Ruby turns his attention to fighting the growing Nazi movement in the U.S. Jack and some of his friends like to disrupt rallies of the German-American Bund, an organization formed in 1936 to help promote the image of Nazi Germany in America. The Bund group holds marches and rallies similar to Hitler’s rallies in Germany. They usually include the American flag next to the German-American Bund flag at their rallies to make it seem like they are a democratic organization.
Ruby’s group is not political. It’s more about fighting anti-Semitism, or, more likely, about fighting in general. Usually, a group of Jewish pool hall toughs from the neighborhood have a few beers then hit the streets to harass the Bunds at their meetings. Ruby hates Nazis and doesn’t mind attacking anyone he thinks is sympathetic to their cause. He is personally responsible for “cracking a few heads” of Bund members.
In 1941, Ruby becomes a partner in a new business venture called the Spartan Novelty Company. Other partners include his brother Earl Ruby, Harry Epstein, Martin Gimpel and Martin Shargol. All the partners travel throughout the northeastern U.S. selling small cedar chests containing candy and gambling devices known as punchboards.
While Ruby is selling punchboards in New York in November, 1941, he renews his relationship with Virginia Belasco, his ex-girlfriend who has moved from San Francisco to New York. He goes to see her every weekend while he’s in New York. Ruby fancies himself a “ladies’ man” and likes having a woman on his arm, even if he’s not romantically involved with her. Appearances are everything to Ruby.
The War Profiteer
On December 7, 1941, Japan attacks Pearl Harbor. Ruby puts his cedar chest sales on hold and rushes back to Chicago, leaving Virginia Belasco behind for good. Patriotic fervor sweeps the nation, and Ruby thinks he can capitalize financially. He and several friends go in together to design and sell plaques commemorating the “Day of Infamy.” However, the venture is impeded by Ruby’s perfectionistic approach to details of design which result in constant production delays. By the time Ruby’s plaque is finally ready for sale, the market is flooded with similar items.
Ruby then turns to selling busts of Franklin D. Roosevelt but finds it equally daunting. In November, 1942, Ruby is forced to take a full-time job, first with the Globe Auto Glass Company, and later with the Universal Sales Company. With so many young men away fighting the war, jobs are easier to come by, and Ruby is able to be more selective about his employment. The problem is, Ruby hates working for somebody else. He wants to be his own boss.
Ruby likes to act patriotic. However, he’s not such a patriot when it comes to fighting for his country. Ruby does everything possible to avoid military service. First, he tries feigning a hearing disability, citing the fact that he occasionally wears a hearing aid. But the ruse doesn’t work, and he is given a 1-A draft classification, which means he can be drafted any day. Then he appeals his 1-A draft based on his age and wins. He is reclassified as 1-H (being over the age of 28 and no longer required to serve). When that classification is abolished in 1942, he requests a deferment based on financial hardship for the family. The draft board grants his deferment, and he is reclassified a second time to 3-A.
But as the war in Europe and the Pacific continues to rage, there’s a need for more and more troops. Draft boards across the nation begin reclassifying people to keep up with demand. Early in 1943, Ruby is reclassified l-A. Following one last appearance before his appeal board, he is inducted into the U.S. Army Air Force on May 21, 1943. Jack is the last of the Rubenstein brothers to enter the service. Previously, Earl had enlisted in the Navy, Sam was in Army Air Force Intelligence and Hyman was in the field artillery.
He’s in the Army Now.
Ruby goes to an Army Air Force base in Farmingdale, New York, on Long Island, for basic training. At the age of 34, he’s the oldest soldier in his group and has to work extra hard to keep up with the younger men. As they are running an obstacle course loaded down with gear, he lags behind. His drill sergeant begins to berate him and calling him a “weak old geezer.” In spite of his age, Ruby makes it through basic training. He passes his marksmanship test with the .30 caliber carbine and the .45 caliber submachine gun.
Something odd happens when Ruby completes his basic training. In August, 1943, Ruby goes to a base in Mississippi for four months of military police training. However, Ruby never becomes a military policeman even though he has supposedly received four months of training for the job. Instead, he is sent to North Carolina for advanced training in aircraft mechanics. Of course, stranger things have happened with military assignments.
From September 5, 1943 through February 15, 1944, Ruby is at the 793 Technical School Squadron at Seymour Johnson Field, North Carolina. During these five months, he receives general instruction on aircraft mechanics to prepare him to specialize in reconnaissance aircraft mechanics. To receive his specialized reconnaissance aircraft mechanics training, he is transferred on February 15, 1944, to the 18th AAF Technical Training Detachment, Republic Aviation Crops, Farmingdale, Long Island, New York. He is there about five weeks, until March 23, 1944.
In effect, Ruby is sent directly to the Republic Aviation factory, where the U.S. Army Air Corps Intelligence is developing the first two prototypes of a promising photo reconnaissance aircraft being tested at that time for use in the Pacific Theater.
After that, Ruby goes on leave for 19 days, from March 24, 1944, until April 11, 1944. During this time, Ruby makes a trip to Muncie, Indiana.
He then returns to Bluethenthal Field, North Carolina, near Seymour Johnson, where he was previously stationed. He is there from April 26, 1944, to June 7, 1944. He is assigned to the 321st Fighter Squadron. His unit is called “D-2 Static Crew Section.”
Curiously, at this same time, Ruby is reported to be regularly attending meetings of the communist party in Muncie, Indiana, more than 850 miles away. A man named George William Fehrenbach swears that Ruby was there. The meetings take place on the third floor of a commercial building located on Walnut Street in Muncie, Indiana. Fehrenbach works on the second floor of the building and remembers the meetings. Fehrenbach thinks Ruby is in the military, even though he’s not wearing a uniform. Ruby attends at least four meetings in Muncie during September and October, 1943, and March and April, 1944. Fehrenbach also thinks that Ruby is a member of the communist party.
However, Fehrenbach seems to be the only person in the building who remembers Ruby being there. Other employees in the building and members of the communist party who attended the meetings don’t remember Ruby’s name or recognize his picture when they are questioned by the Warren Commission in 1964.
Some of his military buddies say that Ruby works harder to prove he can keep up. At 34, he’s older than the other men in his company. However, one airman who doesn’t particularly like Ruby says that Ruby hates working as a mechanic and does everything he can to avoid getting his hands dirty.
Ruby also is hyper sensitive to disparaging comments about Jews. One incident in North Carolina illustrates that. It’s after hours in the barracks, and Ruby is in a crap game with four other soldiers. Ruby is on a winning streak. After he rolls a seven for the third straight time, one of the other players gets mad and calls Ruby a “kike bastard.” Ruby flies into a rage and attacks the man. Before the others can separate the two, Ruby beats the man senseless.
Ruby continues his promotional ventures while he’s in the service. In 1944, one of his partners back in Chicago sends him a large quantity of punchboards and chocolates for him to peddle on the base to earn extra money.
On the surface, Ruby’s time in the military is uneventful. He is discharged on February 21, 1946, with the rank of private first class and a good conduct medal.
Back in Business
Following his discharge, Ruby returns to Chicago and joins his three brothers in a new venture called the Earl Products Co. The company manufactures and markets small cedar chests, aluminum salt and pepper shakers, keychains, bottle openers, screwdrivers, and small hammers. Earl Ruby uses his own money to start the business and magnanimously gives Jack, Hyman and Sam a share of the company when they return from military service. Sam supervises the manufacturing end of the business, while Earl manages the office. Jack is in charge of sales.
But the company doesn’t do well from the outset, and the brothers soon start to bicker with one another. Jack causes most of the problems because he insists on selling other products, such as costume jewelry. Also, Jack doesn’t like having to travel outside the Chicago area, although he doesn’t seem to object to making an occasional 5-hour bus ride to Muncie, Indiana. As it turns out, Jack has other things on the agenda besides selling knick-knacks for Earl Products.
Hyman doesn’t like working with Jack and leaves the company after six months. Earl and Sam finally get fed up with Jack and buy him out in 1947. They pay him more than $14,000 in cash, which, at the time, is a sizable sum.
During this same time frame, the Rubensteins officially change their names to Ruby. Earl and Sam legally change their names from Rubenstein to Ruby in November, 1947. Earl says he’s changing his name because everyone calls him Ruby anyway. Also, a business advisor suggests that it’s probably not wise to use a “Jewish name” on mail order sales for Earl Products.
Jack waits to change his name. That’s because Ruby has been doing work on the side for Congressman Richard Nixon of California who’s running the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) in the House of Representatives. Jack was hired as an undercover informant under the name of Jacob Rubenstein, and he doesn’t want to do anything that might draw attention to himself.
Not long after he’s hired by Nixon, Jack legally changes his name. On December 30, 1947 Jacob Leon Rubenstein becomes Jack Leon Ruby. Shortly after he gets a new name, he gets a new girlfriend. He begins dating Alice Reaves Nichols, a blonde divorcee 4 years his junior, whom he continues to date until 1958.
At the time, Communist paranoia is at a fever pitch in America. Ordinary citizens are encouraged to spy on their friends and neighbors and report anyone suspicious of being a Communist. Part of Ruby’s job with HUAC involves monitoring the activities of the Communist party in and around Chicago. Members of the Chicago party regularly attend larger meetings outside the Chicago area, most often in the town of Muncie, Indiana, where Jack may have gone for meetings while he was in the Army Air Force. Following his release from the military, Ruby continues to attend communist party meetings in Muncie. Now, however, he is posing as a freelance correspondent for the Communist newspaper, The Daily Worker. Ruby reports news from these meetings not to The Daily Worker, but to the office of Congressman Richard Nixon in Washington, D.C.
For some strange reason, Ruby is hired by Nixon at the request of Texas Congressman Lyndon B. Johnson. No one seems to know why or how this came about.
Ruby Moves to Dallas
In December, 1947, Jack Ruby relocates to Dallas at the request of his sister, Eva Grant, who had moved to Dallas two years earlier. Eva owns and operates a nightclub called the Singapore Supper Club, and she needs Jack’s help in running it. The club is located at 1717 South Ervay. When Eva opened the club in 1945, it was a much nicer neighborhood. Now, it’s a neighborhood in transition, and Eva thinks the club is too nice for the surrounding area. She’s right.
Jack and his brothers had helped finance the club when Eva first opened. The money Jack put in came from the sale of his interest in Earl Products. This was Jack’s first foray into the nightclub business. It would be the first in a long string of financial failures in similar ventures over the next sixteen years.
When Ruby first arrives in Dallas, he and Eva jointly manage the club. But that arrangement quickly sours. Jack has his own ideas about how the club should be run, and he and Eva begin to bicker. It takes Eva just a little over a year to have her fill of working with Jack, and in January, 1949, she gives him the keys and the power of attorney and walks away from the Singapore Supper Club. She heads to Los Angeles where she remains for the next ten years.
Ruby, who had received $14,000 from the sale of his interest in Earl Products a couple of years earlier, burns through it all as he tries to keep the club afloat. Jack doesn’t use a bank. He carries his cash with him, paying expenses and debts directly out of club receipts. To help protect his cash, Ruby buys a handgun which he carries with him everywhere he goes.