Anchorage Russian Jack
Did you know that Russian Jack Elementary school and the Russian Jack area of Anchorage are all named after a notorious bootlegger?
His name was Jacob Marunenko. He also went by “Jack Marchin”, “John Marchin”, “M Marchin” and “Jake Marchin”… But “Russian Jack” was his nickname.
He was born in Parievka in Ukraine near Kiev. Sometime around 1912 to 1915 he immigrated and ended up in Halifax, Canada where he listed his residence as Princeton, British Columbia and his occupation as a laborer.
Tent City 1915
Russian Jack claimed to have arrived in Anchorage in 1915.
He worked on the railroad, then stayed in Anchorage doing a variety of things to make ends meet.
The Montana Pool Room on 4th Avenue
The picture above shows one of the “City Express” vehicles driven by Joe Spenard. But notice the “Montana Pool Room” in the background.
At one point, Russian Jack was the proprietor of the Montana Pool Room located at 435 4th Avenue, which was also his residence until 1922. But he either lost the business or had to get rid of it because he wasn’t a U.S. citizen.
Anchorage was Dry
Manufacturing or selling liquor was prohibited in Anchorage starting in 1915 and until 1933.
So bootlegging was a big business because illegal moonshine was all you could get.
Enter Russian Jack, the Bootlegger
Anchorage florist John Bagoy recalled actually seeing Russian Jack delivering liquor in broad daylight.
“He’d get a woman to push a baby buggy with a doll and a jug of moon underneath it.”
Russian Jack make his “squirrel juice” at a still on what would later become one of the largest parks in Anchorage. Russian Jack Springs Park.
His Cabin in the Woods
In the 1920s, Russian Jack built a cabin on a 320-acre tract of land near Anchorage, containing a large spring and plenty of trees. He was granted a permit to harvest the timber. But he wasn’t a citizen.
So, the homestead was actually in the names of two other Russian immigrants and Jack’s friends, Peter Toloff and Nicholas Darlopaulos. But the two never “proved up” on the land, so they lost it.
Just Like the Milkman
Russian Jack had a route for delivering his moonshine. Customers included not only local women of ill repute, but prominent citizens as well.
During the summer months, he ran his business from his cabin at Russian Jack Springs and in the winter, from a house on 5th Avenue between A and Barrow Streets.
In 1933, when prohibition ended, he moved his cabin closer to town on Second Avenue at the east end of town.
Convicted of Murder
In 1937, during an altercation, Russian Jack was accused of killing another man. He was found guilty and given a sentenced of two and a half years and sent to McNeil Island in Washington near Seattle.
Russian Jack Returns
Back in Anchorage, after serving his time, the following took place.
In 1948, during the Fur Rendezvous, City Mike’s Hotel and Cocktail Bar, North Star Liquor and the OK Barber Shop ran an ad in the Anchorage Daily Times.
They encouraged people to vote for Russian Jack.
He did not win… in fact, he came in last place.
Becoming a U.S. Citizen
Russian Jack became a U.S. Citizen in 1954 at the age of 70.
In 1959, he left Alaska and moved to Arvin, California near Bakersfield. At the age of 88, he passed away there and was placed in an unmarked grave.
Later, Anchorage florist John Bagoy traveled to Arvin and placed a marker on the grave of Jack “Russian Jack” Marchin.
Take a look at the fascinating story of Russian Jack and enjoy.
Mike and his brother once camped overnight in Russian Jack Springs in an Army pup tent…
And Mary and Mike have enjoyed the beautiful city Green House in Russian Jack Springs Park with their family.
Have you ever played golf there?
What do you think Russian Jack would have to say if he knew that an elementary school, a park, golf course and an entire community bear his nickname today?
We’d love to hear from you. Email us with your suggestions, comments or just to say, “hey”.
You can either reply to this email or you can Contact Us right now.
Until Next Time