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Town Hoping to Cash in on Famous Ambush

September 6, 1990 GMT

ARCADIA, La. (AP) _ Arcadia is finally cashing in on Bonnie and Clyde, 56 years after the outlaws were blown away in a police ambush outside town.

Visitors will stroll Barrow Boulevard, Trigger Trail and Ambush Alley during a monthly flea market that begins here Sept. 14. The three-day Bonnie & Clyde Trade Days will include booths set up by more than 500 dealers.

″We’re not famous for anything else around here and the names of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow are known nationwide,″ said Lamar Ozley, a lawyer and investor in the project. ″We just hope we can draw as many people as Bonnie and Clyde the day their bodies were hauled into town.″

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About 20,000 people crowded Arcadia that day in 1934 after Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker, low-life killers made into tragic heroes by the Warren Beatty- Faye Dunaway movie, died in their tan 1934 Ford Deluxe in a hail of gunfire eight miles outside town.

″The mortuary was in the back end of a furniture store,″ said William Dees, 83, whose father ran a nearby bank. ″I went in there. The people actually tore up the furniture, standing on it, walking on it to get a look at the bodies.″

Arcadia has a population of about 3,000, but it had only 700 when Bonnie and Clyde died.

Situated in north-central Louisiana, Arcadia was a good hideout area for bandits in the 1930s. U.S. 80 was their interstate and Bienville Parish was near the Arkansas line and about an hour’s drive from Texas for criminals who didn’t care about speed limits.

Four Texas lawmen had trailed Parker and Barrow through a half-dozen states, finally getting a break when a Bienville Parish farmer, Ivey Methvin, offered to set up an arrest in exchange for dropping charges against his son, Henry. Henry ran with Bonnie and Clyde.

The Texans, joined by Bienville Parish Sheriff Henderson Jordan and his deputy, Prentiss Oakley, hid by the side of Highway 154 near the Methvin farm on May 23, 1934. When the outlaws’ auto came by, the officer fired more than 100 rounds.

″Prentiss told me the ambush bothered him,″ recalled Homer Oakley, brother of the late deputy. ″The fact is, if he ever drank much before then, I didn’t know about it. But after the ambush, everybody knows he started drinking.″

″I think Prentiss and the sheriff aged overnight,″ said Hugh Watson, retired chairman of Premier Bank in Shreveport. ″They were never the same after that.″

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Watson, 17 at the time, said he worked in an Arcadia sandwich shop and served Bonnie and Clyde the night before they were killed.

″We weren’t busy so I sat on the curb while they sat in the car and ate. We chatted. She asked if I had a comb. I got her one and she combed her hair,″ he said. ″Both of them were polite, ordinary looking, though she had kind of a coarse look.″

Watson said he discovered their identities the next day when their pictures appeared in The Shreveport Journal.

″People must have read the paper and heard it on the radio because Arcadia filled up,″ he said. ″The car was hauled into town with the bodies still inside. People were taking pieces off the car for souvenirs.

″One girl I went to school with wound up with one of Bonnie’s shoes.″