“Two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions, on a sesame seed bun! What scares me is that I never intentionally set out to learn that song, yet 25 years later I can sing it out of the blue. How powerful is advertising that it can force me to remember the Big Mac Ingredients Song when I don’t really want that information cluttering up my head?” –Brad spontaneously Singing 25 Year Old Advertising Jingles Out of the Blue–
NOT WHAT YOU EXPECT
For the Central Newfoundland town of Grand Falls, the Summer of ’82 was a summer of anticipation. Each day people passed the site and mouths would water. Each week construction added a little more to the project and as the Summer edged closer to Fall, it was becoming more and more evident that my little town was about to cross the threshold into the modern age of civilization.
Grand Falls was getting a McDonalds.
The day-consuming 10 hour drives for a Big Mac would be a thing of the past. No more 850 Kilometre round-trips just to drive through a drive-thru. No more cross-province excursions only to stand in line and be asked if I wanted fries with that. McDonalds was staking its claim and the promise of Happy Meals and free smiles excited us all from the tip of our taste buds to the depths of our large bowels.
Our town never had a fast food joint before, unless you count Kentucky Fried Chicken, and never to my knowledge was service there particularly fast. There were two A&W’s, the second was built years after the first burned to the ground, but both of those had been Drive-Ins. Your food was delivered to your window and you had to eat in your car. McDonalds was different, this would be our very first fast-food place with seats.
Now, most of our locally owned restaurants had seats, but they also had waits. You ordered your meal and waited fifteen to twenty minutes for your home-style meal to be prepared. You had to past the time conversing face to face with friends or making fun of people across the room. Never before was the taste of flavour-enhanced preservative-laden pre-warmed food, boxed in Styrofoam under a heat lamp instantly available to my tiny hometown of 12,000 souls.
As teenagers, following a Friday evening of feeding quarters to arcade games like Pac-Man, Centipede and Asteroids we would gather at one of the local eateries and with the money not lost to our new video games addiction we would feed ourselves from menus that had never changed during our lifetimes. Chunks of local potato deep-fried in animal fat, covered in a dark, thick gravy topped a dressing of savoury stuffing and sliced fried wieners. Having been banned for our loud behaviour during a previous visit, we ate outside.
Sitting on the hoods of our cars, as the street light buzzed overhead on those warm summer nights, we licked the grease off our fingers and shared the latest information we had gathered concerning the arrival of McDonalds. “They shipped in the seats today,” someone would explain describing the big transport truck seen delivering them. A week from now someone heard the kitchen equipment was to be installed. Rumours were spread of individuals we knew who had been accepted for job interviews and talk of uniforms and job training sessions soon followed.
The date of the grand opening was finally announced and eagerly looked forward to. Ronald McDonald, the grand clown of Saturday morning commercials himself was said to be coming. The cravings intensified and our dreams were full of McChickens, Quarter Pounders, Big Macs and McNuggets. Imagining the sound of someone shaking a box of Mcdonaldland cookies; even that set drool flowing from the corners of our lips.
Just days before opening the golden arches were hoisted aloft ready to glow in our night’s sky, a beacon to those lost and hungry. An invitation to become one of those billions and billions served. It was all brand new to our town.
On the morning of Labour Day, 1982, the ribbons were cut and the doors were opened wide to the McStarving. The throng elbowed their way inside.
I was not to be found among them.
At that very moment I was 32,000 feet overhead – eating a cold piece of dried, plastic-wrapped, precooked toast with a packet of strawberry jam – aboard a jet plane headed west, bound for Bible College in Ontario.
That trip is what this story is all about. Really!
Sometimes life is like this blog, just when you think you have it all figured out and you know where its going it takes an unexpected turn in a totally different direction.