By Marice Richter
DALLAS (Reuters) - The suburban Dallas home where Lee Harvey Oswald spent the night before he assassinated U.S. President John F. Kennedy opened as a museum on Wednesday ahead of the 50th anniversary of the shooting later in November.
Oswald stored the rifle he used to kill Kennedy in the garage at the modest tract house owned by Michael and Ruth Paine in a middle-class neighborhood of Irving, Texas.
Its notoriety has continued to draw curiosity seekers ever since, so the city of Irving bought the house in 2009 and restored it to its 1963 appearance, down to the single-pane windows typical of that era.
"We're trying to tell the human side of this story," said Kevin Kendro, Irving's archives coordinator. "The story of the assassination is filled with huge characters but here were two housewives doing ordinary things and taking care of their children but got caught up in it."
Oswald's wife, Marina, had met Ruth Paine at a party for Russian immigrants earlier in 1963 and the two became good friends. Marina lived with Paine while Oswald looked for work in New Orleans. Marina joined Oswald that summer in New Orleans, but they moved back to Texas when he lost his job.
Ruth Paine offered Marina a place to stay while awaiting the birth of her second child. Meanwhile, Oswald moved into a rooming house along a bus route to his job at the Texas Book Depository in downtown Dallas.
Oswald typically spent weekends with Marina at the Paine house. But he arrived unexpected on Thursday, November 21, the evening before the assassination.
Ruth Paine, 81, who moved from the home in 1966 and now lives in California, said nothing seemed out of the ordinary that evening or the next morning.
"Lee went to work and we watched the news about the president's visit in Fort Worth," Paine told Reuters. "I went to the dentist with the kids and watched the coverage of the motorcade afterwards."
Paine and Marina learned of the assassination from television news coverage.
"We had no clue that Lee was involved until the police showed up that afternoon," she said.
Paine also said she didn't know that Oswald's rifle was in the garage until she translated the officer's question for Marina, who pointed to a blanket where he concealed it. The gun was missing, she said.
The museum interprets the discovery and other details of the women's lives through re-enactments projected on glass screens.
"They really did an excellent job," Paine said. "At first, I couldn't understand why anyone cared about all this but now I'm convinced they do."
(Reporting by Marice Richter; Editing by David Bailey and Lisa Shumaker)