Bonnie & Clyde: 89 years after the ambush, a mystery remains

HOMER, La. (KTAL/KMSS) — Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow are forever etched in American outlaw folklore, but in Clayburn Parish, their crime spree ended in violence , locals keep relics and family stories from the days of outlaw lovers rolling by.

John Malone saw a lot at his US 79 motel in Homer, Louisiana, but how he got his hands on one of Bonnie Parker’s shoes suggests these hardened criminals were in Louisiana when they died in 1934 The northern countryside is very popular.

Malone often spent the night at Claiborne Motor Courts after working the evening shift. Highway 79 runs across the middle of the United States from Russellville, Kentucky to Round Rock, Texas. During that time, the highway brought all kinds of stuff into his motels and restaurants.

Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow in vintage sweaters on the side of a country dirt road. The couple have been known to stop at the house at random while they play a game of chase and have dinner with the family.

Travelers used the route heavily before interstates existed. Driving between Midwestern states such as Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio to the heartland of Texas and the Southwest often means driving through the town of Homer.

Malone saw it all.

john wayne Slept overnight at Claiborne Motor Courts. Commodores had lunch there on the way to a concert. Clean rooms and great lunches attract business travelers, truck drivers, vacationers and locals.

How Bonnie Parker’s Shoes Became Homeric

The town of Homer is just a few miles from Arcadia, famous for its association with two of America’s most famous criminals, Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker.

The two died at the hands of law enforcement officers near Gibbsland, Louisiana, on May 23, 1934, and their bodies were taken to a mortuary behind a furniture store in Arcadia.

Crowds gather around the car where Bonnie and Clyde were killed in downtown Arcadia, Louisiana. The criminal’s body is still inside a 1934 Ford limousine with a V-8 engine. It was said to be faster than most police cars of the time.

When the 1934 Ford Model 40 730 limousine containing the bodies of Barrow and Parker was towed to Arcadia, a frenzied crowd gathered at the vehicle.

Thugs snatched memorabilia from cars and even took items from the dead bodies of famous gangsters. As Clyde was being loaded onto the stretcher, the coin fell out of his pocket, sparking a frantic scramble. Bonnie’s hair pendant and her dress are also said to have been taken.

To make matters worse, attempts to cut off Clyde’s fingers and ears failed.

Cars were looted. One man who ended up auctioning off the family memorabilia collection said: “My grandfather grabbed a handful from the floor of the car where the gangsters lived. He said it was full of rubbish. A screwdriver, a can of Bayer aspirin, the temples of a pair of wire glasses, an unused bullet … and a bloody stocking.”

Clyde’s trousers were cut into small pieces and framed for sale. These samples can still occasionally be found on online auction sites. Clyde’s shirt, tattered with bullets, is on display at a Nevada casino.

One of the most famous pictures of Bonnie and Clyde.

In the late 1950s, former Sheriff John Nick Brown of Claiborne Parish reportedly walked into John Malone’s Clayborne Courthouse. According to legend, he left a shoe on the restaurant table and told Malone, “This is the shoe Bonnie Parker was wearing when she was killed.”

John showed the shoe in the dining room at Claiborne Courts and soon there was a long queue to see it in style.

George Camp photographed the shoes at the restaurant and believes he still has them in a box somewhere. “If the former sheriff and former Louisiana police chief had it, people would know it was real,” Kemp said.

“[The shoe] The arch is partially broken and could tip over,” Kemp said. “It’s woven from a light-coloured hemp-like material. “

Bonnie Parker, wearing a dark ankle skirt, black beanie and light striped black sweater, stands in front of the getaway car.

Brown was not involved in the ambush and had not entered law enforcement in 1934, so it is unclear how he obtained the shoes. He became a representative of the Claiborne parish in 1936 and was elected Sheriff in 1944. Sheriff Henderson Jordan of Bienville Parish set up the ambush and remained sheriff until 1944. There is no doubt that the two men were chief marshals of neighboring parishes and knew each other. Brown eventually became the chief of the Louisiana State Police and made many connections in the law enforcement community.

John and Rae Malone bought Claiborne Courts around 1953 and ran it for 24 years, so the shoe didn’t come their way until long after Bonnie Parker was killed.

John Malone, Jr. occasionally worked for his father in motels as a teenager. He recalls the shoe, which ended up being stuffed into a closet.

“When my dad died and we sold the motel, no one thought about the shoes,” Malone said.

The shoes apparently came in pairs, and Malone knew what happened to the other.

“Sheriff Brown gave the other to Alison Wyatt who worked at Homer’s Coca-Cola bottling company,” Malone said. “I asked Mr. Wyatt once.”

Malone said Wyatt was a little coy in his response. “I have something in my tackle box,” Wyatt told Malone, without specifying which shoes.

But Barry Drude of Virginia Beach, Virginia, grandson of Allison Wyatt, knows the shoe like the back of his hand.

Bonnie frowned as she leaned against the getaway car, looking unhappy. Several pistols are pinned to her thin black belt, which contrasts with her white coat.

A former Navy pilot, Drood said the story of his grandfather receiving one of the shoes is accurate. The family knew Bonnie and Clyde well because Barry’s mother, Wyatt’s daughter, Mary Sue, was born on May 24, 1934, a day after the murderous couple were killed.

“It’s real,” Drew said of the shoes.

Wyatt worked at the Coca-Cola factory for 47 years before moving to Virginia Beach with the Drood family.

But the fate of the second shoe was much like the pair owned by the Malones. Between Mr. Wyatt’s advanced age, his packing and moving, and his memory fading, the shoe disappeared.

“It was discarded decades ago,” Drood said.

The fascination with the outlaw couple and whatever they owned lives on 89 years after their deaths.

On May 26-27, the town of Gibsland will host the annual Bonnie & Clyde Festival in recognition of the nearby ambush. Attendees will hear historical presentations and watch shootout reenactments.

They can also visit the site of the ambush, where thieves recently stole a huge memento – a large brass plaque commemorating the 1934 incident.

Wesley Harris is a parish historian at the Claiborne Parish Library in Homer, Louisiana. He researches, writes, and lectures on the history of Northern Louisiana. His specialties are Reconstruction crime and World War II in North Louisiana. Author of several books and hundreds of historical articles over the past 40 years, his work has appeared in national publications including The American Civil War, The Wild West, and more. He has spoken at numerous history conferences on a variety of topics.

Harris is the 2022 recipient of the Max Bradbury Award for the best article published each year in Northern Louisiana History, the journal of the Northern Louisiana Historical Association.

Harris joined the staff of the Claiborne Parish Library in 2020 after retiring from a 43-year law enforcement career. Since then, he has authored or edited six books on the history of North Louisiana.

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