This picture is of the very first McDonalds restaurant ever, located in Des Plaines, IL, just north of what is now O’Hare airport. It’s no longer in operation (there’s a quasi-modern McDonalds right across the street), but it’s maintained as a museum, a monument to what has become one of the great, if not the greatest, business success stories in American history.
Like any monument, what this particular monument means is different for each person. To someone interested in business history, it represents a case study on how to create, and sustain, a universal experience that is appreciated and loved by billions of people around the world. To someone else, it might represent a memory of sharing that first soda or french fries with your future husband or wife before that really awful movie you saw on your first date (anyone remember John Belushi in “1941”?).
To someone who once worked at a McDonalds, it could represent that first low-paying job where you learned how to work, how to relate to others in a business setting, how to serve well, and maybe even the beginnings of how to lead. Or it might evoke painful memories of a cruel coworker or supervisor who made working there a living nightmare.
The possibilities are endless.
For me, this particular McDonalds is where my teenage father helped his uncle survey the site so that the builders could place it on the right parcel of land, in exactly the right spot, just as you see it today. My legal work has taught me enough about real estate to know that surveying is an exacting process, requiring precision, clarity of communications, and patience. That was likely even more true in the early 1950s, when surveying equipment was still much like the equipment surveyors used when this country was founded.
Those qualities – precision, clarity, and patience – my father has carried with him throughout his entire life.
Knowing that my father walked across this land measuring, taking notes, and carrying surveying equipment – all the while building those character traits that made him the man that I know him to be – made me feel somehow connected to this place. And more connected to him.
And to the french fries. Always the fries.
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One thought on “A Monument to Character”
Great memoir piece, Mike. I go to McD’s for the iced tea – no fries 🙂