Monday, April 15, 2024

M is for McDonalds


#AtoZChallenge 2024 letter M

I am in the process of sorting through everything in my parents' home, and in so doing, I have been looking through all my childhood memorabilia, the majority of which I hadn't seen since my parents packed up my belongings and moved them from the home I grew up in to this house some 45 years ago. My 2024 A to Z Challenge theme is based on the treasures I have found in the boxes and the drawers and closets. Join me on my bittersweet journey back to my childhood.

My best friend Jane and I always looked forward to Friday nights when we were in high school. During school, Jane and I would discuss (through note passing, of course) who was driving, who we hoped to see while we were out, what we were wearing, etc., then later that evening, one of us would drive to the other's house and pick her up. 

No matter what we were doing that night, like going to a movie or a football or basketball game, we ended it by going to McDonalds, along with a large number of others from our school. Before we could go to McDonalds, however, we had to cruise through the Burger King parking lot to see which guys were there showing off their muscle cars that were backed into parking spaces around the perimeter of the parking lot, windows rolled down. Burger King's rule was they could park there, but they couldn't get out of their cars (no loitering, you know). I don't know how the place stayed in business, because none of the guys ever went in and bought anything, and there weren't many spaces to spare for diners to park and walk in (this was the days before drive-thrus). 

After checking out Burger King, we would drive the block or so down the road to McDonalds. We always took a lap through the parking lot before going inside, checking to see whose car was there and whose wasn't. Once inside, the place was popping. The rule at McDonalds was that you had to be sitting down in a booth and couldn't stand and talk (no loitering again), and I think you had to buy something, but my memory is sketchy on that. Doesn't matter, because we always got food: hamburger, small fry, medium Dr Pepper for me for $.94 (Jane's was $.99 because she got a cheeseburger). It was almost always crowded, and we would table hop, scooting into booths to visit with friends that we had just seen at school. It was our favorite social activity.

When I graduated from high school and found out my parents actually expected me to get a JOB, I figured I might as well work at McDonalds, because why not? Instead of applying at the one less than a mile from my house, however, I picked one 10 miles away, because I didn't want anyone I knew to come in while I was working. Jane then applied, too, and we worked together all that summer. It was my first job. 

We worked hard. There were no computerized cash registers then; we had an order pad, a pencil, and a tax chart, and I would hide my hand under the edge of the counter and count on my fingers when I was totaling an order. We had something like a minute to take an order, ring it up, and fill the order, and we were often timed by managers. Need a shake? Unless it was during the lunch rush, you had to make it yourself. MAKE it. Ice cream, milk, syrup in a cup, fit it on the mixer, and bzzzzzz it until it was smooth. It felt like it took forever AND YOU WERE BEING TIMED. The uniform was a hideous lime green, double knit fabric, and it always smelled like french fries.

I quit working at that McDonalds that fall when I moved to Springfield to go to college three hours away, but the following summer, I got another job at McDonalds, this time in Springfield, and I continued to work there until I graduated. Navy blue uniforms this time (much better), but it still smelled like a french fry. Most of the employees were college or high school students, and we had a lot of fun together, both at work and after. The store opened its first drive-thru right after I started, and they had computerized cash registers, so no more order pads and counting on my fingers! The first promotional game came out that first summer, with game pieces handed out with each order. Many of the game pieces held instant winner prizes of free food, so we stuck handfuls of game pieces in our socks while at work to open later at home (the managers were less subtle; they sat in the office and ripped them open, looking for free food prizes). Happy Meals had just come out, and we all had collections of the toys (socks again), and no, I don't have any of those anymore, but I did find this in a box in my bedroom closet:

And I don't care what anyone else says, sometimes NOTHING tastes better than a regular McDonalds hamburger and fries, and you won't make me change my mind. 


  1. Maccas memories. In Australia we call McDonalds 'Maccas' because we're obsessed with shortening words with too many syllables. I never worked at Maccas although I had friends who did. I reckon it's almost a rite of passage for teenagers to work at fast food joints. I took a different path. My favourite Maccas memory is the Big Mac promotion where you could get a free one if you listed all the ingredients, in the correct order, out loud. 'Two all beef patties, special sauce, cheese...etc' I can still recite the list. ha ha

    1. When I worked there and someone asked me what was on a Big Mac, I would have to recite the commercial jingle!

  2. Funny how as old as granddaughters become... they still enjoy going to McDonalds. I remember in the 1960's when they opened near me and couldn't wait to go. I"m also in the A to Z for my 9th year writing on DNA traits on Ancestry.

  3. I had some friends who worked at McDonalds. They all said it was good experience. I worked at Pizza Hut myself.
    I agree, I still love "Micky D" cheeseburger and fries.
    Tim Brannan, The Other Side blog
    2024 A to Z of Dungeons & Dragons, Celebrating 50 Years of D&D

  4. When I was 6, going to McDonald's was a treat because we didn't have a lot of money... When I was in my 20's, going to McDonald's in a foreign country was a treat because it was almost 4 dollars more expensive than in the states and when you're away from home you just want a simple reminder... Now in my 50's it's a treat at the end of a long work day... thanks for the memories...

  5. It's been years since I ate any fast food. Also never worked at a fast food place. I'm so old, they weren't even around. Then we lived out in the country and they still weren't around. I remember when...

  6. When that's what you want, it's what you want!

    Kathy Lee Gifford tells a wonderful story about her and Frank Gifford's first meeting with Billy Graham. He'd come to their home to be part of a Christmas special being filmed there (he was going to be the grandfather who sat in the rocker by the fire and read the Christmas story from Luke 2). Trying to be good hosts, they asked him if they could get him anything.

    "Anything?" he said, his eyes lighting up.

    They took a deep breath, wondering what was going to happen, and said, "Yes, anything."

    "Can I have a Big Mac?" he asked, and they were so relieved that was all he wanted. Frank Gifford went down to the McDonald's and got a box of them, enough for everyone on the set!

  7. Many many years ago, when the likes of MacD came to India, it was quite a news. And many, especially youngsters, used to go there. I like MacD better than KFC, Pizza Hut etc. I don't know why. Probably, the taste!