McDonald’s surprising start, 75 years ago

McDonald’s surprising start, 75 years ago

As the Great Depression strangled the mill towns of their native New Hampshire, a pair of young brothers headed west with dreams of making it big as Hollywood producers. The only work that Richard and Maurice McDonald could ever land in the film industry, however, was pushing around movie sets, and the small cinema they opened in suburban Los Angeles fizzled.

Thirty-seven-year-old Maurice and 31-year-old Richard had to wonder if their hopes of becoming millionaires by the time they turned 50 were just delusions as they opened a tiny drive-in restaurant in San Bernardino, California, on May 15, 1940. Little did they know that their new restaurant would be the meal ticket to fulfilling their American dreams.

The original McDonald’s at the corner of 14th and E Streets, just a few blocks from historic Route 66, bore little resemblance to today’s ubiquitous “golden arches,” beginning with the menu. Hard as it may be to believe, the future fast-food giant started out by serving up barbecue slow-cooked for hours in a pit stocked with hickory chips imported from Arkansas. The feature item at McDonald’s Famous Bar-B-Q was a barbecued beef, ham or pork sandwich with french fries for 35 cents. The eclectic 25-item menu included everything from tamales and chili to peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to ham and beaked beans. The 25-cent “aristocratic hamburger” sounded like an offering better suited for Burger King. Read more

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