Recently while driving in Downey California my husband and I saw a huge golden arch with a large cartoon character “speedy”on it and the words McDonalds at the bottom of the arch. Upon examination we realized this was the world oldest operating McDonalds, we just had to stop and have lunch. As we walked up to the front of the restaurant you were instantly transformed into a different era, well sort of. The building stands exactly as it did when it was built in the 1950’s, two golden arches with a plain white tile building in between. The first menu you come upon is the original menu, just nine items in all and under it is a few of the original cash registers. The large glass front gives way to the modern appliance in the back but the charm is there all the same. It is walk up only with no seating, there is a small amount of seats in the museum area right next door. Although this era of McDonald’s is long before I was born you could still feel the general ambiance of a time gone by.
After we ordered we went to eat in the museum eating area, to be honest of the whole experience this was one that could be missed. It is dirty, hot, small area that you have to share with at least two dozen birds. Good thing the birds were a little fat, probably from living on McDonalds left overs and were willing to just sit by at other tables watching us eat and waiting for any bites remaining. There was music from the 50’s playing in the background and a strange little “gift shop” in the middle of the eating area that contained a few strange items for sale, nothing I would have taken the time to buy. The food was standard for McDonalds, not good or bad just McDonalds. I remember being a small girl and craving a McDonald’s hamburger and fries for dinner and when my mom got it for me it meant I had done something she was proud of and I was getting the food as a reward, it was a treat. I guess it has kind of stayed that way, something you get as a treat, not because its good but because you want to reward yourself. Although I must admit if I want to reward myself with food I tend to go for a higher class of food. As we sat with our young son we saw a few people come to eat, mostly though people just stopped to take pictures and run through the few artifacts.
The museum is what you would expect, you enter through two large wooden doors, the original doors from the first hamburger University. As you continue your journey you find lots of memorabilia from a time gone by, such as the original mixers, uniforms and registers from the original store. As you continue on there is a memorial gallery of Ray Kroc and the story on how this store remained untouched. Then is my favorite part, tokens of years in McDonalds, things I could relate to. There were old trays, a set of cups of the original characters like hambergerler, they even had the old coffee cups my parents got each year that allowed them all the free coffee they wanted when they brought it in. There were old happy meals toys, original hamburger wrappers and cups and even the old tac pins we all tried to own from the years when McDonalds celebrated things like the Olympic games. The best part was the pictures of all the old styles of McDonalds and the arches. As a kid those are the things you remember, for me it was a bright red building with yellow and white tables made of fiberglass. We would get so excited to sit at those hard tables and enjoy the food before us. I am sad to say that it said none of the structures from my childhood exist anymore.
Would I recommend taking the time to stop and see this McDonalds?, absolutely if you are in the area (ok who really needs to go to Downey California?) Its a fun trip down memory lane, a nice place to stop by. I wish I had followed the steps of others and just come by for the pictures, its a tough place to eat at even for the die hard McDonald fans. But in a world that is changing so fast its always nice to stop somewhere that time has sort of stood still and you can go back to some of the happy memories of your own past.