Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Shooby dooby down to Ruby's

Ruby's high school senior yearbook photo, 1940.
Ruby Cavanaugh of North Tustin was the inspiration, namesake and mascot for her son’s chain of Ruby’s Diner restaurants.

Ruby Fern Michael was born July 29, 1922, in Jefferson City, Missouri to Edwin and Victoria Michael. In 1936, the Michaels moved to Southern California. Ruby attended John C. Freemont High School in South Los Angeles.

“At 18, she met Douglas Clide Cavanaugh, a U.S. Navy veteran, who shared her love of swing music and dancing,” wrote Paul Hodgins in the Orange County Register. “Ruby and Doug married in 1944 and had two children, Doug Jr. and Jane.” Later, the family moved to a two-story tract house on a cul-de-sac (13571 Whembly Dr.) in North Tustin. Ruby would live there for nearly fifty years.
A family photo, with Ruby on the right.
Doug Jr. and his business partner and fellow Foothill High School grad Ralph Kosmides started Ruby’s Diner in 1982 on the Balboa Pier. Doug was jogging past an empty run-down bait shop on the end of the pier one day when the idea occurred to him to open a 1940s-style diner. He asked his mom if he could name the place after her, and she immediately said no. He ignored her and Ruby was more than a little surprised when she came to the grand opening and saw her name lit up in neon. The restaurant’s logo, drawn by a Balboa artist, is based on Ruby’s high school cheerleading photo.
A later photo of Ruby holding a photo of her younger self.
On the first day of business -- December 7, 1982 – Doug and Ralph worked the grill and cash register and made $63. The place grew in popularity, and in 1987 they opened a second Ruby’s at the end of the Seal Beach Pier. Ruby’s became the next in a long tradition of Orange County restaurants that grew into large and successful chains. By Spring 2019, Ruby's Diner had 32 locations, including 26 in Southern California.
Ruby died in Orange County on December 27, 2015. An estate sale soon followed, and a number of items were purchased by Lisa Baldwin of A & P Antiques in Downtown Orange. I purchased a few of these items (show in the photo above) from Lisa’s shop simply for their attachment to Ruby Cavanaugh. I picked out a plate and cookbook for their association with food, and a bright and colorful scarf which seemed to say something about her personality. I donated these items and added a current menu from the Ruby's Diner chain to the Orange County Historical Society at their annual Show & Tell program in December.


Lisa Ackerman said...

Enjoyed reading this as we ate our breakfast in the Orange Ruby’s. Well done Chris! :-)

Anonymous said...

It amazes me that that old bait shop could have been economically converted into a successful diner. I think many would agree. Only a few of us are true visionaries willing to take the risk. KS

Unknown said...

Thank you so very much for sharing this wonderful history of the origins of “Ruby’s” with all of us but especially with the “Jitterbug Club”❣️����������

TheDudeTPA said...

I miss going to the one that was at the end of the Huntington Beach Pier! Awesome pancakes...