Bonnie and Clyde Recalled, 75 Years Later

Posted May 6, 2009 at 4:49pm

Old photographs, the Dallas Morning News from the day after Bonnie and Clyde’s deaths and a brick from their hide-out in Gibsland, La. — these are all part of a new exhibit at the National Museum of Crime & Punishment.

The exhibit marks the 75th anniversary of the ambush on May 23, 1934, that killed Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, one of the country’s most famous crime couples.

The couple’s paths first crossed in Dallas, where they both had families, and according to several sources, they immediately fell in love. Bonnie later joined up with Clyde, who had already started to rob smaller establishments. The couple gained recognition for their countrywide robbing sprees and fame for their love story on the run.

The temporary exhibit focuses on three aspects of their lives: Family, other people and society, said Elizabeth Maurer, director of operations at the museum. The exhibit includes photos of the families of both Bonnie and Clyde.

Their families were very important to the couple and “they kept looping back to Dallas to be able to see them,— Maurer said. “I think it’s the pictures of the family that haven’t been seen before. It’s putting them in a new light. The unseen photos’ are mainly of the families of Bonnie [and] Clyde.—

The couple also took several photos of themselves that became famous, with serious faces and weapons that look ready to be fired. Some of the photos became public after the FBI seized a roll of film in raids at the couple’s old hide-outs; other photos were contributed by the couple.

Bonnie married at age 15 but separated from her husband a couple of years later. He also spent time behind bars and “she didn’t think it was fair to divorce him in jail,— Maurer said. They never divorced but lived apart for her remaining years. It was reported that she was wearing her wedding ring when she died.

In 1930, she met Clyde in Dallas. One story says that they met at a friend’s house over a cup of hot chocolate. Before meeting Clyde, Bonnie had worked as a waitress, but some sources said she had aspirations to become a singer or a poet.

One of Maurer’s favorite objects in the temporary exhibit is a pay envelope from a period when Clyde worked for Procter & Gamble. “He had jobs,— Maurer said. “He was supplementing his pay by breaking into houses.— The problem was he kept getting fired because the police picked him up for crimes, Maurer said.

Clyde came from poor conditions. Initially his family lived in a tent, which he and his six siblings later helped turn into a shack and a gas station, Maurer said. She pointed out that it still exists today. “I think what people take away is that they are a product of the culture, economic and social situation,— Maurer said.

The getaway car featured in the 1967 movie “Bonnie and Clyde— starring Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway is displayed in the museum’s permanent exhibit and is one of the most popular artifacts there, Maurer said.

Bonnie and Clyde’s lives have continued to catch people’s interest. In fact, a new movie called “The Story of Bonnie and Clyde— will be shot soon, with stars Hilary Duff and Kevin Zegers.

The exhibit runs through May 31.