Albin Karpowicz, the son of John and Anna Karpowicz, honest, hard-working immigrants from Lithuania via England and Canada to the USA, was born in Montreal, Canada in 1908.
The eldest child, Mihalin had been born in London, England. Albins sister Emily was born, after him, in Grand rapids, Michigan and his youngest sister, Clara, in Topeka, Kansas.
In Topeka, an elementary schoolteacher shortened his name to Alvin Karpis, because she claimed it was easier to manage. He kept the new name for the rest of his life.
Early 'Grade 8 Gang'
A few years ago a customer, Sharon Kaufman, ordered a copy of "On the Rock" and asked me to autograph it to her son, Roger. She explained that her father, Oren Baker, Roger's grandfather, had been a student in grade 8 with Alvin Karpis, and had been invited to join young Alvin's gang of criminal classmates.
"A young Alvin Karpis from an old newspaper photo discovered by James Pauff"
Last year, I had another request for an autographed copy of "On the Rock." This was from Sharon's brother, Gene Baker, aka "Dirty Dog." Gene was kind enough to send me the newspaper photo of Alvin's grade 8 class (below) at Branner School. The class photo was taken on January 26th, 1923, (Alvin would have been 14 years old), in Topeka, Kansas. (It first appeared in a newspaper, The State Journal.) Alvin is in the front row left (circled). Oren Baker is in the back row (right), also circled. Gene, Sharon, and their sister, Rosemarie Lee, relate the following anecdote, as their father, Oren Baker, described it to them.
Oren Baker, nicknamed 'Bake,' used to hang out with Alvin and their buddies doing whatever boys did back then. Alvin was starting to get into plenty of trouble at that time, and had formed a little gang of delinquents who stole anything of value - such as local chickens. One day, Alvin invited Oren Baker to join his gang. Oren replied that he wasn't sure he wanted to, but he would sleep on it. The next day, Oren approached Alvin and explained that he decided not to get involved. Alvin's reply to the rejection was: "That's ok Bake, we don't need you anyway." That was when they parted ways.
The Path Not Taken
Oren Baker went on to become a minister. Gene reports that after his sister, Rosemarie, read this website, she commented: "Most interesting. I noticed the 33 years in prison; and Dad served as minister for 33 years. What a difference Christ makes in a life."
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