and Clyde and Henry would meet if they became separated after a robbery.  On May 19, Bonnie and Clyde and Henry went into a town to get some sandwiches. Bonnie and Clyde waited in the car. When a police car drove by, Bonnie and Clyde left quickly, leaving Henry behind.  Then Henry told his father that Clyde had told him to meet him on the Sailes highway South of Arcadia.  That's where the police were going to destroy Bonnie and Clyde.

On May 23 1934, Ivan drove to the south of Arcadia and parked his car on a side lot leaving a tire on the road.  Then he hid with six men including, Frank Hamer, in some bushes. After a while Bonnie and Clyde came traveling down the same road and Clyde noticed Ivan's car so they slowed down to see if Ivan needed some help.  The policemen opened fire. The first two shots hit Clyde in the head. Then about 27 bullets hacked through his body. His foot slipped off the brake pedal as eight bullets snapped his spinal cord. Bonnie's red hat was thrown into the back seat from a bullet that tore through her skull.   Then two bullets tore through the left side of her face where her jaw was crushed.   Another bullet tore two fingers from her right hand. The police did not stop shooting until the car stopped moving. Clyde's body was found lifelessly hanging through the steering wheel while Bonnie's body was thrown on the side of the door where she had her head between her legs as if she were fainting.

The funeral was very big and when the bodies were fist delivered, thousands of people crowded around to view the bloody corpses.

Bonnie and Clyde were very popular for numerous reasons. The main reason was because they rebelled against the government and the banks. Most people at that time would work on their farms continuously to be able to pay their mortgages but during the depression their crops were beginning to be worth nothing and so they could not afford to keep up their payments. The bank would foreclose and take their properties away from them. People felt powerless but the Barrow gang to them seemed to have all the power and some people liked them for that. They were also popular because of the way the Barrow gang could escape from the policemen most of the time.  

The Barrow gang were very nice and welcoming to their kidnappers. Theres one incident where the Barrow gang stole a new car.  The owners noticed them and started to chase them in another car but after a short chase wisely turned back.  For fun, the Barrow gang turned around and chased them and kidnapped them.  The couple later told the police that Bonnie and Clyde were very talkative and friendly.  They fed them and gave them money to get home.

The Barrow gang only killed people if they were being chased and it is said that Clyde never shot in cold blood.

 

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Bonnie Parker

My Dad's Review of the Movie.

How Accurate was the Movie?

Review Questions

 

  1. When was Clyde born?
  2. Clyde was born on March 24, 1909.

  3. What was Clyde's obsession?
  4. Clyde's obsession was naming and playing with his toy guns.

  5. What school did Clyde go to?
  6. Clyde went to Cedar High School.

  7. What was Clyde's first criminal act?
  8. Clyde's first criminal act was stealing wild turkeys.

  9. When was Bonnie born?
  10. Bonnie was born on October 1, 1910.

  11. Where did Bonnie meet Clyde?
  12. Bonnie met Clyde at his old girlfriend's house.

  13. What did Clyde do so he wouldn't have to work in prison?
  14. Clyde got a fellow inmate to cut off two of his toes on his right foot with an axe.

  15. What was the code they used to contact their families?
  16. The code was "red beans", Bonnie's favourite dish.

  17. Who did Bonnie hate the most?
  18. Bonnie hated Blanche the most.

  19. Why were Bonnie and Clyde so popular?

Bonnie and Clyde were so popular because they rebelled against the government, escaped from the police most of the time, and they always stuck together.