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  • Matt Crumpton

Ep 29: Young Oswald (Part 1)

Updated: Apr 23

In this Season 2 of Solving JFK, we’ll try to answer the question, “Who Was Lee Harvey Oswald, Really?” To do that, we’ll look at Oswald’s life growing up, his time in the Marines, his defection to the Soviet Union, and his time in Dallas, New Orleans, and Mexico City. We’ll hear from Warren Report defenders and critics about the characters allegedly surrounding Oswald, like Guy Banister, David Ferrie, George De Mohrenschildt, and Ruth Paine to name a few.

In this episode, we start at the beginning of the story. What was Lee Harvey Oswald like as a kid? Are there any inconsistencies in the documentation of Oswald’s childhood that raise questions? What can we learn from studying the young Oswald?

Birth to Benbrook

Lee Harvey Oswald was born on October 18, 1939 in New Orleans to Marguerite Claverie Oswald. His father, Robert E Lee Oswald, died from a heart attack two months before Lee was born.[1] Lee had two older brothers: Robert Oswald, and his half-brother, John Pic, from Marguerite’s first marriage to Edward John Pic.[2]

Oswald’s mother sent brothers, Robert and John, to live at an orphanage when Lee was a baby. She wanted to send Lee, but he was too young to be accepted.[3] So Lee lived with his mom until he was three years old. At that time, his mom sent him to the orphanage to live with his brothers on the day after Christmas of 1942.[4]

In 1944, two years after she dropped off all of her sons at the orphanage, Marguerite Oswald checked out Lee, Robert, and John from that same orphanage and regained custody of them. She then moved - with her three sons - from New Orleans to Dallas because she had started a relationship with Edwin Ekdahl who lived in Dallas.[5] On May 7, 1945, Marguerite and Edwin Ekdahl were married.[6]

In October of 1945, the Ekdahl’s moved from Dallas to Benbrook, a suburb southwest of Fort Worth. They rented a home on Granbury Road. And this is where we have the first evidentiary anomaly in the background of Lee Harvey Oswald.

As a six year old, Oswald enrolled in first grade at Benbrook Common School, where he attended from October 31, 1945 to January 15, 1946. Oswald’s enrollment form for Benbrook Common School lists Oswald’s address while attending Benbrook (when the Warren Report said he lived on Granbury Road) as “Worth Hotel” and “7408 Ewing”.[7] And while it makes sense that a hotel may be listed as an initial contact location when the Ekdahl’s first moved to town and were looking for places to live, there is no explanation for how 7408 Ewing could have been written down.

And what’s really weird is that 7408 Ewing isn’t just some random address. It’s the house that the Oswalds lived in starting in August of 1948, two years after Oswald was no longer enrolled at Benbrook Common School.[8] Why would a 1945 school contact form list the address for a house Oswald would go on to live in years LATER? Is this just a strange coincidence? It might be. I don’t have a good answer.

San Saba to 7408 Ewing (2nd Grade – 6th Grade)

On July 7, 1947, while she was still married to Edwin Ekdahl, Marguerite Oswald bought a new home at 101 San Saba in Benbrook.[9] Georgia Bell lived next door to Marguerite at 100 San Saba. Bell moved in to the home in July of 1947, around the same time when Marguerite bought the home. Bell remembered that Marguerite Oswald had few clothes and did not own a car when she moved in. She got rides to get groceries from another neighbor – Lucille Hubbard. Bell remembered that Hubbard’s son played with Lee Oswald around the neighborhood. The Oswalds moved out of 101 San Saba around Thanksgiving 1947.[10]

With San Saba, another question arises about the timeline of the houses Oswald lived in. If Oswald lived at 101 San Saba from July to November of 1947, he should have still been attending the nearby Benbrook Common School, half a mile away. But during the Fall of 1947, Oswald actually went to school at Lilly B Clayton Elementary in Fort Worth – more than 10 miles away from 101 San Saba - according to school records.[11]

Oswald’s half brother, John Pic, told the Warren Commission that during the entire summer of 1947, the family lived at 1505 8th avenue in Fort Worth. Pic remembered this because he worked at the nearby Tex Gold Ice Cream Parlor at the time.[12] The house at 1505 8th avenue was less than half a mile from Lilly B Clayton Elementary.

The proximity of 1505 8th Avenue to Lilly B Clayton and the ice cream parlor where John Pic worked makes it unclear as to how the Oswalds could have lived at 101 San Saba at the same time during the late Summer and Fall of 1947. Indeed, the summary of addresses of Oswald in the Warren Commission’s CE 1963 does not even mention San Saba. It says that Oswald lived at 1505 8th Avenue for all of 1947. The problem is that we have the proof that she bought the property at 101 San Saba in the form of Tarrant County land records, and the statement from next door neighbor, Georgia Bell and also antoher neighbor who delt with Marguerite, Otis Carleton. There is also an FBI report on 101 San Saba that says that Marguerite Oswald occupied 101 San Saba before moving to 3300 Willing. This FBI report was written within 48 hours of the assassination.[13]

I wanted to get more clarity about this period of time. So, I went to the Warren Commission testimony of Robert Oswald to see what he had to say. Unfortunately, when counsel Albert Jenner began to ask Robert about the Summer of 1947, commissioner Allen Dulles asked for an adjournment. When the interview resumed on the record, Jenner began with QUOTE “This brought us through the Summer of 1948, I believe” – which Robert Oswald confirmed.[14] Of course, this omission doesn’t prove anything.

But, for Warren Report critics, it’s one more sign that there is something strange going on. Marguerite Oswald was not asked about San Saba and did not mention it during her Warren Commission testimony. John Pic wasn’t any help either. He told the Warren Commission quote “I don’t know nothing about San Saba.”[15]

On June 15, 1948, Marguerite’s divorce from Ekdahl was finalized. Months earlier she had caught Ekdahl with his mistress.[16] After the divorce, John Pic and Robert Oswald were sent back to the Chamberlain Hunt Military Academy in Port Gibson Mississippi.[17] Marguerite and Lee then moved to 3300 Willing Street, which required Oswald to transfer to George Clark Elementary School, where he finished 2nd grade.[18] Oswald then attended Arlington Heights Elementary School for third grade while living at 3300 Willing.[19] We don’t know from the record why he switched from George Clark Elementary to Arlington Heights if he didn’t move.

On September 15, 1948, Marguerite, Lee, Robert, and John Pic, moved into a house at 7408 Ewing. This is the same address that mysteriously appeared on Oswald’s 1st grade records at Benbrook Common School two years earlier. The next year, Oswald once again moved to another new school, this time to Ridglea West Elementary for 4th grade. Oswald then had the most consistent stint in his education career - completing three years in a row at Ridglea West Elementary - and graduating from 6th grade in May of 1951.[20]

Welcome To New York

In August 1952, after Robert had already left home for the marines and John was in the Coast Guard, Marguerite uprooted Lee from Fort Worth to move to New York City. She wanted to see her son, John, who was stationed with the Coast Guard there. She also wanted to meet John’s new wife and baby. At first, Marguerite and Lee stayed with John, his wife, and their newborn in a tiny Upper East Side apartment.[21]

One day during this period, Pic’s wife, Marge, told Oswald to turn the volume down on the TV. Oswald said no and then threatened her with a knife. Then, when Marguerite intervened, 12 year old Oswald punched his mom in the face. After this incident, Marguerite and Lee were asked to move out of the Pic’s apartment. After that, they briefly lived in a one room basement apartment in the Bronx.[22]

There is conflicting evidence in the record about where Oswald went to 7th grade in New York. Marguerite told the Warren Commission QUOTE “I enrolled him in the Lutheran School which took him approximately an hour or longer by subway to get there. It was quite a distance.”[23] But John Pic said QUOTE “Mother took him to enroll in this school. I think this is a public school in New York City located on about 89th or 90th street between 3rd avenue and 2nd avenue. Pic told the FBI the same thing.[24]

The closest public school in New York City to the area described by John Pic was the Vocational School (PS 66) located at 88th and 1st avenue. There are no records showing that Oswald attended that school. There are no records from the Trinity Lutheran school in the Bronx either, which show that Oswald attended.[25] On one hand, it’s hard to believe someone would have their 7th grader take the subway an hour to and from school each day alone. But, then again, we’re talking about a lady who thought it was okay to use an orphanage as a day care. So, who knows? Ultimately, there are no records of Oswald’s 7th grade attendance for the month of September 1952.

After Marguerite and Lee moved out of John Pic’s apartment, they lived at 1455 Sheridan, Apt F in the Bronx. Lee then enrolled at PS 117 in the Bronx on September 30, 1952. This raises the question of “why would Lee move to the Bronx, nearby the Lutheran School he was supposedly traveling an hour each way to attend, and then enroll in a different school once he got to the Bronx?”

New York Truancy

At PS 117 in 7th grade, Oswald began to consistently miss large blocks of school days for the first time. He attended only 16 days and missed a whopping 48 days at PS 117. This missed time at school resulted in a truancy hearing on January 14th, 1953 where Marguerite was told that she had to take action to get Lee to go to school, or else the Board of Education would.[26] Lee’s last day at PS 117 was 2 days later on January 16th.

Around that time, Lee and Marguerite moved again to Apt 3C, 325 East 179th Street in the Bronx. Their new apartment was in the PS 44 school district. From January 16 (his last day at PS 117) until the end of the school year, Oswald attended his new school – PS 44 for only 16 out of 64 days – or 25 percent of the time.[27]

On April 15, 1953, a follow up hearing was held at the Bronx Children’s court regarding Oswald’s truancy. Oswald admitted to skipping school and was immediately remanded to Youth House, which is basically juvenile detention, for 3 weeks of psychiatric observation.[28] During this time at Youth House, we have two more unexplainable discrepancies with the record.

First, Marguerite Oswald told the Warren Commission that when Lee was taken into custody for excessive truancy, he was placed in Warwick Home for Boys, which was in an old home in Brooklyn. But, the record reflects that Oswald was placed in Youth House in lower Manhattan.[29] I understand that witnesses forget details, but it sounds like Marguerite is talking about a different place. Maybe its nothing.

Second, and more confusing, on April 16, when Oswald was already detained at Youth House, Officer Felicia Shpritzer, who worked out of the Bathgate Avenue station in the Bronx, picked up a young boy and charged him with Truancy. The boy was identified as Lee Harvey Oswald. Officer Shpritzer then served him with the outstanding warrant for truancy.[30] But, this is physically impossible because Oswald was already at Youth House on April 16.

While Oswald was at Youth House, he saw a psychiatrist, Dr. Renatus Hartogs, who diagnosed Oswald with “personality pattern disturbance with schizoid features and passive-aggressive tendencies.” Despite the diagnosis, Dr. Hartogs did not recommend that Oswald be placed in an institution.[31] In May of 1953, after spending 3 weeks at Youth House, Oswald was released and returned to school at PS 44, where his grades improved for the remainder of the seventh grade school year.[32] On September 14, 1953, Lee entered the eighth grade at PS 44.[33]

On September 24th, 1953, Marguerite called Oswald’s probation officer, John Carro, to tell him that she didn’t think it was necessary for Oswald to attend the hearing scheduled that day because QUOTE “he had been elected class president and was now well-adjusted.”[34] Carro then followed up with the school, who wrote a report on Oswald saying that he QUOTE “did little work, wouldn’t support the flag, and spent most of his time sailing paper airplanes around the room.”[35] Ultimately, in hearings on October 29 and November 19, Judge Dudley Sicher determined that Oswald was in need of treatment.

But, Marguerite had no intention of allowing Lee to be placed into custody once again. She told the court on December 17 that the family was moving to New Jersey. And just like that, Lee Harvey Oswald’s time in the New York juvenile system was over once he was out of the jurisdiction.[36]

In reality, Marguerite and Lee didn’t move to New Jersey. They went back to New Orleans.

Where Was Oswald The Second Half of 1953?

According to the Warren Report, Marguerite and Lee Oswald left New York City to return to New Orleans in January 1954.[37] And, as we just discussed, there is a lot of evidence to support the idea that Oswald was in New York City until very early in 1954. In addition to all of the Children’s Court hearings in the Fall of 1953, we also know that Marguerite and Lee were in New York from Marguerite’s employment record. She worked at Lady Orva Hosiery until December 26, 1953. Also, Lee was sick at school on Jan 4, 1954 at PS 44, according to the school health record, which means they still had to be in New York then.[38]

So, there is a very strong record to demonstrate that Oswald stayed in New York until early January 1954. That’s why it is so strange that there is also evidence of Oswald being in North Dakota in the Summer of 1953 for a prolonged period of time and of Oswald attending Beauregard Junior High School in New Orleans in the Fall of 1953, when the evidence points to him being in New York.

Twelve year old Henry Timmer was staying with his grandmother in Stanley, North Dakota for the summer of 1953. According to a December 27, 1963 FBI Report, Timmer came forward to the FBI to tell them that he remembered meeting Lee Harvey Oswald that summer when he was riding bikes in the local park with some other kids and saw Oswald there. Oswald introduced himself as Harvey. Timmer said that he hung out with Oswald about 6 different times that Summer. Oswald told the boys he was a gang member in New York City and talked about gang fights where members used razor blades in potatoes as weapons.[39]

Timmer said he remembered Oswald because he was the first person he met from the big city. He also remembered that Oswald’s bike had no chain guard on it and his pant leg would always get stuck in it.

Notably, Timmer says, 14 year old Harvey Oswald talked about Communism and showed Timmer a pamphlet about Karl Marx. He event told Timmer once “Someday I am going to kill the president and that will show them.” Timmer told his mom about this, who said he couldn’t play with Oswald anymore.[40]

When Timmer saw Oswald’s photo in the papers after the assassination he was certain that it was the same person he had met in Stanley, ND ten years earlier. BUT, the problem with Timmer’s story is that the FBI checked Marguerite Oswald’s employment records from Lady Orva Hosiery in NYC and she worked there continuously from May-December 1953. There was no pay period where she missed or was noted as being on vacation. That means Marguerite and Lee could not have been in North Dakota.

So, is Timmer just mistaken? Maybe he is. But, there is one more piece of evidence that indicates that Oswald was briefly in North Dakota in the Summer of 1953. Oswald gave an interview to Aline Mosby when he was in Moscow in 1959 to ask him about his defection. Mosby took handwritten notes about where Oswald lived for this interview. In the notes, Mosby writes the letters “ND” after “NY” when discussing the chronology of where Oswald lived. However, Aline Mosby retyped the notes for the Warren Commission and changed ND to NO for New Orleans.[41] It isn’t clear whether this was a typo or was intentional. The Warren Report’s position is that Oswald never lived in North Dakota at any time.

Now, there is not a lot of evidence to demonstrate that Oswald was actually in New Orleans in the Fall of 1953. Still, the one piece of evidence that exists is hard to explain. On page 817 of Warren Commission volume 22, you will find Lee Harvey Oswald’s 1953-54 report card at Beauregard Junior High School. The first line shows the Fall Semester. It notes that Oswald was there for 89 days.[42] But, remember, we know that there is ample evidence that Oswald lived in New York until early January. He can’t be in New Orleans for 89 days in the Fall of 1953.

The easiest explanation is that this document is simply incorrect. But, it’s a report card for 4 semesters (Fall of 1953-Spring of 1955) over two years of school. I don’t know how someone could get the number of days in the Fall wrong in that way – assuming this was a true and accurate document. The Beauregard Report Card showing that Oswald was present for 89 days in the Fall of 1953 is an evidentiary anomaly that I can’t explain.

All of the original Oswald New York juvenile detention records, psychiatric records and school records disappeared while in the custody of the FBI. There are only copies of those documents now.[43] On top of that, all of the Beauregard Junior High records are missing, leaving us with only copies.[44] With all of the evidentiary anomalies in this case, the FBI opened itself to claims by Warren Report critics that they altered the copied versions of the documents, given that the FBI lost all of the originals of all of the documents I just mentioned.

NEXT TIME ON SOLVING JFK: We’ll continue looking at Oswald’s time in junior high and high school. Did he attend Stripling Junior High in Fort Worth? Was he in the civil air patrol with David Ferrie as a kid?

If you heard anything that you believe is out of context, or if you have additional information to offer, you can let us know Please provide citations to the record for any fact cited.

[1] Gerald Posner, Case Closed, at 5-6. [2] Id. [3] Id. [4] Id. [5] Id. [6] John Armstrong, Harvey & Lee, at 21; Marriage Certificate of Marguerite Oswald and Edwin Ekdahl obtained at the National Archives, at 52-06 on CD Rom [7] CD 897, p 461 [8] CE 1963 (noting an even later move-in date of February 1949 for 7408 Ewing) [9] Armstrong at 26. [10] Id. at 27. [11] Id. at 28. [12] Warren Commission Testimony of John Pic;, at 26. [13] Memorandum from John Hart Ely to Jenner/Liebeler on March 16, 1964, p4, footnote 27. [14] Warren Commission Testimony of Robert Oswald, [15] John Pic Testimony at 29 - [16] Id. [17] Armstrong at 23. [18] Id. at 33. [19] Id. at 34. [20] Id. at 38. [21] Posner at 10. [22] Id. [23] Armstrong at 47. [24] Id. at 46. [25] Id. at 48. [26] Id. at 50. [27] Id. at 49. [28] Id. at 53. [29] Id. at 54. [30] Alfred Robbins, New York Journal American, Section 7, p 1; Police Seek Data on Oswald in the Bronx, New York Times, December 2, 1963, p7 [31] Posner at 13. [32] Warren Report, p 10. [33] Id. at 679. [34] Armstrong at 74. [35] Id. at 75. [36] Id. at 76. [37] Warren Report, p 10. [38] Memo from John Hart Ely to Jenner/Liebeler, 3/16/64, p 19. [39] Armstrong at 70. [40] Id. [41] Id. at 71-72. [42] Warren Report, Volume 22, page 817. [43] Armstrong at 64. [44] Id. at 74.

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