CPD blast from the past

By Matt Smith/msmith@trcle.comCleburne Times Review

Arlington resident Richard Borisenko poses with his 1937 Dodge D-7, which he refurbished to resemble a Cleburne squad car. Mannequins resembling Bonnie and Clyde sit in the back seat of the car. (Photo: Matt Smith/CTR)

An old-timey Cleburne cop car has been turning heads around town of late and has become a hit with area officers and residents.

“This is awesome,” Wichita Falls resident Dan Howell said. “This is really incredible, nice, very nice.”

Howell happened to be in Cleburne on Friday when the car and its owner, Arlington resident Richard Borisenko, paid a visit to the Times-Review.

Spotting the car parked on South Anglin Street, Howell stopped to get a closer look as did several motorists passing by and three Cleburne officers including former CPD Chief and current Deputy City Manager Rob Severance.

Such attention is par for the course, Borisenko said.

“Anytime I’m out driving around I notice people are paying more attention to the car than they are to their driving,” Borisenko said. “Once, while I was driving in Fort Worth, I was pulled over by a Fort Worth police car, but only because the officers wanted to take their pictures with my police car.”

Borisenko purchased the 1937 Dodge D-7 off of the Internet about two years ago, initially simply hoping to refurbish an old car.

A red light sat atop the car and a siren on the front left fender when Borisenko picked it up. The front driver and passenger doors sported Bell County Sheriff’s Office decals. Borisenko said he’s not sure if the car was ever used as an actual police car or whether an earlier owner simply outfitted it to look like one.

 “My thought was that I would remove all the police items,” Borisenko said.

Overwhelming public fascination with the car quickly curtailed those plans, resulting in Borisenko’s decision to maintain it as a police car.

“It was pretty rough when I got it,” Borisenko said. “The chrome was all black. There was no emblem on the front, no gauges and the interior wasn’t great. I put all that in, added an air conditioner, activated the siren and red lights and for the last two years pretty much worked on it everyday doing something little some days and big other days.”

For effect, Borisenko added fake bullet holes to the car’s doors and windows and outfitted the vehicle with Mickey Thompson machine guns, also fake. The crowning touch, however, comes courtesy of the placement of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow in the back seat, actually two mannequins dressed like Bonnie and Clyde.

“Just wanted to put someone in the back seat and thought why not Bonnie and Clyde,” Borisenko said. “And they’ve been a big hit with everyone.”

The Dodge has collected much attention, several car show awards and featured in parades and other events throughout North Texas.

The Dodge has been the subject of several Arlington photo shoots near the entrance off the former Top O’ Hill Terrace, which sat off the old Bankhead Highway.

The infamous locale operated as a legitimate restaurant from the ’20s to the ’40s. The addition of a basement in the ’30s led to Top O’ Hill’s legend thanks to the accompanying addition of gambling and a brothel, according to ntdsc.org.

Secret rooms, escape tunnels and guards posted outside allowed the party to continue unimpeded by police interference until a 1947 raid finally shut the place down. Noted regulars during Top O’ Hill’s heyday included Howard Hughes, Jack Ruby, Clark Gable, Mae West and the aforementioned Bonnie and Clyde.

The Top O’ Hill site is now home to Arlington Baptist College.

Why Cleburne?

A chance meeting with Severance at an event in Arlington several months ago inspired Borisenko to change the Dodge’s door decals to a vintage Cleburne Police Department logo.

The decals are true to those affixed to CPD cars in the early ’70s, according to pictures located by CPD Assistant Chief Danny Rogers and Lt. Gary Moseley, the department’s unofficial historian.

“I have probably the last known copy of [that logo] in my office and Borisenko came down and photographed it so he could reproduce it,” Rogers said. “Those old decals were kind of awful looking on the old cars because the officers tended to drive around with the window down and their arm out the window. They used to pick at those decals with their thumb and scrape away the top of the eagle’s head and wings.”

Whether the logo was used one CPD squad cars in the ‘30s remains unknown, both said. They said they hope to someday track down photos from that period which could clarify the matter.

It is also unknown, Rogers said, whether the department used Dodge automobiles in those days but it is also not out of the question.

“I’m not sure what they drove back then,” Rogers said. “When I first started we had Dodges, Fords, Chevys, a mix of everything.”

CPD Officer Donnie Riddell, who stopped by the Times-Review to check the car out on Friday said it’s possible CPD officers patrolled the town in Dodges back in the day.

“Yeah, that’s what the revenuers used to chase after the bootleggers back then,” Riddell joked.

Borisenko happily posed in front of his car while holding up the May 23, 1934, edition of the Times-Review.

“Clyde and Bonnie are shot to death,” the somewhat awkward sounding headline reads. Borisenko wonders aloud whether Bonnie and Clyde ever passed through Cleburne.

In fact they did, several months before their deaths, according to CPD records uncovered by Moseley.

The outlaw lovebird’s car broke down on Lane Prairie east of Texas 174. Bonnie stayed put while Clyde walked back to Cleburne to steal a replacement car. CPD Officer Roy Lay gave chase but his motorcycle’s tire went flat before he could catch Barrow.

Severance invited Borisenko to bring his car back on Dec. 4 for Cleburne’s Lighted Christmas Parade. Schedule allowing, Borisenko said he’d be thrilled to do so.

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