Jack 'n Ida's was possibly my favorite food place in San Francisco in my formulative years (late Forties-1950's), next only to Who's Ice Cream at the corner of 27th Ave. and Judah St., and later, Tad's Steak House near the old Coronet theater on Geary Street. Our house was only two blocks away from the Lawton St. location of Jack and Ida's(between 25th and 26th avenues). Jack used to walk by our house on 26th Ave. in the evenings on his way home via the N streetcar which ran along Judah St. My mother worked for Jack and Ida in the early 1950's as a waitress, and I remember pictures of Ida hanging on the left wall as you entered. These were professional publicity photos of earlier glory days when she was somewhat of a celebrity in the vaudeville circuit.
She was usually found several days of the week in the back office area doing the books, and I remember her leaving some days wearing one of theose old broad-brimmed, flower-trimmed hats in vogue in the early part of the 20th century. She was old then, perhaps in her Sixties, but had an air of elegance and sophisitication which even a six-year old kid could perceive as being royalty of sorts. Jack, probably younger (late Forties?)and balding was the cook, and seemingly had no other relationship to Ida other than as a business partner. He was a quiet and seemingly lonely man from what I recall. I don't know if he was, or had been married.
My favorite item from the mene was one of Jack's grilled cheeseburgers and fries, the best greasy kind and best tasting of my early memories, washed down with a Green River soda, made fresh from the old time soda fountain behind the counter. Some time later, after my mother had left for employment as a florist, we went in for one of those special evening meals. My mother had "a craving" for one of Jack's signature Banana Splits, only to find that Jack was out of bananas. She went next door to the old P & G supermarket and bought a bunch, took them back, and Jack made her the cherished desert dish, replete with vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry ice cream, and toppings of pineapple, hot fudge, and strawberry syrups, then topped with fresh whipped cream, crushed walnuts, and maraschino cherries.
Other firms that I remember in that block include a gas station at the corner of 26th and Lawton, the Sun Valley Dairy which came in around 1957 at the corner of Lawton and 25th Ave., Irving Auto Parts directly across the street from the dairy on the opposite corner (which always had an ample supply of large ball bearings on the sidewalk for us kids to take and use as wheel for our coasters), the tackle shop across from Jack and Ida's, the small grocery store where I bought and tasted my first mango at age 9, the Lorna Fordyce Dance Studio ( I took my tap dancing lessons at Betty May, Thank You!), the P & G Market (an early "supermarket"), and so much more to fill the mind and imagination of a young boy growing up in the Sunset District in mid-century.
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