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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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