Burger History

I enjoyed reading the piece at your site about the In-N-Out burger business. That brought back a few memories: My first contact happened when I was 5, early in the 1960s, when our family would pile in the car and head the next block over to Francisquito Boulevard in Baldwin Park to order through a speaker to get our food.

Shortly after high school I joined the Army. I became a mess sergeant (cook) and always aspired to eventually own a burger joint. I deviated in my career aspirations, however, and upon discharge I embarked in a hunt for a career in the fire service. After a few years and a few different fire departments, I accepted a job from Santa Barbara County. I was assigned to a station on Hollister Avenue. For training, we would often do our hose drills at a shuttered, decommissioned California State Smog Station on Calle Real off Turnpike. I think it was now the mid to late 1980s.

An injury threatened to jeopardize my continued employment, so I was preparing for that possibility when a thought occurred to me. I composed a letter and sent it to In-N-Out headquarters, still located in Baldwin Park. I inquired about a franchise or job opportunity, not knowing they were privately held. I also suggested that smog station as a perfect future fast food location for them. It had easy on- and off-ramps and visibility. At the time, the company was still primarily in Los Angeles.

After a couple weeks I received a reply from Esther Snyder, the matriarch of the company. She was a very curt and to the point. She immediately stated that the company's trademark name cannot be duplicated and any business likeness, or use of, would be an infringement, and tirelessly defended. Most interesting, in hindsight, Esther Snyder stated she had no plans at the time to expand any further than Los Angeles and no future plans in the works. About a year or two passed, and the smog station was demolished. Shortly thereafter, large palm trees showed up. The rest is history.