It's hard to imagine McDonald's without the familiar drive-through lane that is so emblematic of the chain's commitment to efficiency over all else. But in Downey, the oldest surviving McDonald's restaurant—the original location was torn down and rebuilt in 1957—has been operating without one for more than 60 years. That may soon change though. Fox News LA reports that McDonald's has asked the Downey Planning Commission to approve a plan that would add a drive-through to the historic establishment.
Opened by Roger Williams and Bud Landon in 1953, the Downey McDonald's has always done things a little differently. Williams and Landon purchased franchise rights from the McDonald brothers (Richard and Maurice) themselves, prior to the brand being bought out by Ray Kroc in 1961. As such, the restaurant hasn't always been subject to the uniform standards that govern most McDonald's locations. The apple pie is still deep-fried there. And when the Big Mac was introduced in 1968, the Downey McDonald's refused for years to add it to the menu. (Kroc acquired the restaurant in 1990.)
The differences have also extended to the restaurant's appearance. The familiar Golden Arches are present in the building itself, but the sign out front might confuse unsuspecting customers. In the odd structure, the word "hamburgers" protrudes from a single yellow curve as a doughboy-like creature named Speedee welcomes diners. It's a disconcerting first draft that might make you appreciate the simple elegance of the the newer design.
Still, the Downey McDonald's is appealing precisely because of its quirks, which might give the city's planning commission pause in approving such a dramatic change for such a significant historical location. As it stands today, the small burger joint perfectly captures the moment in time when the fast food movement was coming into its own and a hungry nation stood ready to clog its arteries.
Still, it might be better to have a slightly updated oldest McDonald's than no McDonald's at all. It seems the Downey location has been struggling to turn a profit and adding a drive-through would almost certainly help in those efforts.