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Public Enemy #1

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Primary Sources: 'Dillinger's Last Hours -- With Me' - By His Sweetheart

This article was originally published in the Chicago Herald and Examiner of Thursday, October 24, 1934. In it, Polly Hamilton describes her life with Dillinger during the final months of his life.

John Dillinger presented a strange psychological case during the last two months before the law, plodding but inexorable, ended his career. Hunted as now other outlaw has been hunted, he knew that his death was only a matter of days. With an amazing fatalistic philosophy, he unconsciously prolonged his life by the utter abandon with which he disregarded the obvious dangers and spent those last three days as a carefree citizen of moderate means might have spent them. He lived a normal life, walking Chicago streets unarmed, dining where he chose, watching with amused interest the very police sent to trap him. Much of his time he devoted to a girl who never suspected his true identity until government guns shot him don at her side. The story of this girl, Polly Hamilton, is a simple narrative illustrating that crime does not pay.

By Polly Hamilton

John Dillinger, the outlaw? I didn't know him.
The man I knew, and loved, was Jimmy Lawrence, a Board of Trade clerk. A smiling Jimmy Lawrence, whose mouth twitched at the corners when he told a funny story. The Jimmy Lawrence that gave me my amethyst ring.

Jimmy Lawrence wasn't grim, wasn't a killer, and more than he was a Board of Trade clerk. I wouldn't let him call for me, because they thought he was a sissy, with his gold rim glasses and trick mustache that the authorities say now he used for a disguise.

Made Faces Through Window Just to See Her Laugh
He'd stand outside the place for work, and make faces at me through the window to see me laugh. I met him one night early last June at a Barrel of Fun night club. He came up and asked: "What would happen if I called you up some night?" He didn't lose any time when I told him to try and see. The very next day he called, and that night he was waiting for me outside the restaurant where I worked on 1209 Wilson Av. He grinned and said: "The name is Jimmy Lawrence, if you've forgotten."

One of the shyest fellows I ever saw, but I liked that in him. Off we drove in a taxicab to the stables to dine and dance. After that it was almost every evening. It was always a taxicab, too. They say John Dillinger drove high-powered cars, but Jimmy Lawrence meant taxicabs and red hots to me. We rode in more taxis that I'd ever known were in Chicago, and it didn't matter where we had dined, we always had to have a red hot before he'd go home. Only twice in all the time I knew him did he drive a car.

Lots of things happened that should of told me he was John Dillinger. The scars from having his face altered and removing that mole might of warned me. I asked him about them, though, and he said: "Listen, Countess, I was in an auto accident."

He called me Countess at first, and sometimes Cleopatra. Honey was the name I liked best, just the same.

It may not have been love at first sight. He wasn't much for flattery. But you knew he meant it when you heard him say to somebody else. "She's all right. I like her just like she is."

But as for who he was, I had another clue. One of the girls I knew said one time: "He looks just like John Dillinger." But I didn't think so. You judge people you know by the way they act as well as the way they look, and he was better to me than any other man I knew.

Same Gray Suit- No Fashion Plate
He wasn't exactly a fashion plate. He wore the same gray suit all the time I knew him, which shows he wasn't trying very hard to disguise himself. It would of been so easy to recognize. He told me he wore his clothes until he grew tired of them, and then he threw them away.

You might think he wasn't a very good spender, but that isn't true. He never objected to the price.

I don't mean that he was reckless with his money, either. Never once did I see him with anything larger than a $20 bill. He must have carried a lot around in his big billfold, but he always got out a twenty before we went any place and put it loose in his pocket. Then he would pay the bill from that. He didn't want to be known as a Big Shot. We had been running around together more than a week when I introduced him to Mrs. Anna Sage, the one they call "The Woman in Red, " because she was wearing a red dress when she and I walked out of the Biograph Theatre at 2433 N. Lincoln Av., July 22 with him -- and found the government men awaiting for him with bullets.

After that I'd take him out to her home, where he became a friend of her son, Steve Chilak. Steve and his girl and Jimmy and I played cards a lot from them on at Mrs. Sage's home. He was simply crazy about cards, and he always seemed so much more talkative when he was in a game. He was an awful tease, too. It wasn't any fun for him to play without any money up, but he knew the rest of us didn't have much to lose; so he always made the stakes low enough that we could all play.

Farm Boy's Dinner; Biscuits and Gravy!
It was at Mrs. Sage's that we found out what a great big Indiana farm boy he was. All he asked was a home-cooked dinner. Baking powder biscuits and chicken gravy, just like they have on the farm, were what he liked best. Tomatoes, green onions, and radishes he had to have, too. When it was hot weather, he always brought ice cream, for he liked it so. Sometimes he'd bring a dozen boxes of strawberries.

He liked steak for meat, but when he was feeling particularly happy, nothing but frog's legs from Irelands would do. He use to bring them out and stand over them while we cooked them.

And would you believe it, he'd wash the dishes.

There wasn't much pretense about him. He said he was just an Indiana farm boy and he insisted that I was a farm girl, too. When he really wanted to tease me, he'd say: "There's Polly now. She just proves that you can take the girl away from the country, but you can't take the country away from the girl." If he thought I didn't like it, though, he'd mighty quick explain that he was only kidding.

John Dillinger, or Jimmy, as he was to me, never liked to hurt any one's feelings. He was what you'd call on the up and up with me and all his friends every minute.

Birthday Party; Her Biggest Thrill!
I don't know whether he was in love with me or not, but I was goofy about him. The two-day party we had celebrating his birthday on the 22d of June and mine on the 23d was just about the most important thing that ever happened to me. He sent me two dozen roses, and he bought me the amethyst ring, and we spent the evenings at the French Casino.

He must have been in love with me. Lots of times he talked about a home, and kids of his own. He used to say that he was going to retire from his Board of Trade job and buy a chicken farm, but I never took him seriously on that.

He probably didn't mean for me to take him seriously about working at the Board of Trade. You probably don't think of a machine gunner as singing. He sang, all right, in a low rollicking voice. His favorite songs were "All I Do Is Dream of You," which he always sang to me, and "For All We Know." When he was being funny, or winning at cards, he'd sing "Hey, Hey, How Am I Doin?"

He was more affectionate than you would think, although he did not like to show it. He didn't like others to show affection either. When we played cards, he collected a fine of a nickel each for a kiss and he made everyone pay up.

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