Harold "Red" Tracton, a Southern California restaurateur for half a century, has died. He was 77.
Tracton, who lived in Solana Beach, died of cancer Dec. 26 in Scripps Medical Center in Encinitas.
His most recent restaurant in a long line of well-known steakhouses is Red Tracton's in Del Mar, across the street from Del Mar Race Track.
In the 1960s, Tracton owned and operated five restaurants in the Los Angeles area--Tracton's, perhaps his best known, on La Cienega Boulevard, Tracton's in the Los Angeles Mart downtown, Salem House in Farmers Market, the Buggy Whip near Los Angeles International Airport and the Fox Hills Country Club restaurant.
The La Cienega steakhouse was in business from 1956 until 1978, when Tracton moved it to Encino as Tracton's House of Prime Rib. He sold that venue and moved to Del Mar 10 years later.
A Times restaurant critic described the Encino restaurant: "Tracton's doesn't disappoint--the place serves about the best red meat in the San Fernando Valley, well-marbled enough to send the American Heart Assn. running for cover."
Another Times restaurant critic, writing about Red Tracton's in Del Mar after it opened in the summer of 1988, compared it favorably to New York's fabled Palm restaurant.
Tracton, who opened his first place, Norm and Red's Green Lake Cafe, in Pasadena in 1950, prided himself on serving oversized cuts of beef and fish, including giant prawns and crab legs.
Born in Philadelphia, Tracton served in the Army Air Corps in the South Pacific during World War II. He moved to Los Angeles in 1948.
Twenty years later, he became a civilian hero when the kidnapper of a 4-year-old Beverly Hills boy sought a restaurateur to deliver a ransom. Working with the child's family and the FBI, Tracton drove around the city all night with 50 pounds of $20 bills. With his help, the FBI rescued the boy unharmed and arrested the kidnapper.
Tracton displayed a framed citation from FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover on his restaurant wall.
Tracton is survived by his wife, Carolyn; daughter Tracy Tracton, who will continue to operate the Del Mar restaurant; three stepchildren, Christy Maguire and Voni Yudell of Simi Valley and Tracy Levy of San Diego; and eight grandchildren.
The family has asked that memorial donations be sent to the American Cancer Society or the John Wayne Cancer Clinic for Research.