Back when I did a survey of Hollywood Park neighborhood landmarks, someone mentioned our McDonald’s probably was one of the earliest.
Exactly how early? I asked.
Maybe the second, replied my source.
If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know milestones of this magnitude are few and far between in the history of Hollywood Park. For nearly a year I’ve been asking former Hollywood Park residents old enough to remember, what year did the McDonald’s open? (People from Hollywood Park of course understand which is the McDonald’s. For those of you from other parts, it’s located on Peterson and Jersey.) Here’s the best answer I got:
“Regarding McDonald’s, I’m guessing it was opened in ’58 0r ’59. I remember we were there at the Park every day on our bikes and would ask them every day when they were opening.”
After learning the 100th restaurant opened in 1959, however, I gave up all hope. If we were Ray Kroc’s 61st or 89th or even the 100th McDonald’s, that story wasn’t worth a french fry.
Then I talked to Howard Gelber. He was one of the first teenagers, maybe the first teenager, to get a part-time job at the Hollywood Park McDonald’s. And, yes, he confirmed we were #2. Well, maybe #3–but, definitely, not more than #3.
As Gelber recalls, he started working at the Hollywood Park McDonald’s in 1956 or ’57 and there was a McDonald’s on Montrose that opened just before or after the Hollywood Park McDonald’s. Kroc’s first McDonald’s restaurant opened on April 15, 1955, on Lee Street in Des Plaines.
That means our McDonald’s isn’t just a Hollywood Park landmark; it’s one or two McDonald’s away from being a national monument. And get this: Ray Kroc himself would pick up Gelber at Von Steuben High School and drive him to work.
The Hollywood Park McDonald’s was Kroc’s showplace to sell the concept to franchisees, and he wanted a bright and personable young man taking orders. The full-time employees didn’t fit the bill, so whenever Kroc had an appointment to show the restaurant to a prospect, he drove over to Von, picked up Gelber and drove him back to McDonald’s to work the window.
Millions and millions and millions
My first visit to the Hollywood Park McDonald’s probably was in 1964, ’65 at the latest. It was a special treat, once or twice a summer. We ate in the car and all I talked about was the sign. That sign introduced me to the numerical concept of millions, and more than anything, I wanted to witness the exact moment when the number of burgers sold rose another million.
About the photo
Morrie Farbman clearly remembers the date he took the photograph of the McDonald’s sign shown above because it was right after the assassination of RFK and the flag was flying at half-mast. I’m surprised to see the original sign lasted so long. The only change is “Coast to Coast” replaced 15 cents.
Farbman attended Hibbard and Von Steuben, but graduated from Niles North. He recalls spending nearly every summer day from 1962 to 1969 at Hollywood Park.
Those were the days. Hanging at the park playing line ball, baseball and basketball, then lunch at McDonald’s.
He started taking photographs in 1964, mostly street photography. He worked part-time for Phil Malodinoff, a well-known Jewish photographer who had a studio on Devon. He had the Mather High School yearbook job, and Farbman recalls using a 4×5 camera to photograph the exterior of the school, first with the lens cap on and then getting it right the second time. Farbman’s first full-time commercial photography job was with Buffalo Photo near Clark and Superior. After getting married and having children, he became a Skokie garbage man by day and wedding/bar mitzvah photographer by night.
Over time Farbman worked his way up the ranks to firefighter, paramedic, lieutenant, fire investigator and fire chief, but along the way he lost his passion for photography. Then in 1993, the bug bit again and he’s been taking fine art still life and landscape photographs and now plans to get back into his first interest, street photography. Check his recent work as well as some classic early ’70s images–including a young Eric Clapton in photo #6–on his website. You can contact Morrie via his website if you’re interested in purchasing prints, or you can view his work at Galleria Classico, in Cave Creek, just north of Phoenix/Scottsdale.
Credits: Photo courtesy of Morrie Farbman. Thanks to Morrie Farbman and Howard Gelber for sharing their stories.