Alva Review-Courier -

By John Lovett
Southwest Times Record 

Fort Smith home became hideout for 'Pretty Boy' Floyd family

 


FORT SMITH, Ark. (AP) — It would be hard to tell it today, but a little brick house on North 36th Street in Fort Smith served as the home for infamous bank robber "Pretty Boy" Charles Floyd and his family for the fall of 1931 and spring of 1932.

Adjacent to Tilles Park, it was a good find for the Depression-era Robin Hood. If the police came knocking, the park may have offered some cover for a back-door escape.

Having made a brazen escape from a train on its way to the Ohio State Prison on Dec. 10, 1930, Floyd had been on the run for nine months when he moved into the little home on 36th Street, the Southwest Times Record reported.

According research by Michael Griffith of Poteau, the Floyds moved in on Sept. 11, 1931. Pretty Boy would lay low for about six months with what was legally his ex-wife, Ruby, and son, Jack Dempsey Floyd, at the little house by the park.

Although well-liked locally for his kindness and charity with stolen money, the bank robber from Sallisaw had been sentenced on Nov. 24, 1930, to the Ohio State Penitentiary at Columbus for 12 to 15 years for a bank robbery in Sylvania, Ohio.

The Kansas City Massacre, largely credited with putting Floyd in the crosshairs of J.Edgar Hoover and G-men nationwide, was still a couple years away — June 17, 1932. But the heat was still on Pretty Boy Floyd.

Griffith, a former teacher at Choctaw High School near Oklahoma City, also found the home was rented by the Floyds from Etta Buell through the Jones and Yandell Real Estate Firm.

"Always paid the rent early and always in cash, silver not paper," Griffith said during an interview at the Fort Smith Museum of History.

Griffith, who also finds time to play "Wild Bill" Hickock in re-enactments, said he was introduced to the story about the hideout house many years ago by a colleague at Choctaw High School. That teacher was related to Floyd through a grandmother and gave Griffith a photo of Jack Dempsey Floyd that was said to be taken at the house. A photo of the Floyd family all together with "Jackie" appearing the same age and in similar attire, is also printed in Jeffery S. King's "The Life and Death of Pretty Boy Floyd" courtesy of the Bettmann Archive.

Griffith noted the family photo, with the dapper Floyd boys next to an at-ease Ruby, was taken next to the red-brick detached garage behind the house. That garage was torn down long ago, and the house was painted to cover the original red brick, Griffith noted. But the house is still occupied. A knock at the front door one afternoon in mid-February only stirred up the sound of a barking dog inside.

According to the Sebastian County Assessor's Office, the 1,040-square-foot home is owned by RCK Investments LLC, and appraised at $46,000.

Bob Needham of Fort Smith, a Floyd family member by marriage and family historian, confirmed Griffith's story on the house and the alias of "Hamilton" used by Pretty Boy Floyd and his family while living at the house. Needham said Jackie Floyd told him many years before his passing in 1999, that he attended the Rogers School as Jackie Hamilton. The school is now the Rogers Professional Development and Technology Center.

"Ruby Floyd told everyone that her husband was a traveling salesman out of Kansas City," Griffith wrote in a short history of the house. "When someone would ask about him, he was tired from the road and was sleeping. Later, Ruby told Mrs. Buell that her husband had bought groceries from her many times at the grocery store owned by John and Etta Buell on Midland Boulevard."

One of the stories passed down through the years about their time at the house is when the Floyd family loaded up and drove down to see the 1931 film "Frankenstein." Needham said the film was screened at what many call "the Malco," but in 1931, it may have still been called the New Theater.

The theater became a Malco-operated movie theater in the late 1930s before slipping into disrepair in the 1980s, according to 64.6 Downtown's records. The Richard Griffin family is in the process of restoring the old theater as the New Theatre Center for Performing Arts and Education in association with 64.6 Downtown.

Considering Pretty Boy always sat where he could see who was coming into a room, he may have chosen seats close enough in back to see the entrance doors. Needham said Charlie Floyd always sat with his back to the wall with a view of the door when he went out somewhere.

As Griffith notes in his history of the little house, Jackie would go on to join the Navy after graduating high school in 1942. He served in World War II and ran a bar for many years until his death on March 23, 1999. He is buried in Vacaville, California.

___

Information from: Southwest Times Record, http://www.swtimes.com/

 

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