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

Thursday, June 7, 2012

come on by

Swing by the library to view the coat Carl Christensen wore when he was shot by Baby Face Nelson, on display in our foyer!

Carl Christensen was the Manitowish Waters (then Spider Lake) town constable in 1934, when the FBI tracked down John Dillinger and his gang at Little Bohemia. Carl took place in the resulting shoot-out, having been asked to accompany several FBI officers to the scene. They had just driven up in their car when Baby Face Nelson, driving out, shot and killed one officer, wounding Carl and the other. Carl was subsequently hospitalized for his eight bullet wounds and received federal funding to cover his medical bills.

It is perhaps no surprise that Carl's scrapbook, in our possession, contains the grim images showing Dillinger's and Nelson's bodies in the mortuary after they were later tracked down by the FBI (and successfully killed). Though I must confess my initial distaste at these photos, it struck me that Carl had a simple reason to want them in his scrapbook. The men who had threatened his life -- who could so easily have killed him -- were now dead. They could never trouble him again. There must have been a reassuring finality in such images.

Such things serve as a reminder that the "Dillinger days" are not fiction. Real people lived in those times: experienced real fear: died real deaths. When we visit Little Bohemia to see the scene of this shoot-out, we must remember this, and though we all enjoy the exciting nature of the stories told, it must be said that not one of us would have wanted to be there on the night of April 22, 1934.

No comments:

Post a Comment