Jack in the Box Head On Top of La Jolla High’s Flagpole

Jack in the Box head perched on the top of La Jolla High School, 1970 - photo by Bruce Thorson

Jack in the Box head perched on top of La Jolla High School in 1970 as a prank by graduating 1970 students - photo by Bruce Thorson

Senior pranks tend to be an unofficial tradition at most high schools, similar to the unofficial senior skip day. It is crucial to find the perfect prank; one must realized the fine line between harmless and mischievous and vandalism or criminal. Some of the typical ones are TPing the school grounds or passing a beach ball (no not Steve Roel) during graduation ceremonies. Or what Mac Meda’s,  Donnie Tomlison, Willie Ronaldson and a few others did by cutting down a tree and got caught, and had to replant and maintain that tree as their punishment. But that is another post.

No doubt the best Meda style high school prank that left many school officials scratching their heads was the Jack in the Box head on top of the flag pole at La Jolla High gradating class of 1970. Even to this day it is still talked about, and many of today’s students claim it was ONLY Urban Legend. Well recently an alumni found a photo and that was posted on Facebook,

and what was legend … has now become fact!

How did we get Jack?  Without naming names, let’s just say, it involved a lot of that liquid courage and the innocent request of Dean Burriston to “someone” and  “her girlfriends”  for a few Jack in a Box burgers at 2am; the only place opened in Bird Rock, which now is some clic strip mall.

Up until Jack’s flagpole  début, he was a great drinking buddy.

Jacks head

It all started with Kip Ives and Bill Pfanner who late evening put together a commando group of 10-12 people. A precision Swat Team plan was placed into play at Kip’s parent’s house, that was right below the Bird Shit sign in Bird Rock. A pointer was used to infiltrate areas on a crayon drawn map of buildings and streets.  The pranksters divided into two groups, one to place the Jack’s head on top of the flag pole, and two, to place two fire hydrants around campus that were conveniently borrowed when city workers were tearing up the streets on Hillside Drive. Again that will be another post.

At 1am, they all gathered a block away from the high school. A briefing was somewhat conducted that could barely be heard underneath the popping and gulping of that yeasted courage. Second later, they all looked  like James Belushi in Animal House, darting from building to building in what was known in Meda lingo, COD, (Cover of Darkness) tactics.

One of the fire hydrants was cemented into the lawn to make it look like it had always been there and well the other was placed on top of the overhang (15 feet off the ground) at the entry to what was then, Social Science Building. Ten people struggled to put this one in place; it is a surprise that no one got hurt, considering these fire hydrants weighed about 600 lbs and was pulled up with a piece of hemp twine.

As for Jack, well it wasn’t for the gutsy move of Bob Noble it probably would have not taken place. To perform this monumental task an extension ladder was also conveniently borrowed from some construction company (it was returned), but the length of it was about 15 feet short of reaching the top. Bob climbed up the ladder with Jack in one hand and the other grabbing the ladder. When he reached the end, he took a deep breath looked down, gave the on-lookers a wink, and with one arm shimmed up the last 15 feet. When he reached the 30 foot top, he tightly wrapped his legs around the pole, and with both hands, quickly put Jack on top.

Those that watched could not believe what has just happened. Bob quickly slid down the pole. He was a bit shaken of something he would have never done sober -  again that yeast tasting stuff was used to calm him down.

Jack twirled slowly round and round as a gentle breeze gave it life. The next morning they all got at school early to watch the expressions of the students and teachers.

Unfortunately the one cemented hydrant  had been removed (there was no quick-dry cement in those days), but many saw the school officials and custodians scratching heads in “How in the fuck did they get Jack’s head up there?” and at this 600lb fire hydrant that rested on top of a overhang bending from its weight.

Jack was quickly removed by the brainstorm of one of the janitors, who tied a broom handle on the rope of the flag pole. All he had to do was run the broom up which knocked poor Jack off. A few watched in tears as Jack hit the ground hard, bounced a few time, and rolled down the embankment and came to a dead stop.

Unfortunately, Jack suffered injuries,  a huge grass stained crack in the head.

As for the hydrant, now that was a chuckling sight to see. A ½ ton San Diego school truck arrived. With a ladder two men climbed to the overhang and push the hydrant into the bed of the truck. When the hydrant hit, it almost blew out the tires and you could hear the echoing “clunk,” even at WindanSea.

Even if Jack’s existence was short lived as Class of 1970 flagpole mascot, his memories will be with us forever.

The other Jack thought it was one of the most “bitchen” stunts he had heard about and congratulated the Meda pranksters.

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  1. One of the best pranks! Cheers to the boys! Question: What in the HELL do young people do now?? The young mind-set has changed – for the worst I believe. Probably too focused on some little ‘device’ to interact with others and to have some good ole fashioned fun. So sorry to see so many pass from cancer. I am a survivor, but I do believe the poisoning of America started decades ago and our age group was its first victims. Good luck to you all. I escaped to New Zealand in 1976. Want to bug out with us? See “Radiation Respite”: http://youtu.be/agUx1YjC-6Y

  2. Annie Burriston Powell says:

    My friend and I decided to fetch jack one night when my parents were out of town and my brother etc. wanted some burgers. Of course there was a party going on, but after most of the people left Dean goes “Just bring back Jack” well, that is exactly what we did. We got the burgers at Mr. Boltons and of all cars to pull in it was a cop car. Never looked in our car thank God. I had Jack in my bedroom for a long time. My parents never even asked, don’t think they wanted to know! Our senior year, we all decided what a great prank it would be and the rest is history. Susan, do you really still have Jack????? I miss him! Fun to see a picture of him. And no, Whale had nothing to do with it. Just two drunk girls, the place was closed and that is it.

  3. Michael Sparks says:

    At least one person got a broken windshield out of that event when the ladder that was used as part of the escapade flew forward and hit the glass. Thought of that night often.

  4. Ryan Dotson says:

    Hey guys and surfbunnies, this is amazing. Even by standards followed in my 1963 class, this is a click above bitchen!I surfed @ Windansea back then and I following up in the spring 2011 to see if the tradition continues…surfing too. Geez I’m glad no one really got it upside the head in this one. A lot o weight was hoisted around to do such a feat.Ryan Dotson ’63

  5. I will never forget that Jack in the box!

  6. Dan Dameron says:

    Snatching a Jack in the box head was like counting coup. It was easy once you got the courage. One simply smacked the round head under it’s chin and in the back to break the plexiglas sphere loose from the mooring. I had one off in less than a minute and kept it as a trophy when living in “The Little Green Fort” on Eads. One night the cops came by to investigate a neighbors complaint that there were 7 to 8 guys and 1 girl in the LGF. Ray Townsend would bring Debbie with him to watch the fights on TV and other occasions, she was the lone girl and this neighbor thought there was going to be “Trouble”…anyway the cops showed up, everyone went on the roof but me and pulled up the ladder. The cops looked everywhere for the too many guys and only one girl. They could hear the giggling from the roof but since there was no visible access they did not look on the roof. As they interrogated me I noticed the Jack Head in the corner, clearly in view. As they started to get into that area of questioning Dick Rauth walked in the front door. He knew one of the cops thru his older brother. They bullshitted a few moments and then the cops left. That was one time I was glad that Rauth showed up.

  7. This is hilarious. Mac Meda and His Merry Men of Creative Pranks! What an era!

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