What I Did On My Summer Vacation

by Marvel Goose on July 8, 2009

Picture of the History of American Tragedy Museum

Goose’s Note: This originally appeared on the pre-blog Goose’s Nest in July of 1998. I will be porting them over from time to time for those who would like to read them; I hope you enjoy reading them and reminiscing – I mean, we all play foxy bingo (www.foxybingo.com) and watch old re-runs for the nostalgia, so why not blog posts?

The faded and poorly lettered sign out front proclaims that this building on Williams Street in St Augustine, Florida is the “Tragedy in American History Museum”. The writer in me automatically smoothed that crudely constructed name into “The Museum of American Tragedy” while my cynical side translated it as “Tourist Trap! Grab Your Wallet”.

As was obvious from the first steps inside, the museum is the story of one acne-scarred man, his quest to build a shrine to morbid curiosity, and his forlorn hopes of making a killing off of the Kennedy assassination. Prominently posted in the foyer are newspaper articles detailing his numerous battles with City Hall over the original zoning permit. Irony rears when The St. Augustine City Council terms the proposed museum to be in bad taste – this in a city that houses such monuments to high culture as Ripley’s Believe It or Not!, The Fountain of Youth, and the completely fake Zayorda Castle.

Believe It or Not, a judge had to rule that bad taste was not against the law in St. Augustine.

In the front room is an old white ambulance that has several notarized and framed documents hanging in the windows to assure you that what you are looking at is indeed the vehicle that transported the dying Lee Harvey Oswald from the basement of the Dallas City Jail to Parkland Memorial Hospital.

The second vehicle in that room belonged at one time to a man who used it to drive Oswald to his house to pick up some “curtain rods” and take them to the Texas School Book Depository. This valuable car (“used to carry the death weapon!”) was sold to the owner of the museum for the princely sum of $10 in 1964.

At this point, I believe that our man’s money ran out. The next room holds a Lincoln Limousine from the White House that is the “same model that was favored by President Kennedy when he participated in parades”. Kennedy may have sat in the car at one time, but the hard facts are lost to history — what an American tragedy. I hope he did not pay much more than $10 for this car, too.

There is a jacket that might have been worn by James Dean, but the original owner who sold it to our man is not sure. Just so it looks authentic, the original mailing carton used to ship the jacket to the museum is included in the display. Yes, we are pulling out the “Tragedy Helper” from the pantry here at the History of American Tragedy Museum.

We also have run out of things to see inside. In the backyard are several plaster cows. Maybe the eating of beef is a tragedy of the American Diet, maybe the owner is really a Hindu sickened by the daily bovine slaughter in America, or maybe, just maybe, he got them cheaply at a yard sale. In any case, the cows are looking stupider than their live cousins.

Jane Mansfield’s death car is next to the cows — an udderly unintentional visual pun. Before she was brutally killed in an auto accident, as the accompanying newspaper articles point out, Miss Mansfield was a Hollywood sexpot famous for titillation — she never bared her voluptuous breasts in public. If you are reading this, Lindsey Lohan, please pay attention.

There is also a car just like the one that Bonnie and Clyde were in when they were killed. To make things more authentic, the owner had the car shot full of holes — that must have been fun. He did resist the temptation to pour ketchup on the interior. Why he resisted I do not know – that is obviously a story reserved for the History of American Mystery Museum.

Update: The man who owned the museum died and his family sold off the collection for a song. The man who bought the ambulance turned around and sold it for a $100,000.00 profit the same day. Now that was a tragedy!

Credit Where Credit is Due: The picture of the museum comes to you courtesy of the Whatahoot blog where you will find many, many pictures of the museum in its hey day. A hat tip to them for preserving a vital part of well, something or the other.

Really ironic: As releases of CIA documents in the late 1990’s show, Oswald wasn’t the assassin of JFK. He was just a patsy manuvered into place to take the blame and be killed.


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