"[History is] a cyclic poem written by time upon the memories of man." -Percy Bysshe Shelley

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Carl Christensen & Baby Face Nelson


Like many Northwoods "old-timers," Carl had his own story to tell about the night that the FBI tracked down the Dillinger gang at Little Bohemia. Read on for Carl's part in the shoot-out!

Baby Face Nelson
We had been very busy, Ann and I. She was making sandwiches, she did a lot of that, sandwiches, and I was tending bar and everything else and we hadn’t even had a chance to eat anything because the people kept coming and coming and coming. So that was toward evening when two fellows walked in. They wanted to know if I was the constable, which I had been elected constable. I says, “Yes.” Well, they says, we need your help. We think we’ve got Dillinger locked up in Little Bohemia but in case they should get loose, we need you to go and show us how to set up road blocks, where we can set up road blocks and roads that were going out from there. So I says all right.

So I got my jacket on [now located in the Frank B. Koller Memorial Library in Manitowish Waters], and I had a pair of old shoes on and a cap. I says to Ann, my wife, I says we’ll be back in a little while and we’ll get a couple of sandwiches. We’ll make some for these men too and I’ll have something to eat. But I never got back. And you know the rest of the story from there on.

Dillinger & Emil Wanatka, owner of Little Bo
We stopped at Koerner’s to check a car out there. Baby Face [Nelson] was in that car and he shot Newman under the hat and also Brown [sic]* was shot right above his vest, through the throat, and he caught me with eight bullets. I never found out till after I was out of the hospital that George La Porte was walking back and forth with a rifle in the crutch of his arm. So I asked George one day what he was doing. Oh, he says, I was on guard, he says, in case they should come back. And another thing I found out was when Emil Wanatka was being held prisoner by Baby Face Nelson in that car, which was George La Porte’s Model T Ford and when Nelson saw us coming he got out of the car. Emil got out and he crawled into a snowbank and he had dark trousers on and Emil told me, he says, I tried to cover my pants with snow, he says, so he wouldn’t see me. I was afraid he was going to shoot me. So all that came out after I was out of the hospital. So the rest of the story that’s newspaper, you have that in my scrap book. [at the Frank B. Koller Library in Manitowish Waters]

Johnny Depp in the Little Bo scene in Public Enemies
After I came home from the hospital, we had a tremendous business. All the publicity, newspaper stories about me and everything else. We really had people stopping, curiosity seekers. They wanted souvenirs from me, and so on and so forth. I had postal cards made up with my picture on it and sometimes they’d buy four or five of them, take them along to give them to friends. I had that much publicity. So things were going along real good and we were taking in money and it was really, in those days, rich money, you know, good money. So I go out to Hank Coonan, he had promised me that if I could make good of that place there he would sell it to me when we first started in. So I says to Hank, I says, now I’m in a position, I says, I can buy from you, buy your share out, buy the building off you. Oh, no, no, he says, I can’t sell that, he says, that’s too valuable a piece of property now. Well, I says, if that’s the case then I’m just going to pull my share out. You can pay me off and I’ll pull out and you can get somebody else to run it. Which he did.

*While our transcript records the name as Brown, Carl Christensen most likely meant to refer to W. Carter Baum.

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