CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — 58 years ago, President John F Kennedy was gunned down in the streets of Dallas. That tragedy is a pivotal moment in American history and you can find a very unique connection to that shooting right here in Virginia.
Inside a Chesterfield auto repair shop, you’ll find Frank Badalson’s prized possession.
“This is a 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air station wagon,” he said.
It’s in desperate need of a paint job. The original interior is weathered with age and no one knows if the car even works!
“The last time it ran was 1981,” Badalson said.
For Badalson, this Chevy is perfect as is because its unchanged since it carried its most infamous driver- Lee Harvey Oswald.
The man who assassinated John F. Kennedy once drove the car.
As the story goes — in 1963, Lee Harvey Oswald and his wife Marina befriended a woman named Ruth Paine.
Paine helped Oswald get a job at the Texas School Book depository. But he didn’t know how to drive.
So in the fall of that year, Paine took Oswald out on the weekends in her car to teach him.
“She allowed him to drive it one time from the house to the shopping center. Other than that, all his driving time were lessons in the parking lot,” Badalson said.
Not only did this car carry Oswald. It carried an important part of this tragedy in the back.
“This car ultimately transported the rifle that assassinated the president on several occasions,” Badalson said.
Oswald kept the rifle in a marine duffle bag, unbeknownst to Paine.
“She had no idea. No one, no one, the FBI, no secret service,” Badalson said.
Badalson is quite an expert on this history but 8News also contacted the original owner of the car — Paine.
Paine lives in California.
“He could be prickly and he did argue with Marina and he wanted only to speak Russian,” recalled Paine. “He never had anybody call or come to the house or anything like that. He was pretty much a loner.”
Paine was religious, charitable, and happy to help Oswald learn to drive.
“He only wanted to speak Russian to me and I said, ‘Well I can’t teach you driving in Russian because I don’t know the words,’” Paine laughed.
Paine says Oswald never got the hang of driving.
“He’d do things like he turned a corner, a right angle corner and overshoot, in other words, he wouldn’t know when to pull out of the turn. It was clear just he hadn’t practiced, he didn’t know,” Paine said.
She never imagined he was capable of such violence.
“I was very angry about it and very hurt and distraught that Kennedy had been killed,” she said. “We just didn’t know that he was that crazy.”
She doesn’t live with regrets.
“I don’t find it useful to pick out things that I should have done differently, really,” she said.
Paine has no idea what Oswald would’ve done with his life if he hadn’t shot the president. But she recalls he was dedicated to his family.
“He tried to be a father and he cared about his little girls,” Paine said.
She remembered when the police came to her home after the assassination.
“One of the things they did was ask me if he had a gun and I said no and I translated it to Marina who said yes he did and took us to the garage and the police picked up this blanket roll that was empty,” she remembered.
Paine was just an ordinary woman with an ordinary car. Both are now inextricably linked to one of the darkest days in American history.
Ruth Paine often shares her story with groups.
She feels its important to clear the air of any conspiracies –because she’s confident Oswald acted alone.
You can see the car for yourself at Hancock Automotive on Iron Bridge Road.