Memories of Mel’s Drive-In

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Summer in San Francisco in the 1960s brings back memories of Mel’s Drive-In on South Van Ness Avenue. The restaurant was a dream of politician and businessman Harold Dobbs. It opened in 1947. You could drive in, park and have “car hop” take your order. There was also a Mel’s Drive-In in the outer Mission. By 1972, the drive-in concept was considered old fashioned and Mel’s closed. That is, it closed to the public until filmmaker George Lucas brought the South Van Ness Avenue Mel’s back to life in “American Graffiti.” Here is the opening sequence for the film:

George Lucas was able to resurrect Mel’s just before the wrecking ball arrived. The restaurant was demolished. So the only images of the way it was are in the film. Here is a clip with Lucas and cast members describing what you do not see on film: