Bonnie and Clyde – Blanche Barrow’s Story

It’s been a minute since I’ve read these, but when I was initially writing The Case of Bonnie and Clyde, I read as many firsthand accounts of the gang’s life as I could.

The best by far was My Life with Bonnie & Clyde by Blanche Caldwell Barrow. She wrote most of the account during her 10 year prison sentence (she served from 1933-39) in Missouri after her capture in Iowa. The book was published (2004) some years after she passed away (1988). It was edited by John Neal Phillips, who has a hand in almost all of the memoirs I got ahold of.

Not the most flattering picture of Blanche

She and everyone associated with the gang lived in fear the rest of their lives about being prosecuted, even 50 years on from the events. Blanche was married off to someone by her mother as a teen, and met Buck in West Dallas in late 1929 soon after leaving that marriage. By this point, Buck had been married and divorced twice (at 23) with three children.

They were married in 1931, after he’d been convicted of burglary, escaped, and been on his own spree of robberies with Blanche. She and the family convinced him to turn himself in at the end of 1931 in order to give him a chance to live an honest life after serving his time. He was released March 22, 1932 and immediately re-joined Blanche, then went to meet Clyde and Bonnie in Joplin.

Blanche claims they went to talk Clyde into turning himself in and ending all of the killings, but it’s unlikely that would have gotten very far as an idea. The gang was responsible for at least 5 deaths by that point, and one murder on Christmas Day of a young father (it was carried out by a teen gang member).

Blanche is generally credited with standing out enough that the gang got into a disastrous firefight in Missouri right outside Kansas City, where Buck was killed and she was captured. She was dressed unusually and paid for the gang’s lodging and food in coins.

She was blinded in one eye by glass shrapnel and Buck was shot in the head and didn’t recover. The gang made a getaway, but Blanche and Buck were ultimately captured a few days later in Iowa.

Despite spending most of the story defending herself and Buck from most of the charges against them, it gives a clear picture of what life was like for them in the ultimately short time they were part of the gang. She and Buck joined up with Parker and Barrow at the end of March, 1933 and were captured at the end of July that same year.

Less than a year after that, Bonnie and Clyde were dead. The following February, in 1935, about 20 family members and friends were rounded up and charged with harboring them. Their mothers spent 30 days in prison; the longest sentence was 2 years for the brother of another gang member.

After Blanche was released from prison, she moved back to Dallas to care for her father. She remarried in 1940, and lived in the Rockwall area (east of Dallas) until his death in 1969. Afterwards, John Neal Phillips said she was in the Mabank area (even further East), near some other Barrow relatives.

The detail I most remember from the book is that Mr. and Mrs. Barrow, Buck and Clyde’s parents, never got in touch with her. They didn’t contact her the entire time she was in prison, or afterwards when she was released. They were trying to put the whole thing behind them. Besides the time in jail, Mrs. Cumie Barrow in particular suffered, being shot by intruders and almost blinded, and several firebombing of her home well after her sons’ escapades.

Laurel’s Neighborhood – Greenland Hills

I got the chance to drive around the neighborhood Laurel and Tom lived in recently, and was pretty happy with what I saw. Their neighborhood has retained a lot of it’s original charming character, and the number of new giant homes was fairly low.

The book at the house where it took place

They lived in a development called Greenland Hills, which was originally planned and started in 1923. Most of the houses were built within the next 10 years, and by different builders. Almost all were a charming brick Tudor style.

This is an extremely rare look, then and today, and the homes are unbelievably cute. Beyond just brick, many also use local sandstone as a key feature. The high gables are distinctive.

In a funny coincidence, a friend bought a house right down the street from where the original inspiration for Laurel lived. It’s given me a kick to go visit and to see the neighborhood change and still retain much of it’s character.

Book Recommend – Empire of the Summer Moon

The Empire of the Summer Moon was given to me by my husband’s boss’s wife (how’s that for a relationship tree). Her book club had read it and enjoyed it, which I was a bit surprised to hear given how violent most of the history presented in the book was, but it is an excellent and compelling read.

The book tells the history and story of the Comanche people, mostly focusing on those in Texas. The author manages to bring to life the struggles of the tribe and the pioneers, and doesn’t flinch in portraying just how violent and terrible those conflicts were.

The name of the book is taken from the Comanche’s favorite time to come raiding, when the moon was big and bright.

In particular, the author focuses on the story of Cynthia Ann Parker, the white girl captured by the Comanches as a child and whose son, Quanah Parker, the other main character of the book, becomes the last great war chief and leader of her new people. Her story is what the great John Wayne movie The Searchers is based on, although she didn’t have the happy ending that the girl in the movie did.

Mary, the Boyd Widow’s aunt, is based on survivors and stories from this history. She’s a survivor of one of the last Comanche raids in Texas, when almost everyone had been rounded up and put on a reservation to die.

One thing about writing about the early 1930’s that amazes me is how recent some of America’s “ancient” history is then. There were still Civil War vets around, and many more people who had survived being born into slavery. Native Americans hadn’t been on reservations for all that long, and there were survivors of those pioneer days around as well, especially in the North Texas/Oklahoma area.

The mix of people and monumental society shifts in such a short time is breath-taking, which is part of why I love the era.

Barrow Garage Today

A few weeks ago, I decided to shake up my normal writing routine, and go to West Dallas to have a coffee and just play the tourist. I also had half a mind to go by and check out the Barrow garage that I saw on a history tour a few years ago. (The one where I saw Clyde and his brother Buck’s headstone.)

The building had been bought and moved by a private citizen to a main road in West Dallas. It’s completely un-marked, with no signs on the building or in the area. It is, however, marked on Google maps. I found it when I was studying the map closely after I couldn’t quite find it when driving on my own (I had it in my mind the building was white for some reason).

The brown building is the Barrow Garage

It looks like someone is sleeping on the back porch right now, or at least around enough to leave fresh beer bottles and cigarettes.

This shot is looking at the Garage from the gray building with the orange base above

The next few shots are from the same spot, just one looking to the left (the pharmacy) and the next, looking across the street.

West Dallas Pharmacy
Apartments springing up everywhere. I’m afraid they will eat the Garage.

Here’s one last shot of the garage, the front door.

The front door

It was neat to see that it’s still around. When I was on the tour, those apartments weren’t there. They’re literally springing up everywhere in that area. I’m wondering now if there’s any plans for taking care of this building for when a developer buys the whole block up.

What’s some local history that you like seeing?

Clyde and Buck

On the bus tour I previously mentioned, we got the chance to go into some normally-closed areas around town. This is one of them, the final resting place of Buck and Clyde Barrow. (Update – Here’s the location on Google maps).

As you can see, the graveyard sits right off of a busy road, I was completely surprised to find out that these two were there. It’s a busy road in a part of town that still feels a bit wild and lawless, and most of all forgotten. Dallas is notorious for demolishing the old to make way for the new, regardless of the history or value of that old.

If you’re not familiar with Buck, he was Clyde’s older brother who was killed in a firefight nearly a year before Bonnie and Clyde were killed in their ambush. Buck had been in jail for much of his younger brother’s run, and was paroled in March of 1933. He reunited with his wife, Blanche, and then was paid a visit from his younger brother.

According to Blanche, Buck reluctantly agreed to go with Clyde because he thought he could keep him under control or out of trouble. The infamous pictures of Bonnie smoking the cigar and holding the guns was taken during the first couple of weeks the two couples were together, having a great time living in Joplin Missouri.

Of course, the law caught up with them there, and then again a few months later. Blanche was blinded for life in one eye in the shootout that killed her husband. She served several years in prison, and commented that the Barrow family never reached out to her.

Devil’s Back Porch



Last year I did a history/drinking on a bus tour of Dallas (although, sadly, I couldn’t partake, being pregnant). It hit a lot of random spots, and I believe the woman who led it leads private tours that highlight Bonnie and Clyde, if you’re ever in the area and interested. I’ll add a link to her as soon as I get a chance to go through my notes, to credit her.

Below is one of the pictures I took of an important part of the Bonnie and Clyde legend. Clyde actually was an amazing driver who had an almost photographic memory for maps and roads, so he really did outsmart the law all the time as far as escape routes and being able to out run them.


This bridge connected the main road through West Dallas, where both of their family’s were, to a toll road that no longer exists that went northwest, through to Grapevine, I believe. It wasn’t a popular road (which is why it didn’t get improved and modernized), and was a common route for them to come in and out of town without the long arm of the law noticing cars that didn’t belong in the area.

Fascinating stuff.

The Boyd House – Sears Kit Homes

Boyd House, Greenview Model Sears House

In The Case of Bonnie & Clyde in Rome, Laurel and the boys visit Widow Boyd in her very austere Sears kit house. Sears (then Sears and Roebuck) was a revolutionary business in their time, and kit houses were just one of the ways they changed commerce. The Boyd house model is shown below.

Greenview Sears Small
Click on the image to visit the fantastic Sears Archives.

From 1908-1940, housing kits were available to be purchased through the Sears and Roebuck catalog, alongside shaving necessities, clothes, and anything else you could imagine. It was, quite simply, revolutionary. More than 100,000 of the kits were sold, which arrived with all of the lumber pre-cut and exciting new products like drywall and asphalt shingles, all you would need for a thoroughly modern home.

[bctt tweet=”Sears houses were a revolution – pre-cut lumber and with newfangled drywall and asphalt shingle roofing. Have a look!”]

I also very much love the floor plans that are included. You can tell that a lot of thought was put into them, and nothing was wasted by their standards.

Boyd House, Greenview Model Sears House
Click the image to visit the Sears Archives for more homes

If you’re interested in more information, including about original color schemes, The Arts & Crafts Society has a great set of articles and several books as well.

Dallas is lucky enough to have a few pockets of these original gems left. I’m hoping to make it to the area and take some pictures or possibly a walking video tour to post here. Would anyone be interested in that?

Pop Music of early 1930’s

The Case of Bonnie & Clyde in Rome

There’s someone who calls themselves MusicProf78 (and, alternately, “Music Professor” Bob Moke) on Youtube who has posted thousands of rare and old records from the 1920’s through the 1960’s. It really is incredible.

Below are some 200 dance songs from the time frame when Laurel was just moving into Dallas. It’s been great fun to listen to as I edit.

[bctt tweet=”Feel the music- 200 song playlist of the biggest early 1930’s dance and pop music.”]

What do you think of the pop music?

What She Wore – Laurel in The Case of Bonnie & Clyde in Rome

What Laurel Wore during the Case of Bonnie and Clyde

I thought it would be fun to put together an outfit post for Laurel’s wardrobe in The case of Bonnie & Clyde in Rome. Let me know what you think of her choices! September in Dallas usually the time when the heat of summer is finally breaking, and some rain and cooler air are moving in.

What Laurel Wore during the Case of Bonnie and Clyde

The overcoat is an older style, from the late 1920’s, but still beautiful. Laurel’s didn’t have the fur lining on the sleeves, but that is definitely the right collar. The hat and shoes would have been new, the suit would have been a little bit older.

I also found what Mollie was wearing when Laurel met her.

Mollie's Outfit, Case of Bonnie and Clyde


I have a Pinterest board (see below) that is the source of most of the images, if you like vintage fashion, you should definitely check it out!


Follow Shannon’s board Research – 1930s Lady on Pinterest.