You're never too old to have fun. Just look at Jack Russell taking a spin on the Bug ride at Euclid Beach Park in the summer of 1961. A veteran Democratic councilman, Russell held annual Ward 16 picnics at Euclid Beach during his time on Cleveland City Council from 1943 to 1971. But Russell’s rides on the Bug were for more than just thrills. He rode with a purpose.
A prime example of the machine politics then humming along in Cleveland, Russell, the son of Austro-Hungarian immigrants, was actively involved in his Hungarian-American community in the Buckeye neighborhood. Despite changing his name from Paul Ruschak in the 1930s — a move to become more “American” — Russell was deeply rooted in his ethnic community. Some of his most prominent political events were the annual Night in Budapest celebrations, which brought attention to Hungarian culture with a slew of traditional foods, music and performers.
Although his background won over many Eastern Europeans, Russell received intense criticism from other citizens in his constituency. And Russell, an avid collector of prize-wall photographs showing him with presidents from Franklin D. Roosevelt to Lyndon B. Johnson, was ever aware of any slight to his public persona. His summer picnics at Euclid Beach Park became a successful play to boost his image, sway voters and consolidate power. He held office for 28 consecutive years and died in 1979.