Response to Alberta and Laura

by Bob Spoo

Thanks, Alberta and Laura, for your responses and thoughts. Just a few of my own in collective response:

I haven't posted this material about Bailey and Duncan in the past. It's the product of recent research.

I'm not sure where the "street laborers" meme started. It wasn't Lion, so maybe it was Rich Johnson, but I haven't got the Davenport Album handy. Bailey almost certainly, and Duncan quite possibly, were employed at the time, not as street laborers. But both boys were involved in local activities and organizations that might have had them "working" in the community. Duncan was a Boy Scout and is known to have been involved in community work and such. Bailey was also involved in a lot of local charity and other works. In fact, a May 1918 article in the Davenport Democrat and Leader lists Bailey as one of a number of local boys who had enlisted in the "U.S. Boys Working Reserve," to be deployed on farms and perhaps other places to relieve the work shortage at the time. I'm not saying that the boys were performing charitable work across from Goddard's garage. That would be speculation. I'm just saying that "working" could mean lot of things for these 17-18 year old boys, given what we know about them.

Duncan bounced his checks in late 1926. It's possible, even probable, that he was currently expelled from high school when he identified Bix. But can we confidently say that this was the reason he fingered Bix? Of course not. If we're going to suggest that Duncan's delinquencies might have fueled a false identification to the police, similar logic might say that, well, a boy who had missed more than 50 days of school that year, was involved in drinking, and had been convicted of speeding might be a kid who would molest a young girl. That would be ridiculous. Moreover, Duncan would have had to persuade Bailey to lie along with him, and Bailey was a real straight arrow, so far as I can tell.

It's not "monstrous" to bring up this incident, nor is it "time to leave [Bix] alone." Rather, it's time that a really full, accurate, and objective account is written of what we know about the Ivens incident, and a lot more is known than when Sudhalter, Johnson, Lion, and Wolfe wrote. The only way to minimize speculation is to anchor our inferences in known facts. Speculation serves no one, least of all Bix.

Posted on Dec 2, 2017, 4:56 PM

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