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The SDOHC is devoted to documenting the history of the Northern Plains region and the care of previously collected interviews.

Monday, December 12, 2011

From the Archives: SDOHP 2928 Face to Face with Baby Face [Nelson]

March 6, 1934 the Securities National Bank and Trust Co. of Sioux Falls, SD was robbed of about  $49,500 by the Dillinger Gang, which included Baby Face Nelson.  If this event or the people involved don't sound all that familiar to you, check out the most recent gangster movie produced by Hollywood, Public Enemies starring Johnny Depp as John Dillinger.  Or, for a more historical perspective, look below to listen to Leo Olson's telling of the fateful day when he was face to face with Baby Face Nelson as a Bank Examiner at the Securities National Bank and Trust Co.
Date of Interview: January 29, 1974

Excerpt from the SDOHP 2928 Audio Recording

Excerpt from the SDOHP 2928 Transcript

TA: ...ask a few questions
LO: Alright. [clears throat] Do you want me to talk about the holdup, or do you want my personal experience on the van?
TA: I want you to tell me as best you can about everything that happened the day that Dillinger robbed the bank, all of your experiences related to the robbery itself.
LO: Alright.
TA: But now I just, I let this run, for one purpose. I just want, to visit a little bit, to make sure I've got it loud enough so I'm taping your conversation on it.
LO: Do you want me to begin?
TA: Yeah, if you want to, and then we'll stop and then go back and listen to...
LO: Well, uh [clears throat] a customer of the bank came in and had a twenty dollar check, and said he wanted four five dollar bills, and just that time I heard him say, "Oh, cut out the baby playing," and he left, went up towards the front of the bank, and some fellow was following him. I stood there, and [clears throat] someone had turned on the, uh, burglar alarm. I had a burglar alarm outside, and you'd touch a button that you had hidden, or you could touch it off with your foot, by pulling up a little rod, and why don't someone turn the alarm off. Looking across on the other side I saw a man holding something. It looked like a gun, a short little gun. And two of the menn were holding their hands up in the air. Well, I don't know just exactly how it happened, but we had our regular cages. Of course, they don't use those now. And the doors slowly, and all of a sudden a man come in, and with his right elbow shoved me aside, and started to pick up the money from the money drawer.  And then our cages or counters we had the order you might say of a capital L, with the bottom of the L, or the working counter where the money came in through the windows. [clears throat] He seemed to know just where we kept our sort of, I might say, our reserve money because when we had five hundred dollars of fives, tens, or twenties we wrapped, we put a strap around them.
TA: Um hmm.
LO: And I had, and he seemed to know that, and when he had picked this out he said, "Is that all?" and I said, "Yup." [laughs] and he laid his revolver, his automatic revolver, on the counter. It was right beside me when I was standing back of him. Then he turned with his back toward me so I did not see his face when he said, "Get up there in front and stand so no one will get hurt." So I went out and stood out there in front with quite a few of the other boysm and I saw tellers come and go, and I was going to go in back with the rest of the crowd, but I though, "Well, I'll stand right up here in front. If they're gonna shoot, why, I might just as well get it first rate." And during this time someone, one of the men, had picked, had got hold of the head teller and he was in the vault, getting the money out of the safes that we had our money. Of course one of the, we used to change off and have the, and have on timers and change off back and forth so that in case we were held up they didn't get everything, although they did get forty six thousand dollars.  Then they came out, and then, uh, Baby Face Nelson as it was, I had seen him jump up on a desk, aside of the window, and I heard that, I guess you'd call 'em little tommy guns, or whatever they had short guns, and I saw him shoot though the window and he says, "I got that [pause]...
TA: ...and you got who?
LO: ...blankety blank cop." [...]

To read the rest of this transcript and/or listen to the full SDOHP 2928 interview,
please contact:  The South Dakota Oral History Center at

-Jennifer McIntyre, SDOHC Digitizer/Curator
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1 comment:

  1. Very interesting, just like being in the bank at the time of the robbery.
    Jim Ward, Pierre, SD