History Blog

From Patties To Patronage

From Patties To Patronage

On December 16, a new docudrama, The Founder, hits theaters in limited markets.  The film, written by Robert Seigel and directed by John Lee Hancock, showcases the life story of Ray Kroc, the man who made McDonald’s an American institution.

Along the way, accusations of dubious business practices, such as putting the McDonald’s brothers out of business[1] and others, followed Mr. Kroc. However his legacy to the world is the efficiency, consistent quality, and ubiquity of his restaurants. Upon his death in 1984, Kroc had built a billion-dollar organization that revolutionized the way Americans, and the rest of the world, ate and perceived their meals.

Locally, Ray and his third wife, Joan, left a legacy to San Diego as well. They arrived in 1974 after having bought the San Diego Padres from C. Arnholt Smith for $12 million. Ray died in 1984 and in doing so, left Joan to give away much of the estate to charitable causes, $2.3 billion to be exact. Her giving policy of “No Fuss, No Feathers” resulted in billions donated to local San Diego charities.  Among them, $1.5 billion to the Salvation Army, the largest charitable gift ever given to any single charity at one time, resulting in the Salvation Army Ray & Joan Kroc Corp Community Center in the Mid-City area; $30 million to create—and an additional $50 million to operate—the Joan Kroc Peace Institute at the University of San Diego, among thousands of other donations to myriad causes.  Once, when a sick hummingbird was found in her yard, one of her staff took it to the San Diego Zoo for rehabilitation. When the bird recovered, Joan Kroc gave $100,000 for a hummingbird enclosure.[2]

Both she and Ray are buried at the El Camino Memorial Park in Sorrento Valley.

Want to know more about Ray and Joan Kroc and their impact on San Diego?  What of the chicken mascot in the picture above?  Find out the answers to these and other businesses, entrepeneurs and business owners by visiting the San Diego History Center Research Archives,  Monday – Friday, 930am to 1pm.


[1] http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/sdut-ray-kroc-mcdonalds-padres-franchising-2016jul01-story.html

[2] http://news.nd.edu/news/billions-served-mcdonalds-heiress-joan-kroc-took-her-philanthropy-and-super-sized-it/

By Gabe Selak

By Gabe Selak

San Diego History Center History Ambassador

Welcome to the San Diego History Center Blog

Welcome to the History Center’s new blog! Posts will explore topics relevant to San Diego’s past, present, and future. Each week, discover new stories about our community mined from our vast object, document, and photo collections.

This October, join us as we explore San Diego’s evolving attitude towards death in our series, “Grave Matters: San Diego’s Relationship with Death.”

While death itself has remained a constant in life, attitudes surrounding death and ways of interring the deceased have changed over the course of time. Views and traditions of death may have shifted, however, like all cultures of the past, San Diegans must still confront our physical contact with the dead, funeral rites, and interment practices, and how we grieve and memorialize those gone before us.