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

Six Degrees of Kevin “Turkey” Bacon

You’ve likely heard of the popular game Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon based on a real social theory suggesting that any two people in the world are linked by six or fewer acquaintances. The theory was first proposed in 1929 by Frigyes Karinthy, a Hungarian researcher, studying the urbanization of Europe after World War I, and was immortalized by John Guare in the title of his 1990 play, Six Degrees of Separation. Perhaps more immortalizing was when students at Albright College, while apparently watching Footloose, experimented with the game and the actor, Kevin Bacon. The actor also runs the charitable website, sixdegrees.org, as a “social network for social good.”