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Featured Article for January 2007

That Was the Weekend That Was

by Walt Brown

Two weeks before President Kennedy was killed, many Americans celebrated a "long" weekend, with "Armistice Day/Veteran's Day" falling on Monday, November 11. That Monday was also the only known day when Lee Oswald did not report for work at the Texas School Book Depository, as it was a federal holiday and there was no work to report to.

Oswald stayed at the Paine residence that weekend, through Monday, and went back to work with Buell Wesley Frazier on Tuesday morning. He then went to 1026 N. Beckley, where the landlady, Gladys C. Johnson, recalled that he paid his week's rent-usually due on a Mondaypromptly upon his arrival from work in the late afternoon.

Yet that "long weekend" poses a minefield of as-yet unanswered (in many cases "unasked" questions.

According to Ruth Paine's version of events, Oswald arrived at 2515 West 5th Street in Irving near the dinner hour on Friday, November 8. On Saturday, everyone -- Ruth, her kids, Lee, Marina and their two children -- all bundled into Mrs. Paine's 1955 Chevy station wagon and went to get Lee Oswald his driving permit papers. That office was closed, because voting was being held in Texas that day, so the troupe returned to the Paine household and stayed there, virtually continuously, except for a period of time on Sunday afternoon when Mrs. Paine gave Lee Oswald his final driving lesson. On Monday, everyone pretty much stayed around the house. Lee Oswald, future alleged presidential assassin, was wholly accounted for.

Except for six otherwise unaccounted-for events that also occurred on that weekend, and have a certain validity of truth behind them -- at least in an evidentiary sense.

On Friday, November 8, "Lee H. Oswald" wrote the famous "Dear Mr. Hunt" letter, and about all we know about that moment in time is that the handwriting certainly appears to be the script of so much other material -- conveniently available involving "Lee Oswald." Speculation as to the identity of "Mr. Hunt" usually narrows to either H.L. Hunt, or E. Howard Hunt, certainly not two chaps separated at birth, but equally certainly two blokes who had no real use, in any sense of the word, for John Kennedy.

Absent knowledge of the identity, however, there could have been other "Hunts," and the other item we do not know is when on November 8 the letter was written or IF it was, in fact, written that day. The oddity is that it was the weekend of November 8-11 that Lee Oswald used Mrs. Paine's typewriter extensively to write yet another letter to the Soviet Embassy in Washington, DC, regarding getting Marina back to mother Russia. When Mrs. Paine found the letter, she gave history a blessing by being the needle-nose snoop that she was, and she copied it for the record, of course.

Why didn't Oswald type the "Hunt" letter? Was it too urgent? Too private? Again, we'll probably never know, but it IS an event of that weekend that cannot be accounted for.

The other five events all featured eyewitnesses, and in some cases, a bevy of them. "Lee Oswald" got a haircut at "Clifton's Barbershop" on Friday night, went grocery shopping on Saturday morning with Marina and Ruth Paine, took a test-drive in a Mercury Comet Caliente at high speeds around Stemmons Freeway on Saturday afternoon, and finished his afternoon with some twilight rifle practice-only a few shots with auto lights showing his target. On Sunday, when he was getting his driving lesson from Ruth Paine, he was also, simultaneously, back at the rifle range, acting obnoxious (if obnoxious required the sophomoric Oswald TO "act").

Again, for the record, NONE of those things happened.

Clifton Shasteen, owner of Clifton's Barbershop, located about nine blocks from the Paine residence, testified before the Warren Commission that Oswald came in on approximately six occasions in the time frame before the assassination; on some occasions, he was accompanied by a young boy, age approximate 14, who spouted politics as if Oswald had taught him what to say. Shasteen positively identified Oswald, based on the photos of Oswald taken when he was distributing "Fair Play" leaflets on August 16 in front of the International Trade Mart run by Clay Shaw -- in New Orleans. Shasteen recalled that he had cut Oswald's hair three times, and his other barbers had done the rest. Yet Oswald only returned FROM New Orleans to the Irving, Texas, area on October 4, and to get six haircuts between October 4 and November 8, a period of five weeks, would require a haircut every 5.8 days. If there was one job I would not have wanted to earn a living at in 1963, it would have been as Oswald's barber, as he was a cheapskate, and one who was very careful as to how he doled out his financial largesse. He was not also highly valued for his personal grooming skills.

Yet an eyewitness gave him six haircuts and there was no evidence-except Ruth Paine-to counter the claim, and no corroboration, i.e., the other barbers, sought.

Saturday morning, November 9, Clifton Shasteen looked across the street to Hutch's Market, run by Leonard Hutchison. He saw "Oswald" along with a young woman, presumably Marina, and a slightly older woman, presumably Ruth Paine. Hutchison positively identified Oswald as the man he'd had numerous contacts with, as Oswald frequently bought milk and sweet rolls in the morning, and also tried to cash a $189 check -- on a Wednesday when "Oswald" would not have been in the Paine residence. Hutchison's testimony that Oswald regularly bought a gallon of milk brought a comment from Warren Commission Counsel Albert Jenner: "Now, the IRS might be interested in this." (Warren volumes, 10:337)

Hutchison also identified a woman who must have been Marguerite Oswald -- but she was never known to have been in the Paine neighborhood until the evening of November 22. Once again, it must not have happened, as nobody dug any further, and the "rumors and speculations" that Oswald was here and there are just that -- rumors and speculations.

A sidebar to that story is that Ruth Paine did, in fact, go grocery shopping after bringing Lee Oswald et al. back from the driving test disappointment. If so, and she testified to it, why would she have had to shop that morning also? While Ruth Paine was shopping and Lee was at her house writing a lengthy epistle to the Soviet Embassy, he was also visiting Downtown Lincoln Mercury, the vehicular epicenter of the JFK assassination. Under the watchful eye of Albert Guy Bogard, Oswald took a liking to a red Mercury Comet Caliente, and subsequently test-drove a salesman's demo vehicle, angering not only Bogard for the wild ride, but the salesman for using up all his gas (at nineteen cents a gallon, yet). "Oswald" did not have the down-payment, and Bogard approached his boss, Frank Pizzo, who saw Oswald briefly, but remembered him as a short individual. (The photos taken at the Trade Mart, for some convoluted reason, thereafter become Pizzo Exhibits No. 453 A, B, and C.) "Oswald" was positively identified at the Downtown Lincoln Mercury dealership, and Bogard, upon hearing the name "Lee Oswald" on November 22, 1963, tore up a business card that bore Oswald's name.

Half of the staff at the car dealership would subsequently help Bogard and the FBI dig through the dumpster in search of the card, but oddly, Bogard was NOT taken to a lineup to attempt an in-person identification of his potential prospect that day. (Shasteen and Hutchison were pretty much unknown in the 45 hours Oswald survived Dallas Police confinement, but Bogard was on the radar fast). He was also off the radar equally fast, as he died not long after leaving the dealership, and his death is one of the more credible "mystery witness deaths."

After the haircut, the shopping, and the joy ride, "Oswald" made two visits -- one each on Saturday, while he was having dinner elsewhere, and one on Sunday while Ruth Paine was teaching him -- well,trying to teach him -- how to drive, to the Sports Drome Rifle Range, which was not in the Paine neighborhood. (It, like the TSBD and the Fair Play for Cuba Committee went belly up after November 22...). There he was positively identified by Garland Slack, Malcolm Price, Dr. Homer Wood, and Dr. Wood's son Sterling. Sterling, knowledgeable about guns, asked "Oswald" if he was firing an Italian carbine, as it emitted a ball of fire and created heat each time it was fired. (The Carcano "found" at the Depository emitted NO ball of fire, according to FBI tests).

In addition to the cited witnesses, each one -- Price, Slack, and both Woods -- suggested that others were present who could have identified "Oswald" and might have remembered additional details about the old-model automobile he arrived in, or the fellow that was with him. He is not reported to have made the anti-JFK comment portrayed in "JFK," but he was careful to collect all the brass cartridge housings and leave behind no trace -- just a memorable face.

Shasteen, Hutchison, Bogard, Pizzo, Slack, Price, Dr. Woods, Sterling Woods -- eight people positively identified Lee Oswald during the weekend of November 811, 1963.

Ruth Paine gave him an alibi for all the so-called "events." The late Johnny Carson broke in as a game show host on a program called, "Who Do You Trust?"

That is clearly a fair question in this "episode." The Warren Commission trusted Ruth Paine and listened politely and then ignored eight witnesses, none of whom had an agenda beyond reporting what they observed.

"Rumors and Speculations...."

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