Then and Now: Theater where Oswald was arrested is home to living history

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by DAVID SCHECHTER

WFAA

Posted on October 10, 2013 at 11:05 AM

Updated Monday, Nov 18 at 5:44 PM

DALLAS — When the world finally saw Lee Harvey Oswald, his bruised face looked like it'd been on the wrong end of a bar fight.

But it didn’t happen in a bar, of course. It happened in the Texas Theatre.

"I think the Texas Theatre is one of the most famous theaters in a American history. It's up there with Ford's Theatre," said John Slate, the archivist for the City of Dallas.

Today, the Texas Theatre is a quirky, hipster paradise running a mix of both film festivals and Hollywood blockbusters.

"You can come in; you can hang out; you can get a drink,” said co-owner Barak Epstein.

Fifty years ago, the Texas Theatre was a threadbare movie palace, well past its prime. On November 22, 1963, after assassinating President John F. Kennedy and killing Dallas police Officer J.D. Tippett, Oswald ran inside without paying.

He had a gun.

"I don't think he was there but a few minutes,” said Slate.

In the dark, the police approached Oswald.

"Well, it's all over now," Oswald said, according to police reports filed after the arrest.

Then the arresting officers left their mark on history — and his face.

"You can see the big shiner that he got from the cops that there was a quite scuffle in the seats,” Slate said.

Less than a year later, the rundown theater was remodeled. The old and ornate was covered with elaborate Spanish stucco.

And even as patrons abandoned inner-city theaters over the years, it's likely the infamy of Oswald’s arrest kept the Texas Theatre from the wrecking ball.

"People want to come and see the chair. That's great. We'll show them the chair, if there's not a screening going on,” Epstein said.

How’s that for living history?

E-mail dschechter@wfaa.com

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