Original McDonald's Site, Museum.

Original McDonald's Site, Museum

Field review by the editors.

San Bernardino, California

The McDonald brothers opened their first McDonald's restaurant on December 12, 1948, in San Bernardino. Fifty years later, long after the building had been bulldozed in 1971, the property was purchased by Albert Okura, who owns the Juan Pollo fast food chain. Albert turned the property into an unofficial museum and filled it with thousands of artifacts -- almost all of them donated -- dating back to McDonald's prehistory, when it was called the Airdrome Drive-In, had carhops, and sold barbecue.

Original McDonald's Site, Museum.

Albert went to all this trouble because McDonald's, unlike some other fast food franchises, does not revere its past. The corporation has continually gutted and remodeled itself in its effort to retain its iron grip on the market. It even destroyed its replica first Ray Kroc franchise restaurant in August 2018 -- perhaps because it wanted no reminders of its past for the chain's 70th anniversary in December 2018. The loss was not mourned by the fans of Albert Okura's museum, who called the first franchise restaurant the "Vichy First McDonald's" because it drew attention away from the one in San Bernardino -- where the 70th anniversary was celebrated with glee.

Original McDonald's Site, Museum.

Albert's museum now has no competition. He salvaged the property's old-style McDonald's sign and some of its original cookware. Inside, the museum showcases old employee uniforms, vintage Happy Meal toys, and a late 1960s Hamburglar that is more frightening than his later incarnations.

One treasured relic is an original McDonald's straw wrapper, 70 years old. In the back of the property are the original restaurant offices, where the McDonald brothers perfected the French fry machine.

Albert credits McDonald's with inspiring his choice of a career in the fast food business (even though Juan Pollo's specially is rotisserie chicken) and he claims to have eaten tens of thousands of McDonald's hamburgers with no ill effects.

Original McDonald's Site, Museum

Address:
1398 N. E St., San Bernardino, CA
Directions:
West of the 215 Fwy, north of Baseline and south of Highland Ave., at 14th and E Sts.
Hours:
M-Sa 9-5, Su 10-5 (Call to verify)
Phone:
909-885-6324
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour
Save to My Sights

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