Friday, December 16, 2011

Clifford Clinton: A Life of Service

Clifford Clinton operated Clifton's Cafeteria as a respite for the weary souls of Depression-era Los Angeles. It became known as the cafeteria of the Golden Rule: treat others as you would like to be treated.

Clifford extended his philosophy not only to customers (he called them "guests"), but to employees (called "associates"). He also felt a sense of responsibility to the community that supported his business. Clifford was my grandfather, and hopefully this blog will help tell the story of a man who had a lasting influence on the development of the city of Los Angeles.

Clifford Clinton, member of the '37 grand jury.
He was raised in Berkeley (born in 1900) by Salvation Army parents, who instilled the message of Christian service. He spent his formative years travelling with them to China for Christian missions. In northern and southern China, he witnessed rampant starvation, untreated diseases, and later beheadings.

Clifford returned to San Francisco in 1911, where he worked in his father's cafeteria, learning the restaurant business from the ground up.

By 1931, he moved to Los Angeles to open his own restaurant. He purchased a defunct Boos Brothers cafeteria and reopened it at 618 S. Olive St. in the heart of downtown. He operated the business with the help of wife Nelda and three children who grew up in the business.

When called into public service by County Supervisor John Anson Ford, Clifford agreed to help review the Los Angeles County Hospital's food budget. What he found was a cesspool of city government graft and corruption. As a member of a county grand jury, in 1937, his attempts to investigate municipal malfeasance were thwarted. Eventually he led a coalition of reform-minded individuals who successfully recalled the sitting mayor, Frank Shaw.

Returning to private life, he pursued his mission to feed the hungry. He formed Meals for Millions, a foundation that invented a food supplement, MPF (Multi-Purpose Food), for distribution throughout the world.

This blog is both a tribute and educational resource to Clifford Clinton. Future posts will expand further on his story.