The Texas Theatre: last steps of a free man

theatre
It’s probably one of the most famous cinema’s in world history: the Texas Theatre in Dallas. Here, at 231 West Jefferson Boulevard, Lee Harvey Oswald was taken into custody after a struggle with Dallas police officers. The freedom of the 24-year-old alleged murderer of president John F. Kennedy was hereby ended, for good. Intrigued by November 22 1963 like many others, it was a special moment for me visiting the place in the summer of 2011.

By MIKE BOESCHOTEN

My heartbeat is going a little faster when I see the two double red doors right in front of me, separated by the ticket box office. Almost fully protected by the roof above the entrance, I still feel the Texas sun burning on my t-shirt. Today’s weather in Dallas isn’t a picnic for the faint hearted, that’s for sure. Funny though: constructed in 1931, the Texas Theatre was the first cinema in town with air conditioning. I could use some right now. I am approaching the doors and decide to go for the right one. Will it open? Could it?

Postal and Brewer
I try not to think about the possible disappointment that is waiting for me: a closed door and no glimpse of the cinema where Lee Harvey Oswald spended his last moments as a free citizen. I walk forward pass the box office, the place where Julia Postal worked on that historic day 48 years ago. Postal was the one to call the police after she was alerted by John Calvin Brewer. Working in a shoe store closeby he spotted Oswald entering the cinema without paying. In 2011 Brewer was honored by the Dallas Police Department during a ceremony at the theater. He received the department’s Citizen’s Certificate of Merit.

The door opens
2011This is it, there is no way back now. No guts, no glorie. I stretch my right arm for touching history. The door opens. I immediately look behind me, with a mix of joy and disbelieve on my face. I am not alone on this mission. If it wasn’t for my good friend and fellow journalist Stan Bos I probably wouldn’t even be here right now. This man drinks, eats and sleeps the United States and pursuaded me to go on a road trip with him from east to west. For two man sharing the JFK-fascination it should not come as a surprise that this theatre was on the list.

Reopening in 2010
Finally, I am in the Texas Theatre. I expect to be sent away any second now by some guard or frustrated manager, but there’s no need to panic. A friendly young man welcomes us in the lobby. It seemed the Texas Theatre reopened its doors in 2010 and is still a alive and kicking. That wasn’t always the case, after several closings due to high mortgages and a fire in 1995. In 2003 The Texas Theatre has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places, after The Oak Cliff Foundation purchased the historic building in 2001.

War is Hell
Although inside, we are not there yet. We need to conquer one more door on our right hand to go in the actual room where Oswald watched ‘War is Hell’, an award winning black and white movie about the Korean war. It was one of the two main features in the theater that Friday November 22nd 1963. We get permission to accomplish our mission. I enter the dark, empty cinema, and see the dark red seats. I walk through the aisle and end up standing on the podium just a few inches away from the moviescreen.

His arrest
On the way back I find the seat where Oswald sat, third row from the rear. We hear that the formation is not exactly the same as in 1963, but I can’t be that far from the actual place where the arrest toke place. I lean back and think of that moment. At approximately 1:45 p.m. near fiftheen officers of the Dallas Police Department entered The Texas Theatre in search of their suspect, who was accused of killing agent J.D. Tippit earlier that afternoon in Oak Cliff. After a brief struggle Oswald was handcuffed by officer Nick McDonald and transported to the Dallas Police Department. Being only two years older than Oswald at the time I can’t imagine what it must have been like for this guy. Back to reality. We have to go. We thank the Texas Theatre-employee and heading for the Texas sun again. Luckily without handcuffs.

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