The History Page on the Jack in the Box web site shows the photo above and says "In 1951, a businessman named Robert O. Peterson opened the first Jack in the Box® restaurant in San Diego on the main east-west thoroughfare leading into city. Equipped with an intercom system and drive-thru window, the tiny restaurant served up hamburgers to passing motorists for just 18 cents, while a large jack-in-the-box clown kept watch from the roof."

I'll assume that east-west thoroughfare was El Cajon Blvd.

This snippet from the 1952 San Diego City Directory shows who was in business in the 6300 block of El Cajon Blvd. in 1951.  Jack in the Box is actually listed as Oscar's Jack in the Box

John -- It appears that you were correct to point out that the El Cajon Blvd location for Jack in the Box was the first to open.  As you might have recalled, this where we hung out on Friday nights after the Crawford football games.  Robert Oscar Peterson, who ultimately started the Jack in the Box chain,  already owned several successful restaurants when he opened Topsy's Drive-In at 6270 El Cajon Boulevard in San Diego in 1941.  Several more Topsy's were opened.  By the late 1940s, Peterson's locations had developed a circus-like décor featuring drawings of a starry-eyed clown.  In 1947, Peterson obtained rights for the intercom ordering concept from George Manos who owned one location named Chatterbox in Anchorage, Alaska, the first known location to use the intercom concept for drive-up windows.  In 1951, Peterson converted the El Cajon Boulevard location into Jack in the Box, a hamburger stand focused on drive-through service.  While the drive-through concept was not new, Jack in the Box innovated a two-way intercom system, the first major chain to use an intercom and the first to focus on drive-through.  The intercom allowed much faster service than a traditional drive-up window; while one customer was being served at the window, a second and even a third customer's order could be taken and prepared. A giant clown projected from the roof, and a smaller clown head sat atop the intercom, where a sign said, "Pull forward, Jack will speak to you."  The Jack in the Box restaurant was conceived as a "modern food machine," designed by La Jolla, California master architect Russell Forester.  Quick service made the new location very popular, and soon all of Oscar's locations were redesigned with intercoms and rechristened Jack in the Box restaurants.  Thanks once again for the memories -- Larry Slayen 62


Advertisements from the 1954 San Diego State Daily Aztec:
"Jacque" from October 1st; "Jaime" from October 8th

Iris Jean Wilson

I was thrilled in 4th grade to take Iris Jean Wilson on dates here several times. We'd bike from her house on Mary Lane at Rockford, just over half a mile. The sky was the limit -- we'd both get a burger, fries, and a coke, my treat. I think it was 37 cents each. I thought the food was great, not to mention the ambience, and my date was cute as could be -- Bob Richardson '61

(I heard of rich kids like you, but never actually met any -- JF)

I worked at Jack 16, in North Park east of Pep Boys, for Mr Peterson in 1965. The 805 wiped that area out when it was built. I remember being paid $1.05 a hour. My first paycheck was missing 15˘ an hour. When I asked about it, I was told they took the 15˘ out for the food we ate. After that I ate a lot of the fried shrimp. Back then they had fried shrimp and fried chicken dinners. About two months after starting at Jack's I applied and got a job at Gordon & Smith Surfboards glossing boards. I went in and gave Mr Peterson two weeks notice. He offered me a manager’s job at a $1.25 a hour. I told him if he made it $2.50 a hour, like G & S was going to pay, me I'd stay. I remember his words to this day "I'm not paying that kinda money. You’re fired!! Get the hell out of here now". Wow was he mad --
Terry Hall ’64

My oldest brother, Ronnie, worked at 63rd and El Cajon in the mid-‘50s when he was in high school. He worked for Peterson and finally quit when he went to SDSC in '58 because the grease that collected on his arms and face gave him acne. Bob Peterson tried to talk him out of it but he smartly decided to go into ROTC, the Air Force, and real estate. As a kid I could get a burger, malt, and fries for about 55 cents. That would have been in the mid to late ‘50s. Also, like Bob Z said, it was THE hot spot for Friday/Saturday action during the early-mid ‘60s. Lot's of "sex/booze/and rocknroll" every week. We called the burger joint, "Jack's"...remember that? --
Lee Cook '66

Remember when Joel Zane and other members of the class of '62 used to work at jack in the Box. They all made 'suicides' for us: three different kinds of soft drinks over ice!! Makes you wonder how any of us ended up WITHOUT diabetes – Marcy MacDonald ‘62

(No -- But I remember when Joel opened the trunk of his 1957 Chevy in the parking lot behind Jack in the Box and introduced me to Jack Daniels. Quite a change from my previous experience with alcohol: Cheracol cough syrup -- JF)

I worked at the first Jack in the Box on 63rd and El Cajon Blvd -- the one pictured above. All the Jacks were numbered in order of when they opened. I worked at "Jack 13", which was on Mission Gorge Rd. The store on 63rd and El Cajon was of, of course, "Jack 1". We used to trade food with the guys across El Cajon Blvd. who worked at the KFC. After about 1000 free burgers with secret sauce some KFC chicken was quite a treat -- Michael Ace ‘66

This was the first Jacks. I worked there in high school -- John McGuire '67

This is the one on El Cajon Blvd At 63rd. I lived back on Estelle. When my parents were working on the house in 1951, we went to the jack in the box for lunch or a quick dinner a lot. The top picture as you mentioned was taken in the ‘60s. Just look at the cars. I remember them changing the clown. I think this is not the original clown head. I think we also "dined" at the Aztec diner at the corner of college and El Cajon. They had carhop service. During my college days, I worked at the Wilshire gas station down the street. Sometimes I would walk home via the Jack in the Box, and get some of their greasy tacos. I could down three before I got home -- Pat Chambers ‘60

In the ‘50s hamburgers were 19 cents at Don's on 54th and El Cajon. We would sometimes walk up to Don's after school on our way home and buy a 19-cent hamburger with our lunch money. We only bought a 6-cent fudgesicle for lunch so we could get a hamburger later! Don's wasn't on the way home -- we lived near San Diego State -- but sometimes you just need a 19-cent hamburger to sustain you on the long walk home. (At least there was no snow!) As I recall, Don's became a Jack in the Box drive-thru? And Robert "O" also owned "O"scars drive-in. He got mad because kids would hang out at Oscar's drive-in for hours and only order a coke. Oscar’s hamburgers were expensive, complete with cheese, lettuce, tomato, and secret sauce. He put a time limit on the kids sitting in Oscars and causing "trouble". The trouble was they were not spending money. The drive-thru was probably a result of his displeasure. I'm surprised he didn't call it a "Buy and Get-out". I think that is a 1962 Buick Special at the window, and a 1961-64 Corvair in the background. Jack's Hamburgers were 19 cents in the '50s -- Jeannine Berger Passenheim ‘60

My family moved near the 63rd St Jack in the Box in 1957. The upper picture looks like what I remember. They were easily the worst tasting hamburgers I ever had -- Mike Fry ‘60

I remember this one on 63rd. All of us used to hang out there and some of the "rods" used to park across the street on 63rd to show off their wheels. I was a great hangout -- Joseph

The first photo is the Jack In the Box at 63rd and El Cajon. I remember being told many times that it was the first one in the chain. We lived near 67th & El Cajon and this place was a godsend to my grandmother who had hungry grandkids and hated to cook. We were regulars. When it first opened the hamburgers were 15 cents, but quickly rose to 18 cents, which made my grandmother mad. She didn't stop taking us though. I loved Jack's Secret Sauce, which I now know was mayo, ketchup and mustard mixed together. When I got older and my tastes were more "sophisticated," I grew to love their tacos, which were really incredibly spicy. I'm sure they didn't stay that way when JIB turned into a national chain -- Mass Artist

This IS the Jack in the Box on 63rd. This is where we took my mom's yellow Dodge Dart Swinger thru the Drive Thru, made the turn to order and took out the side of her car. Poor Jack, we really nailed him. I remember we told her someone hit us in the Food Basket parking lot at College and El Cajon Blvd. There are lots of FOND memories at this Jack's. I remember hamburgers for 18 cents, up to 29 cents, but a meal was under a dollar. LOVE IT!! Come on, Jack's SECRET SAUCE was the BEST!! Until I became a Vegetarian I still ate the hamburger with extra secret sauce and pickles. Now I'm a raw foodist and don't eat ANY of it!! -- Rosemarie Lynne Guild Savary '69

I practically lived at the Jack in the Box at 63rd & El Cajon Blvd. There was a time they served fried chicken and shrimp -- Dano

I remember the Jack in the Box on 63rd Street well. I moved to Art St between 63 and 64th streets in 1952.  While walking home from school each day I would stop at Jacks for a coke. In high school I decided I would teach myself how to drive a stick shift vehicle.  After going around the block several times I thought I would drive through Jack in the Box.  When I got to the window I stalled the car and couldn’t get it started again.  There I sat in line and no one behind me could move forward.  I was so embarrassed.  Finally I got the car started and drove straight home, parked the car in the garage, and didn’t try driving a stick for several years -- Donna Smith Towne ’62

This appears to be the 70th-Lois St. Jack In The Box in La Mesa because of the hills behind it. Wasn't the area behind the 63rd St. Jack FLAT? Betsy Scarborough ‘63

This looks like the one on El Cajon much farther west -- near Oregon or one of the state streets. It was just a few blocks east of the original Coca Cola plant near Park Blvd. In fact, this Jack-in-the-Box was about 3 or 4 blocks east of the Coke plant – Mrs. U

I agree with Mrs. U. In the lower picture, you can see the San Diego Unified Education Center and the old Normal School above the Jack in the Box roof – Mike Fry ‘60

In the early to mid ‘50s my mom and dad would go to one on or near Harbor Dr, which looked a lot like this one. But I was under ten years old then and the sun has set and risen several times since then -- snowyowl

I recall regularly visiting one on Mission Gorge Road around 1958. My brother was an infant and my Mom would order a vanilla shake and transfer the contents into his baby bottle. I won't comment here on those parenting skills. This would have been in 1958 or 1959. My brother Steve still loves vanilla shakes -- no wonder. The Jack in the Box is still in the same location but with numerous updates -- pedalpants

Isabel Frisk, with her granddaughter Judith Tyndall in tow, points out the hamburger sign at the Pacific Beach Jack-in-the-Box, 4104 Mission Boulevard, circa 1952.  (Photo donated by Greg Thomas, grandson of Isabel and cousin of Judith.

1967 Mission Bay High graduate Lynn Perryman gives Jack a big smooch, with a purse and cold drink on her right arm. This was the Jack-in-the-Box on Pacific Beach Drive and Mission Boulevard. It was February 22, 1968 -- Washington's Birthday -- and she stopped at Jack's after leaving the beach.

The prices are a little cheaper in this photo.  I wonder when they started
serving French Fries instead of French-Fried Potatoes?

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