THE ANNOTATED GARAGE -
Bill Kelly’s Review of Thomas Mallon’s “Mrs. Paine’s Garage.”
The Ghosts in the Attic, the Skeletons in the Closet and the Best of What’s Left Out of Mrs. Paine’s Garage and the Assassination of President Kennedy by Thomas Mallon (Pantheon Books – Random House, 2001) By Bill Kelly.
The answers to the most outstanding questions concerning the crime of the last century aren’t in Thomas Mallon’s book, Mrs. Paine’s Garage and the Assassination of President Kennedy, though they say that the primary evidence and the main suspect were at one time lodged in her house, where there’s still ghosts in the attic and skeletons in the closet.
The first question that comes to mind is why Ruth and Michael Paine - the patrons and sponsors of the family of the man accused of killing President Kennedy, - how come they weren’t primary witnesses before the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) or the Assassinations Records Review Board (ARRB)? Certainly their testimony under oath should be on the public record, and the public shouldn’t be left with their lame Warren Commission testimony and now this book by a would-be novelist on a foundation scholarship who got his facts right but the story wrong.
Mallon wanted to write this book as a fictional novel, and while some literature often comes closer to the truth than the most factually detailed history, this isn’t one of them. It is to Mrs. Paine’s credit that in order to obtain her cooperation she insisted he write non-fiction, but somebody should have explained to Mallon that in writing such a thing he should use footnotes, document his sources and include an index.
While Mallon is more comfortable writing fiction, this case is not myth or legend, nor even history yet, as in the lifetime of living contemporaries it remains an unsolved homicide, and the contents of the Paine’s garage are not historical artifacts but are legally considered to be evidence in a murder case.
What became of the evidence and the contents of the garage is interesting and that the major questions still go unasked, let alone unanswered is typical of the perverted view exhibited by Mallon, who divides the world into two camps – the Conspiracy Theorists (CTs) and the Lone Nuts (LNs). Mallon is a LN, along with Ruth and Michael Paine, so he has sympathy with their plight, which is mitigated by the general belief that if there was a conspiracy, they too must have been involved.
That the ratio of those who know there was a conspiracy to those who believe in the Lone Nut thesis is 80% - 20% in favor of conspiracy doesn’t make this truth a democratic decision. Mallon’s book may be comforting to the LNs who want to believe Lee Harvey Oswald killed Kennedy on a “spur of the moment decision,” as Mrs. Paine puts it, but the evidence is supportive not only of the understanding of most rational people that there was a conspiracy, but that the assassination was a well planned and successfully executed coup d’etat.
Alas, the world is not so simple as to be divided into just two camps, as there is also a third group that includes those who keep an open mind about such things as who is responsible for shooting the President of the United States in the head, and they try to approach the case as a homicide detective would. As with the assassination of civil rights activist Medger Evers, whose killer was convicted over thirty years after the crime, and the Birmingham bombings, the Mississippi Freedom Rider murders, the York, Pennsylvania race riot killings and other political crimes of the 1960s, the murder of President Kennedy will eventually receive belated but necessary justice.
When the authorities came to her house with a search warrant, Mrs. Paine did what every red blooded American housewife would have done, she went shopping while the cops rooted through her garage and bedroom.
If Mrs. Paine was subjected to the same justice that the Military Tribunal dished out to those who assisted John W. Booth in his flight from Ford’s Theater after shooting President Lincoln, she would have been hanged whether she was part of the conspiracy or not. Indeed, as Philadelphia attorney Vincent Salandria has said, if there was true justice in this case, Ruth and Michael Paine would be indicted rather than treated as victims, and truth, if not justice, will be better served.
In the pursuit of justice, Mallon’s book adds little other than what it doesn’t tell us, which if examined closely, leads us closer to the truth for those that want to go there. Hopefully, justice will eventually follow. While most of the facts in “Mrs. Paine’s Garage” are correct, the best parts are left out, and the Big Lie is the Big Picture that portrays the alleged assassin’s family being taken care of by the generosity of Ruth Paine the Quaker, whose role as a Good Samaritan to the mad killer’s family was a coincidental accident of history.
The lie is laid out clearly in the dusk jacket notes: “Nearly forty years have passed since Mrs. Ruth Hyde Paine, a Quaker housewife in suburban Dallas, offered shelter and assistance to a young man named Lee Harvey Oswald and his Russian wife Marina….Mrs. Paine’s Garage is the tragic story of a well-intentioned women who found Oswald the job that put him six floors above Dealey Plaza – into which, on November 22, he fired a rifle he kept inside Mrs. Paine’s house. But this is also a tale of survival and resiliency: the story of a devote, open-hearted women who weathered a whirlwind of investigation, suspicion, and betrayal, and who refused to allow her enmeshment in the calamity of that November to crush her own life. Thomas Mallon gives us a disturbing account of generosity and secrets, of suppressed memories and tragic might-have-beens, of coincidences more errie than conspiracy theory…”
The entire premise of this book rests on the assumption that Lee Harvey Oswald is the assassin of the President. But what if it can be convincingly demonstrated that Oswald didn’t shoot anybody that day, and the alleged murder weapon was purposely left at the scene to implicate him in the crime? It doesn’t make any sense for him, as many LNs contend, that he killed the President to make a name for himself in history, but then deny the deed. When the evidence is looked at more closely than Mallon sees it, it is more than likely that Oswald was framed for the crime and was exactly what he claimed to be – “a patsy.”
But rather than take away the importance of Mrs. Paine’s role in the affair, “The Patsy’s Garage” makes its contents even more significant, as only your friends can set you up and frame you for a crime you didn’t commit. Which brings us back to Michael and Ruth Paine, at whose home the accused assassin spent the night before the murder, and where the rifle said have been used in the crime was kept in the garage, even though no one has yet admitted to ever actually seeing it there.
Although George Lardner of the Washington Post said in his review of Mallon’s book that the Paines weren’t questioned by the HSCA and ARRB because everyone was “satisfied with their Warren Commission testimony,” literally dozens of major issues remain unresolved, and the most frequent question the public asks Judge John Tunheim, the former chairman of the defunct Assassination Records Review Board is why the Paines weren’t deposed and questioned under oath. Both Tunheim and Mallon try to answer this question, Tunheim’s being that the ARRB, like the HSCA, just didn’t have the time, while the real answer is that the government doesn’t have the institutional willingness to ask the questions that it doesn’t want answered.
That doesn’t prevent us from asking them however, and the list of questionable issues regarding the Paines is long, but one day they may be answered.
For beginners, to believe the Lone Nut thesis, you must assume that Oswald killed the President by himself for his own perverted psychological reasons, that Oswald and his Russian wife met the Paines quite coincidently at a social party, that the Paines agreed to let Oswald’s family move into the Paine home and obtain room and board and driving lessons in exchange for Russian language lessons, that Ruth and Michael Paine never knew anything about a rifle even though Ruth transported the gun in her car from Texas to New Orleans and back again and Michael packed and unpacked the car on both occasions, and that Oswald got the job at the Texas School Book Depository (TSBD) quite innocently through Mrs. Paine’s morning neighborhood coffee klatch.
Of course the entire Lone Nut scenario falls apart if any one of these “coincidences” can be shown not to be so coincidental, and in fact all of them can be proven to be contrived. In order to address the most important issues I’ve set them up as Serials and placed them in the chronological order in which they occurred so we can better understand what is at stake, which is the bare bones, basic nature of democracy, truth and justice in America.
You would think that the first question would be how the Oswalds met the Paines [Serial #1], which was at a February, 1963 party first suggested by George DeMohrnschildts to Volkmar Schmidt [Neither of whom appear in “Mrs. Paine’s Garage”]. They thought that it would be interesting for Lee Harvey Oswald to meet Michael Paine, both of whom were interested in discussing “ideology.”
DeMohrnschildt, Oswald’s friend, and Schmidt, were both oil geologists with an interest in politics and psychology. Schmidt worked for Magnolia Oil Co., as did most of those who attended the party at Schmidt’s house, which he shared with Everett Glover and two other men - son of a director of Radio Free Europe Norman Fredricksen and Richard Pierce, both of whom worked for Magnolia Oil and are also missing from Mallon’s “Garage.” [Nor would Mallon be expected to know the interesting tidbit that the widow of the founder of Magnolia Oil married Jim Braden’s best friend and Braden would be taken into custody as a suspicious person at Dealey Plaza at the time of the assassination].
The odd thing about the party is that the host, Schmidt, and one of the guests of honor, Michael Paine, were no-shows, but Ruth Paine met Marina Oswald and they enjoyed talking together in Russian, setting up their relationship.
But there are two instances on record suggesting that there was a connection between Ruth Hyde Paine and Oswald before they met at this party, the first being Ohio police reports of Oswald attempting to enroll at Ruth Paine’s alma mater Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio [Serial #2- Antioch], before he had a high school diploma and before he joined the Marines. Yellow Springs is where Ruth Paine’s brother, a doctor, still lives, yet unquestioned about these things. The second instance is the Russian pen pal program that Ruth participated in [Serial #3 – Pen Pal], a program that was monitored by the intelligence agencies and is said to have included others participants that knew of Oswald’s defection to Russia after he was discharged from the Marines.
But it really isn’t Mrs. Paine we should be interested in, it’s her husband Michael, who owned the house and garage and is the principle character worth writing a book about.
Since Michael Paine didn’t meet Oswald at the previously arranged party, Ruth set up a dinner engagement for them to get acquainted, and since Oswald didn’t have a car, Michael drove from Irving to the Oswald’s apartment in Oak Cliff, Dallas, to pick them up. Although he didn’t mention it to the Warren Commission, a major bone of contention, Michael Paine did admit on a CBS TV special and to Mallon that he knew about the rifle from the first day he met Oswald because Oswald showed him the famous photo [Serial #4 Back Yard Photo] – later found in the Paine garage, of Oswald with the rifle, pistol and two communist publications, one The Worker, the official publication of the Trotskite Socialist Workers Party.
Leon Trotsky, one of the leaders of the Bolshevick revolution and the Communist Party in Russia, was exiled to Mexico City and executed there by Soviet trained assassin Ramon Mercader.
When Oswald and Michael Paine discussed this “Trotskite” publication, Paine quoted Oswald as saying, “You have to read between the lines to understand what they want you do.” Well you have to read between the lines of Mallon’s book too, if you want to learn the truth, as I will try to fill in the blanks he leaves out.
That Michael Paine and Lee Oswald would talk about communist ideology is a given, yet, it is inconceivable to me, that while talking about such “ideology,” as George DeMohrenschildt and Volkmar Schmidt expected them to do, [Serial #5 – Lyman Paine] Paine didn’t bother to tell Oswald, the self-proclaimed “Trotskite,” that his father – Lyman Paine was the founder of the Trotskite political party in the United States.
Both DeMohrenschiltd and Volkmar Schmidt, who met Oswald at another Magnolia Oil party, and Michael Paine, talked to Oswald [Serial #6 – Walker Shooting] about shooting General Walker, Schmidt before and DeMohrenschildt and Paine shortly after someone – ostensibly Oswald, took a pot shot and barely missed killing Walker.
After that incident Oswald decided to relocate back to his hometown New Orleans. When Mrs. Paine drove the family to the Dallas bus station, Mrs. Paine suddenly suggested that Marina and the baby stay with her until Oswald got settled with an apartment and a job and then she would drive them there, which was quickly agreed upon. [Serial #6 – Rifle Movement] Because Oswald didn’t take the rifle on the bus with him, Mrs. Paine must have drove the rifle to New Orleans, and then back again the following October, when she drove Marina, the baby and the belongings, including the rifle to Texas, while Oswald went to Mexico City.
Michael Paine packed the car for the trip to New Orleans and unpacked it when they returned, yet testified he didn’t know there was a rifle among the effects, saying that he suspected the gun wrapped in a blanket was “camping equipment,” which was kept stored in the garage.
Mallon’s book has one photo – on the dust cover jacket – of Mrs. Paine, Marina Oswald and her two children and Oswald’s mother Margarete in the Paine kitchen, while a non-published photo of the Paine garage shows how cluttered it was. One of the Paine’s three cars, a 1956 Chevy station wagon with a luggage rack on the roof, was kept parked in the driveway in front of the garage. [Serial #7- Oswald’s Driving]. Although it is often claimed Oswald didn’t drive, Mrs. Paine’s Warren Commission testimony is quite clear on this – she gave him lessons, he knew how to drive, he knew where she kept the keys to the car and he did drive, much to Mrs. Paine horror, sans insurance.
Among the other evidence found in the garage was [Serial #8 Blanket] the blanket that that rifle was supposedly kept wrapped in, another photo of Oswald with the guns and magazines, and [Serial #9 – Minox Cameras] a Minox camera, which Michael Paine later claimed as his own. In the house were other items of evidence, including a [Serial #10] typewriter that Oswald used to write a letter to the Soviet Embassy, a book that contained [Serial #11 – Letter] a letter Oswald wrote to Marina with instructions on what to do if he was caught after the Walker shooting incident, and one of three of [Serial #12 – Wallets] Oswald’s wallets.
Then there’s what Mallon appropriately calls “The Limbo Hour,” between the time of the assassination and the apprehension of Oswald, shortly after which Michael Paine is overheard talking on the telephone with either his father or his wife, and someone says that they know Oswald didn’t do it and know who is REALLY responsible, but we are left in the dark as to who that responsible party is.
In a review of the evidence against Oswald, it’s apparent that it comes down to the rifle.
Although no one has said that they actually saw the rifle in the garage, the blanket the gun was supposedly wrapped in was mentioned by Michael Paine, Ruth Paine and Marina, but for some reason that should catch the attention of homicide investigators, the well oiled and greased gun that was wrapped in the blanket not only didn’t have any clear fingerprints, but it didn’t have any microscopic fibers from the blanket, a practical impossibility.
If you read the Warren Report on the fiber evidence, they found ONE single fiber on the stock of the rifle that DID NOT match the blanket, even in color, but the FBI forensic lab specialist testified COULD HAVE come from the shirt Oswald had on at the time of his arrest. It’s just a shame he changed his shirt after the shooting so that wasn’t the shirt that he had on when JFK was shot. To me, that’s a plant, as the FBI didn’t know
Oswald changed his shirt at the time.
While the photo of Oswald, the rifle, blanket, photos and Oswald letters to Marina and the Soviet Embassy are discussed in Mallon’s book, the Minox cameras, multiple wallets and other questionable points are ignored completely.
Nor does Mallon bring out the full character in the slew of interesting characters that populate this story, beginning with Ruth and Michael Paine, Michael Paine’s father Lyman Paine and mother – Ruth Forbes Paine Young, her friend and traveling companion Mary Bancroft, Michael’s main mentor, step-father and Bell Helicopter inventor Arthur Young, Marina’s biographer Priscilla Johnson McMillan, and their joint association with the World Federalists, whose founder Cord Meyer, Jr., was head of the CIA’s domestic contacts division and later International Organizations Division chief under Alan Dulles.
The bottom line is that if JFK was killed by a lone, deranged nut case, then the President’s death would be an accidental, unconnected anomaly and unrelated to the policies, politics and character of the man or the office of the Presidency. We have such killers in our history – such as Howard Unruh, who snapped and killed 13 neighbors in a killing spree, but Oswald isn’t one of those type of killers, as Ruth and Michael Paine and practically everyone who knew him has acknowledged.
If the accused assassin is Lee Harvey Oswald – the former Civil Air Patrol cadet, USMC radar operator, trained in electronics, interrogation techniques and the Russian language, owned a Minox camera, the guy who defected to Soviet Russia, lived there for two years and returned with a Russian wife, went to Mexico City and knew exposed covert operators like David Ferrie, Clay Shaw, George DeMohrenschildt, Volkmar Schmidt, Ruth and Michael Paine and took a pot shot at General Walker, all before he was 24 years old, then the assassination MO – modus operandi was that of a clear and clean cut covert operation conducted by an state controlled intelligence network. If Oswald had anything at all to do with the assassination, he fits the Operational Profile and could not and did not commit the assassination on his own, as all intelligence analysists knew from the moment they knew his background.
As Ruth Paine herself briefly suspected, as she testified to the Warren Commission that Oswald didn’t “live” on Neeley Street, but that, like an agent, he was “operating from a base at 214 Neeley Street,” and posed the question herself: “I may say, also, I wondered, as I had already indicated to the Commission, I had wondered, from time to time, whether this (Lee Harvey Oswald) was a man who was working as a spy or in any way (was) a threat to the nation, and this thought,…I am interested to know if this is a real thing or something unreal. And I waited to see if I would learn anymore about it. But this thought crossed my mind.”
I too am interested to know if this is a real thing or something unreal, and would like to learn more about it, as this same thought has crossed my mind, and I look forward to having Michael and Ruth Paine help answer the important outstanding questions. But since the answers aren’t in Mallon’s book, we’ll have to look for the truth somewhere else.