Sunday, July 06, 2008


I live in the town of the last single-arch McDonald’s sign, featuring the neon little “Mr. Speedee,” whose short little legs are perpetually moving in spite of going nowhere. To the left is an actual picture of the sign in Muncie.

You're probably wondering what the big deal is over the single arch.

Here is an excerpt from a Huntsville Times article that puts this factoid in perspective [Huntsville has now taken down their single arch]:

The McDonald's sign - a single, large golden arch - is a classic piece of Americana dating to 1963. It is believed to be one of only two single-arch McDonald's signs left in America. The other is in Muncie, Ind.

It isn't just the arch's age that makes people want their pictures taken in front of it, although that's part of it. Erected when John F. Kennedy was president and the Civil Rights Era was dawning, it recalls a time when takeout was new, fast food was new and, to be honest, we were newer, too.

I remember going to this McDonalds when I was little, though not very often because buying a ready-made hamburger was the exception, not the norm. And certainly not on Sunday, if it was even open on Sunday.

At first, you had to walk up to a window to order at McDonalds. My mother still remembers the day I finally ate the bun and not just the meat of the hamburger, as if I had finally validated all of her mothering efforts by eating one little sandwich. Little did she know that in my thirties and forties, I would be trying to cut back on eating so much bread and that I would always clean my plate and anyone else's that went unguarded. Where did that scrawny, sickly child go?

This McDonalds, one of four in our city, sits on Madison Street, the traditional strip for cruising on Saturday nights, where cars passed one neon sign after another. Through the years, development moved away from downtown and toward the north and west, and all that surrounds this store now are an old neighborhood featuring re-furbished houses next to run-down eyesores and an old Episcopalian church. If you go south on Madison, you end up in a low-income housing project. If you go a little west, you end up in the heart of our historic downtown, which is forever treading water but gasping with every breath.

My husband likes to go downtown; I don’t. Maybe it’s because at one time, he lived in that neighborhood surrounding the old McDonalds before his parents divorced. I lived in one home my entire life, a tiny three-bedroom ranch in a new little subdivision, on the edge of the city. Anyway, he likes the flavor of downtown. I find it scary. He doesn’t mind the maze of one-way streets and bohemian types in coffee shops. I only like the shop where you can paint your own pottery. He likes public transportation; I definitely do not. He says "tomato" and I say "I just adore a penthouse view! Dahling, I love you, but give me Park Avenue." Or something like that.

So I have mixed feelings when I see Mr. Speedee now. But mostly, I say “Yay, Muncie, for hanging by your fingertips onto the title, ‘America’s Hometown.’” Ba-da da-da da-daaah, I’m lovin’ it!


Rick said...

Good bye Speedie. Good bye single arch. Hello McSalad. I guess you call it progress.

God bless you in your ministry.

Mocha with Linda said...

I still remember how excited I was as a kid when the summer library program's prize was earning a free McD's burger. (The plain burger then was just a quarter, I think!) Since we NEVER ate out, (only when we traveled or Kip's Big Boy once a year on my birthday!) I thought I was in absolute heaven.

Surely those burgers tasted better then than they do now and it's not just my memory. . . .

Susanne said...

Ours have always been the double arches. But I do miss Ronald sitting in them. The new ones don't even have Ronald there keeping an eye over things.

Melanie @ This Ain't New York said...

I think it is great that it has lasted this long.

My hometown (Albany, GA) has torn down everything that resembles a bit of history unless it is in the "right" zip code. It has been very sad to see historical buildings and signs torn down. Great to know one town out there still preserves history!

Paula (SweetPea) said...

What a true blessing and honor to see something "original" and "historic". I think too many things are being replaced these days and not maintained as historic. Unfortunately, our kids or especially their kids will never see the richness of such historic things or even have the "beauty" of the good-ol-days of wholesome cartoons and sitcoms.

Susan said...

Gosh I remember these signs, but I sure don't remember the last time I saw one. I guess it must be a LONG time ago since I have never been to Muncie (or Huntsville)! Nostalgia is such a good thing, though.

:-) Susan

Anonymous said...

WOW! I recognize that sign!! I used to live and teach in Muncie! How interesting!! I've come across your blog before and am loving it! Thanks for sharing! :D