Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Bonnie & Clyde in Bossier

From Ann Middleton's weekly column in the Bossier Press-Tribune:
On May 23, 1934 Bonnie Elizabeth Parker and Clyde Chestnut Barrow were ambushed by law officers and killed in Gibsland, Louisiana in Bienville Parish. From 1931-1934 the couple had led a life of crime committing robberies and murders in Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Indiana, Minnesota and Louisiana.

In one of the fascinating oral histories at the Bossier Parish Library Historical Center, Mathilde Gatlin McLelland recalled that Bonnie and Clyde had visited Bear Point, her childhood plantation home in Bossier Parish a few days before they were killed:

“Almost every plantation has something special to tell about happenings there. These things are sworn to be true, and I always really thought this to be true. Frank Monroe, one of our most trusted workers, lived over by the railroad track down in a large field. [His] was the only family in that area. A little road led to the very end of the place that, where the old bears used to walk. Something happened funny that night that scared that man to death. He said that overnight a strange car came up way over in the field and he said they closed all the shutters on their door and wouldn’t even open it ‘cause they looked out and they saw a man and a woman, and they had guns everywhere. And they had this open car kind of thing, but guns everywhere. And they were out working on the guns and Frank, he was so scared that the next morning when he came down, he could hardly speak. His voice was trembling so, and he gave this description of this great big old car and so Daddy said, and he said. So two or three days [later] we saw the horrible picture in the Times where these two people were shot to death in Gibsland, Louisiana and the people that had been looking…Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker [and] the girl that accompanied [him]. And a sign is made of stone there today where they were killed. So the old Bear Point had this uninvited guest that turned around and made a little bit of bad history there. The fact is that this interesting little road that the bears crossed and that the cotton gin was on and the criminals came and that is interlocked now with Dam Number 5. It runs right into Dam Number 5.”

The oral history interview collection at the Historical Center reveals interesting and often unusual interpretations of Bossier Parish life by the people who lived it. Visit the Bossier Parish Library Historical Center to listen to or read transcripts of approximately 125 oral history interviews.

Friday, August 12, 2011

National Spirit Of ’45 Day

Mrs. Bonvillion's fifth grade class in 1944 at Bossier Grammar School standing behind a small banner that proclaims "We brought the GREASE to write the PEACE." 2006.013.001

On August 14, 1945 President Harry S. Truman announced that World War II was over. Newspaper headlines across the country proclaimed victory for the United States as Japan surrendered, inciting spontaneous celebration nationwide.

In Northwest Louisiana throngs cheered the arrival of peace with joyous, noisy celebrations. The three and a half year war had cost Caddo and Bossier Parishes an estimated 1,000 casualties—some 300 of them killed, captured or missing. President Truman’s declaration of a two-day holiday closed local businesses and expressions of gratitude in church services and a city-wide service at Shreveport’s Municipal Auditorium. As soon as Shreveport received word of the surrender, all restraint was cast aside. Confetti and scraps of paper floated down from windows of office buildings, laughter and tears intermingled, car horns blared, church bells rang and firecrackers burst. Traffic did not move, gasoline rationing was forgotten, sidewalks were lined with thousands of soldiers and civilians and switchboards were swamped. Amazingly, the crowds were comparatively orderly.

Bossier’s celebration of America’s return to peace was described in The Shreveport Times issue of August 15, 1945. “From the new traffic bridge to the far reaches of the town, Bossier City last night cheered the news ‘the war is over,’ and within seconds of the official flash, Barksdale Boulevard, the city’s main thoroughfare, was a continuous string of cars, horns blowing, occupants yelling. Stores closed their doors in accord with requests of city authorities. Bars quickly closed their doors.” The war was over and Bossier City Mayor Hoffman Fuller recognized that every Bossier City citizen had cooperated to make the war effort in the city and parish a complete success.

To establish an annual day of remembrance and national renewal, August 14th has been established as “National Spirit of ’45 Day.” This Sunday will see celebrations all over the United States as we remember.

Excerpted from Ann Middleton's Bossier History column in the Bossier Press Tribune