Tuesday, September 4, 2012

World's Oldest McDonald's Restaurant

Downey, CA 

August 5, 2012

Ever heard of a Scottish restaurant that sells German-style sandwiches and French-style potatoes? Apparently, there are 20,000 of them world-wide.

Here is the location of the restaurant:


While driving between the various Carpenter houses, I turned onto Lakewood Boulevard from Florence Avenue. On the corner, was a McDonald's, but with an old-fashioned sign. I took this photo from the front seat of the car while stopped at the light. Also, the boast, 500 Million served, helped show its age.

  I mean, it had come a long way since its primitive origins.
From The Flintstones movie (Universal)
OK, couldn't resist...

The first McDonald's was built in San Bernardino, CA, which was named after the patron saint of advertising (not making that up). Originally opened in 1940 as a barbecue drive-in, the McDonald's brothers found their fortune lay in burgers, and by 1948, they had refactored their business into the fast-food trinity of burgers, fries and a drink. They started franchising out their concept to others and in 1953, the location in Downey appeared and changed the industry forever. While the location in Downey was not the first McDonald's location, it is the oldest continuously operating McDonald's restaurant in the world.
Photo from Wikipedia
Later, after Ray Kroc appeared in San Bernardino to find out why such a small restaurant needed 8 of his Princess milk shake mixers, the McDonald's brothers signed over the franchising business to Kroc. The rest is history. Those locations who franchised with Kroc's McDonald's Corp were obliged to update their external appearance in the company's image. However, as the Downey location's franchise agreement pre-dated that arrangement, the franchisees kept its original appearance and now there is talk about adding it to the National Register of Historic Places.

I didn't stop at the Downey McDonald's, because I didn't know the significance of that location until after returning home.

Greater Los Angeles, is full of drive-in restaurants.

Bob's Big Boy Broiler is another iconic spot that I passed by, however, this time I stopped to have a closer look.

On the surface, it looks like an original location.

But no, it is a reconstruction.

The plaque says:
"This building is a great example of the "Googie Style" coffee shops and drive-in restaurants that once dotted the Southern California landscape.  Googie Architecture called for buildings to read as signs to attract customers. Built in 1958 by owner Harvey Ortner, "Harvey's Broiler" exhibited many of the design features of Googie Architecture, including exaggerated roofs, dazzling signs, bright lighting, and glass walls. In 1966 Christos Smyrniotis, a former cook at the restaurant, purchased the restaurant and operated it under the name, "Johnnie's Broiler" until it closed in February 2002.
The building was operated as a used car dealership from 2002 until 2007 when it suffered extensive damage when the tenant illegally demolished a large portion of the building. However, the City of Downey and Bob's Big Boy, with support from concerned citizens and the Los Angeles Conservancy, devised a plan to preserve and rebuild Johnie's Broiler. On August 12, 2008, the Downey City Council voted to provide financial assistance to resurrect this historical landmark under the name of Bob's Big Boy, another Southern California Icon.
Bob's Big Boy will continue the legacy of this great American coffee shop and drive-in restaurant for all to enjoy." 
It was a labor of love that has been added to the National Register of Historic Places. Googie Architecture is a term I'd never heard before. I googled Googie and found that the architecture was named, Googie, by Professor Douglas Haskell of Yale who featured the Googie Coffee Shop on Sunset Boulevard in a 1952 article that he contributed to House and Home magazine. In his story, Haskell used the coffee shop's name to describe this entire style of eye-grabbing design. Googie covers the space age architecture from the 1950s and 60s that you might know from the Jetson's cartoon, Tomorrowland at Disneyland or the many bowling alleys, coffee shops and fast food joints of that time. There's a very good article on Googie offered here: http://www.spaceagecity.com/googie/

Back at Bob's Big Boy, I had a milkshake: $5! Reminds of that scene from "Pulp Fiction." The clip drops the F-bomb, so I won't embed it, but if you want to see it, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zoJAc_aSM7E.

1 comment:

  1. That's really great, I didn't know yet, they all are worlds old McDonald restaurants, That's really great article.

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