DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – It was a pivotal moment in American history, right here in Dallas. President John Kennedy’s assassination in November of 1963. Fifty years later the city of Irving is opening a house it hopes will tell a part of the story many people don’t know; where Marina and Lee Harvey Oswald spent their last night together.
An unassuming two-bedroom home in south central Irving is preparing to retell its witness to history. It’s where Marina Oswald and her two babies were living that November, and where Lee Harvey Oswald visited her on weekends as he looked for work in New Orleans, and later took a job in Dallas.
“This is an emotional take on the assassination and the impact on peoples’ lives,” says Anne Toxey, PhD, of Toxey-McMillan Designs Associates, a company that designs and builds museum exhibits. The company is tasked with recreating the Irving house. Speaking in the room where Marina Oswald stayed, Toxey says, “She was a woman without means, without financial means, which is why she was staying here to begin with.”
Marina was living with another young mother of two, Ruth Paine. Now, the city of Irving is retrofitting the home to turn it into a museum to capture its look that fateful day. Patrick McMillan of Toxey-McMillan said the atmosphere they’re trying to create is not strictly academic.
“We’re trying to make it look like Ruth and Marina and the kids are still living here, like you’re back there. And they’ve just walked off, they’ve gone to the park and the house is just as they left it”
Paine helped pick colors and shared photos of where furniture belonged. Though the house has an early ’60s look, it will also have 21st century film projection on these glass screens, with actors uttering the actual words of Paine and the Oswalds’ using a technique known as “Pepper’s Ghost.” McMillan tells us, “They will be ghostly apparitions that will appear before you, and speak.” He adds the actors scripts are taken from verbatim news quotes. “We’re not making anything up. We’re using their words but we’re hiring actors who’ve done a bang-up job interpreting their roles.”
While most of the period furnishings had to come from estate sales or flea markets, there is one that is original to the house: a large speaker cabinet for Paine’s hi-fi sound system. And a ’60s television gets a new flat-screen inside to show news film of Kennedy that day.
The city plans to open a vistor’s center in the main library and set up guided tours of the home. “All these big human events start with very small human actions,” says city archivist Kevin Kendro. Speaking of Ruth Paine sheltering Marina Oswald, he said, “And she befriended Marina Oswald, and from that brought Lee Harvey Oswald into her home, into her life.”
Toxey and McMillan agree the exhibit is mostly from Paine’s point of view. “That’s our message,” says Toxey, “it could have happened to anybody, but it happened to this person, and that’s the story we’re telling… we’re trying to really talk about the characters. We want this to be emotive, we want you to empathize with the people. This is an emotional take on the assassination and the impact on peoples’ lives.”
” There’s a lot less material on Marina speaking and being interviewed, and so I don’t feel as though I know her as intimately but through Ruth — because Ruth spoke for her — I do feel as if I know the person.”
Ruth Paine now lives in California but will return to Irving to help dedicate the museum the first week in November. Marina Oswald, now Marina Oswald Porter, was not approached by the city out of respect for her privacy.
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