Snapshots and stories of our El Taco restaurant in the 1970's.
Mom in front of El Taco. It was located at 3297 Tweedy Blvd, South Gate, Ca. This was one of her promo shots that were placed in newspaper ads.
Florence Leach, Veronica De Luna, Danny Lemos and Mike Kutsoginis. If any former El Taco employees have found this page, I would sure love to hear from you!
Danny Lemos, Mom and Mike Kutsoginis. Zooming in on the menu, looks like you could get a Bean and Cheese Burrito for $0.55, a crispy ground beef Taco for $0.40 , or a Hot Dog with Mustard & Onion for only $0.50.
Mom and Danny are standing behind the counter at the assembly area. There was a full kitchen area in the back, where all the food was cooked from scratch.
October 1973. Dad making refried beans
May 1973. Mom making refried beans
The monster bean cooker! The entire purpose of this huge standalone pot was to make refried beans. It had its own internal heating system fueled by a gas line in wall. It had an exit spout on the bottom to empty water directly into a drain in the floor. We would prepare 40 pounds of beans at a time, twice a week! I say 'we' though either mom or dad or one of the employees would be doing the hard work, I was occasionally engaged in stirring, which my 11-year-old self thought was quite cool.
How To Make 40 Pounds of Beans
Empty a 40-lb sack of dry pinto beans into multiple large rectangular tubs. Grab anyone who isn't busy and set them to picking through the beans and discard out any debris such as rocks or stems. Pour the cleaned beans into the monster pot. Turn on the faucet and cover them with water. Stir them up until the water is cloudy then drain. Repeat the rinsing process as many times as it takes until stirring results in clean water. Close the monster lid and let the beans soak overnight. In the morning add salt, onion, bacon and lard. Turn on the heat and stir, stir, stir throughout the day. To stir the beans use a big wooden paddle that looks like an oar you might row a small boat with. Simmer the beans for about 8 hours, or until tender. Don't burn your tongue when taste-testing one! To mash the beans use the handheld electric drill that has a 3 foot extension rod with a beater on the end. When the beans are cool, place them in 10-lb rectangular tubs and carry them into the walk-in refrigerator/freezer.
When you're done cooking, it's time to hand wash, dry and put away all those dishes! A clean kitchen is a good kitchen.
Veronica De Luna, 1973. Looks like she's cutting onions.
Here's mom in the back kitchen cutting up something on the cutting board. You can see one of my dads oil paintings hanging on the wall in the top left corner of the photo.
1972, El Taco. View from across the street.
1973, El Taco. View from across the street at Adohr Farms Dairy quick-stop drive-thru store.
October 1973, El Taco. View from the parking lot, showing the drive-through window area.
March 1975. My friend Rhonda Jones helping me wash the windows of El Taco. Mom would pay us $4.00 to wash ALL those windows inside and out. We used a bucket, scrub brush, squeegee, towel and step-ladder to accomplish this job. As I recall it took the better part of the day to finish them to moms satisfaction. After we got our hard-earned $4 (that's $2 each) we would walk down Tweedy Blvd and spend it at Middle Earth Records or The Bead Shoppe.
Then we would walk home to my house or her house, and either play music or make jewelry, or both! We were really into making macrame bracelets with hemp cord and colored wooden or glass beads.
August 1973, El taco. It was on the northwest corner of Tweedy Blvd and Dearborn Ave.
May 1973. El Taco employees Carolyn Florez and Alfonso Vicuña working the drive-thru window.
The early days, 1972. At this time Ed Whetton was the manager and mom was an employee.
In May of 1973 the current manager Ed Whetton leaves the South Gate branch and transfers to a different El Taco branch in California. Pictured also are his wife and son.
Kneeling in front row: Carolyn Florez (holding El Taco cake), Florence Leach, Barbi Leach.
Standing in back row: Eileen Flores, Alfonso Vicuña, Siva, Ed Whetton, Ed's wife and son; remaining three names unknown).
Abt 1974. My cousin Bill Schaard was visiting us from Frankenmuth, Michigan. You can see McDonald's with the original golden arches in the background. Even though McDonald's was next door (just across Dearborn Ave.), El Taco's hamburgers were still a popular item on the menu. Not only did we have American-style Hamburgers and Cheeseburgers; we also had Taco burgers (similar to what we call a Sloppy Joe today), made with El Taco's signature spiced ground beef.
Pictured Left-Right: Bill, Mom, Me, Dad. My friend Jackie Kelly is behind me.
1974. Bill, Mom, me and dad.
1974. Mom with employee Mickey Thompson.
This was my Dads van, parked in front of our house. There's an El Taco story related to this van!
Though we always had a commercial laundry service pick up and deliver fresh uniforms and towels, sometimes we would run out of clean towels before the next weeks' delivery. Dad would take a few loads of towels to a nearby laundromat to wash and dry them. One time he loaded the freshly dried and still-hot towels into his van, came home and left them there overnight. Can you guess where this story is going?
In the middle of the night we were awoken to the sound of fire engine sirens blazing and a loud banging on our front door. The hot towels had ignited the carpet and the inside of the van was on fire! The fire was put out quickly by the South Gate Fire Department, but the van was a total loss. And we had to replace all the company towels.
We spent many happy hours taking trips in that van, to the desert, camping in the sequoias, and hauling my surfboard to the beach on Saturdays. I still miss it!
December 1974, Dad had just painted the windows with Christmas decorations.
December 1973. Working on the float for the South Gate Christmas Parade. Pam Walker and Mom are sitting on top of the truck attaching the flowers we all made from tissue paper. Dad painted the sign on a long roll of canvas and attached it to the truck.
December 1973. Posing for a photo in our costumes before going to participate in the parade. Left to right: Barbi Leach, Ken leach, Florence Leach, Pam Walker, Carolyn Florez, Alfonso Vicuña and Helen Worden.
December 1973. Dad in the truck, ready for the parade. Of course he scooted over to the driver side when it was time to go.
December 1973. Dad in the truck, me and mom standing by, ready for the parade.
Driving down Tweedy Blvd for the 1973 South Gate Christmas Parade. On roof of car is mom and me, dad is driving, Pam Walker on the hood.
Driving down Tweedy Blvd for the 1973 South Gate Christmas Parade. On roof of car is mom and me, dad is driving, Pam Walker on the hood. I don't remember where the rest of our costumed group were; whether they were walking alongside the float or in a separate vehicle.
One of the newspaper clippings in my collection.
"Thursday, Septermber 11, 1975
Friendly employees as well as fine foods make El Taco a fun place to eat. Pictured are Florence Leach and helpers Veronica De Luna, Danny Lemos, and Mike Kutsoginis. The El Taco, located at 3297 Tweedy Blvd. in South Gate, offers hamburgers and fries in addition to their regular Mexican fare."
1957, A&W Root Beer, Frankenmuth Michigan
Moms first job as a restaurant manager was when she was just 19 years old, with her sister and managing partner Milda Minar. Before becoming co-manager, mom said she had worked as a soda-fountain waitress, babysitter, snow shoveler and lawnmowing for local neighbors.