Many decades ago the main east-west thoroughfare to and from San Diego was El Cajon Boulevard. About twenty miles long at its peak before the Interstate system, it is a prime example of growth and development that was shaped by the automobile. About six miles of the middle section was obliterated when Interstate 8 was built in the early 1960s; there is a small section remaining in El Cajon. The western end, from Normal Street in San Diego to Spring Street in downtown La Mesa is about eleven miles long.
The remaining eleven miles of El Cajon Boulevard presents to the historian the site of the very first Jack in the Box restaurant built at 6270 El Cajon Boulevard in 1951. Jack in the Box gave us the first drive-through and the innovation of a two-way intercom to allow one car to place an order while another car was being served. Jack in the Box has its corporate headquarters here in San Diego.
At the other end of El Cajon Boulevard is the historic Lafayette Hotel, built in 1946 with an Olympic-sized swimming pool designed by Johnny Weismuller, winner of five Olympic gold medals and the actor who played Tarzan in twelve movies, arguably the best known of the many actors who played Tarzan on film and on television. The first guest when the hotel opened in 1946 was none other than the incomparable Bob Hope.
In the latter part of the 20th century (in other words, when I came to San Diego in April 1993), El Cajon Boulevard was a hotspot for prostitution, both male and female.
El Cajon Boulevard also was the site of the El Cajon Boulevard Riot. Also known as the Drag Strip Riot, it was one of the first major youth riots of the 1960s.
The riot began during the evening of August 20, 1960, as an organized protest over the closing of Hourglass Field, an unused Navy airfield, to drag racing. Although drag racing had been organized by the San Diego Timing Association, a local group of hot rod clubs, it was unauthorized. Both the Navy and the police looked the other way because, at the time, Hourglass Field was the only off-street venue available for drag racing. On August 8, 1960, three (maybe four) bystanders were injured during a drag race, causing the Navy to shut down the airfield to drag racing.
At the intersection of El Cajon Boulevard and Cherokee Street on the nights of August 20 and 21, an estimated 3,000 teenagers and adults blocked three blocks of El Cajon Boulevard and began holding impromptu drag races with just enough room for cars to race two-abreast down the street. When police arrived to disperse the crowd, many protesters fought back, showering officers with rocks and bottles.
Although I found lots of information about Hourglass Field, I found very little information about the riot itself. My research mind is in overdrive.
I’ll have to put it on my to-do list to take you on a tour of The Boulevard during daylight hours.
For the rest of this post, though, we’re going to take a darkness tour because there is a lot of nighttime fun on The Boulevard.
Here ya go:
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Photographic Art by Russel Ray Photos at Fine Art America