In a day when McDonald’s is seen as the (golden) arch enemy, the presumed single reason why obesity rates in adults and children are sky high, people forget about the fact McDonald’s started out in 1940 as a simple food stand called “Airdrome,” which relocated from Monrovia to 1398 N E Street, San Bernardino, California and turned into a Bar-B-Que drive-in restaurant. After realizing that most customers just wanted to order hamburgers, brothers Maurice (“Mac”) and Richard (“Dick”) McDonald switched gears and debuted “McDonald’s” as a hamburger joint in December 1948, serving a menu of cheeseburgers, fries, shakes, soft drinks and apple pies. And the rest… is history. Fast forward to more than 33,000 locations, approximately 75 hamburgers sold every second, and the sad fact that the golden arches are recognized worldwide by more people than the holy cross.
I visited the original site/museum of McDonald’s and it was a surprisingly sentimental trip down memory lane. Set in a now rundown neighborhood that holds remnants of better days, it was certainly safe enough to get out and explore this slightly off the beaten path gem. As someone who hasn’t eaten at McDonald’s more or less since 1988, I still hold fond memories of Ronald, Grimace, The Hamburglar, Mayor McCheese, the Fry Kids and the rest of the crew, Happy Meals and their secret prizes and my once favorite menu item as a child, the Filet-O-Fish sandwich dripping with tartar sauce.
This building is utterly fascinating, though a tad bittersweet as well. Perhaps more of a graveyard than a living memorial? Jam packed with framed newspaper clippings, vintage photos, employee spotlight articles and love stories, fryers, milkshake machines, original McDonald’s paper bags and straws, even the merry-go-round! Regardless of what McDonald’s has become in some people’s opinions, I think everyone would agree that we all hold fond memories of this place from our childhood. Simpler days, simpler ingredients, a well-meaning fast food restaurant that grew so far beyond its founders wildest dreams, eventually morphing in to the colossal giant that we all know it as today. Side note: no one is forcing anyone to eat here, yet somehow McDonald’s netted $5.59 BILLION in 2013. Mind boggling, isn’t it? As much as I avoid fast food, I will always have a warm place in my heart for the McDonald’s I knew as a little girl. And let’s all face it, if you are going to succumb to a fast food binge, you may as well enjoy the tastiest french fries known to man, RIGHT? Such a worthwhile stop on Route 66. I still get a laugh thinking of the days when I thought I was cool for eating a Quarter Pounder with cheese with my friends at lunch in high school, and better yet… when everyone was attempting to learn and sing the tongue-twisting lyrics “Two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions, on a sesame seed bun.” Long live the memories!!