By the early 1960’s, El Cajon Boulevard was a booming hot spot for commercial businesses, which is credited mostly to the automobile. Interestingly the automobile was also a focal point for one of the first youth riots here in the 1960’s.
The El Cajon Boulevard Riot otherwise known as the Drag Strip Riot was the first of many major uproars during this time. On August 20, 1960 during an organized protest over the closing of a popular drag racing spot, the riot began. More than 3,000 teenagers and adults lined the intersection of El Cajon Boulevard and Cherokee Street and shut down nearly 3 more blocks where they began holding impromptu drag races. As police arrived to break up the riot they were met with glass bottles and rocks from teens and adults alike. This event marked one of the first acts of defiance on El Cajon Boulevard and proved its prominence within the era.
One cannot forget the momentous arrival of President John F. Kennedy in San Diego on June 6, 1963. During his visit, the President’s motorcade drove along El Cajon Boulevard as thousands of people lined the streets to catch a glimpse. Shortly after the president made his way to San Diego State University where he gave the commencement speech to the graduating class. Interestingly, many people compare this visit with one where he met his demise in Dallas a short time later. Similar circumstances like the placement of the motorcade and the relaxed demeanor of the secret service were all too common in the two visits. As well, the President was riding in the same limousine and sitting in the same spot as he did in Dallas bringing an eerie feel to what was to come.
From the mid ‘60’s to the mid ‘70’s, El Cajon Boulevard was slowly transitioned away from Highway 80 as development began on Interstate 8. It was until 1989 that El Cajon Boulevard would soon experience a rebirthing. Architecture, design, and neon signs were highly popular among local businesses in the 1940’s and 1950’s as they lit up the Boulevard on any given night. The introduction of the gateway sign in 1989 aimed at increasing the “traffic” that El Cajon Boulevard was once known for and reinvigorating an otherwise desolate stretch of roadway. Thanks to the El Cajon Boulevard Business Improvement District, the sign (along with hundreds of ornamental street lights and miles of landscape) has helped to restore El Cajon Boulevard to the roaring times it was once known for.
Spanning over 100 years, much of the growth and development along El Cajon Boulevard can be attributed to the automobile and the need to establish services to accommodate it.