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One thing not to be so thankful for this Thanksgiving week is that McDonald’s, the world’s largest restaurant business with 37,000 locations worldwide, announced that it has no room in the modern world for Ray Kroc’s first McDonald’s location in Des Plaines, Illinois. The historic non-operating museum restaurant, rebuilt to original plans on its original site in 1985, and since become a popular tourist destination, is slated to be demolished within a month, with relics preserved and land donated to the city.

Of course, the Des Plaines restaurant was actually the ninth McDonald’s ever built, including the McDonald brother’s very first location in San Bernardino, California, now long gone, except for a cement and bronze marker at the site. But DesPlaines, now apparently destined for the same treatment, is where Kroc really launched the chain, attracting throngs of local customers while showing off the potential of the business to prospective franchisees. It is also where Kroc’s successor as Chairman and CEO, Fred Turner, began work flipping burgers for one dollar an hour.

In his autobiography, Grinding it Out, Kroc recalls the beginnings: ” It was in DesPlaines, a seven-minute drive from my home and a short walk from the Northwestern Railroad Station, from where I could commute to the city.” He recalled the opening: “Art Bender, the McDonald brothers’ manager, came to DesPlaines and helped me and Ed (McLuckie) open that store on April 15, 1955. It was a hell of an ordeal, but the experience was to prove invaluable in opening other stores.” Ray said he would “drive down to DesPlaines each morning and help get the place ready to open. The janitor would arrive at the same time I did, and if there was nothing else to be done, I’d help him. I’ve never been too proud to grab a mop and clean up…in the evenings I would commute back to DesPlaines and walk over to the store. I was always eager to see it come into view, my McDonald’s!”

There are plans for historic displays at McDonald’s new corporate headquarters, now being build in the hot, growing business district of West Chicago, however something quite tangible will be lost when that early neon-swaddled McDonald’s — Ray Kroc’s first — no longer exists, and on its original site. Of course, the museum restaurant could be reconstructed, indoors or outdoors, in conjunction with some other museum, such as the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago or the Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, where the Wright Brother’s shop and Thomas Edison labs stand, but that would take some doing, and some caring, from the corporate folks at McDonald’s. We’ll see.

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It was 1969, as the first Boeing 747 double deck planes were coming off the line. I had just gone to work in the public affairs department at the HQ of the Allstate Insurance Company, in Deerfield, Il. I was initially assigned to the Accident Prevention Section, and reporting up to Don, then Allstate’s director of safety.

Don was chatting with us one day, and mentioned that Allstate had taken on part of the reinsurance for the first 747’s. Reinsurance is a way to spread risk, in which large insurance company’s like Allstate would provide insurance to back up another company’s insurance policy.

Don told us he had seen the loss projections on the early 747’s, and said that based on that, he would not be flying on them. We were stunned. I think it was several years later, after I had left Allstate and forgotten about Don’s cautionary admonition, before I booked a flight on one.

I just looked at the records of the giant craft, and since their first production, some 1500-plus 747’s have been manufactured, and 61 hulls have been lost, around 4%. However, a large percentage of those hull losses resulted in no loss of life, and many others were due to external causes such as terrorism and pilot error. In general, the planes have been incredibly safe.

But Don was right: statistics can be scary.

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