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Sunday, December 12, 2010

Black Sheep Sunday

Growing up, our Dad told us stories of events that happened on the farm where he was born in Johnson County, Indiana.  This one story was about the time he, at age 6 or so, met John Dillinger. 

Photo source: FBI
This had to have taken place between May 10, 1933, when Dillinger was released from prison after eight and a half years, and July 22, 1934, the night Dillinger left the Biograph Theater in Chicago with Anna Sage and Polly Hamilton.

Photo source: FBI
It seems Dad was outside playing when a car pulled up the driveway to their house on Spearsville Road, just a few miles from Trafalgar, Indiana.  The man inside asked for directions, which Dad couldn't give him, being so young.  Dad ran into the house and got his Grandma 'Omi (short for Naomi).  Grandma followed her grandson back out to the car and gave the man directions.  She also told the man to wait while she returned to the kitchen and made sandwiches for him and his friends.  After the strangers left, Dad wanted to know who the guy was. He was told "John Dillinger."

Dad was so affected by this meeting with John Dillinger, he opened a video store in late 1993 in Port Richey, Florida named Biograph Video.

Dad's other grandma, Jennie, lived in Indianapolis on the west side of town near Washington Street.  At the time, I believe she was working at an auto manufacturer as a battery inspector.  She had one of her daughters and four granddaughters living with her.  Sometime between the time Dillinger got out of prison (May 10, 1933) and March 12, 1934, John Dillinger stopped at Grandma Jennie's home, looking for a place to stay for the night.  Grandma didn't have much, but wouldn't turn a stranger away.  She either had a spare bedroom, or gave up her own in order to allow this young man a place to lay his head that evening.  The next morning, before Grandma Jennie arose, Dillinger was gone, but he had left her a $100 bill on the kitchen table.

The reason this had to have happened before March 12, 1934 is the granddaughters tried to light the wood stove that cold morning and the house caught fire.  Grandma Jennie and the Baby Alice were the only inhabitants to be rescued by neighbors.  Her daughter and the three other granddaughters died in the fire.  Grandma was never the same after that and died about four year later.

Photo source: FBI
John Dillinger was a hero to the common man, similar to Robin Hood.  He personally had never killed anyone, until one policeman stepped in front of his fire.  It was unintentional on Dillinger's part.  However, if you live by the sword, you die by the sword.

John Dillinger died about 10:50 P.M. July 22, 1934 on the sidewalks of Chicago.  His father didn't believe the body to be that of his son, but the body was buried in the Dillinger plot at Crown Hill Cemetery, Indianapolis, Indiana. 

Photo source:


Barbara Poole said...

Joy, very interesting, and the part about your father naming his video store after the Biograph, very clever and a nice piece of history for your family. I love movies, so I'm envious of you being the dau. of a video store owner, I bet you saw a lot for free! Also, I love your dark font, helps those of us without the best eyesight. Thanks for that.

TCasteel said...

Great story. Obviously a very memorable moment for your dad (and grandmother).
Theresa (Tangled Trees)
ps Love the Christmas countdown!

Mavis said...

Oooo, what a great story!

Amy Coffin, MLIS said...

Great story and a fascinating page in your family's history. I really enjoyed reading this. Thanks for sharing!

How to Macrame said...

wow, what a fascinating little bit of family history, very enjoyable to read. It's strange how certain "villians" have such strong folk hero legends to them. must be some truth in there...


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