SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. — Before the Golden Arches, before the Happy Meal, and before the Big Mac. McDonald's was a barbeque restaurant that sat off business Route 66 in San Bernardino.
Today, the original McDonalds location is still there, but now it's home to the Unofficial McDonald’s Museum. Emphasis on “Unofficial,” according to assistant curator Ezra Cabral.
“We are completely independent. Privatized. Our collection comes from people all over the world,” Cabral said.
Inside the museum is more than 80 years of artifacts. Everything ranging from the original BBQ-era to the current Happy Meal toy.
McDonald's history starts back in 1940 with brothers Richard and Maurice McDonald. Back then, the menu was full of BBQ but the brothers learned they made more profit by reducing the menu to food they could make “FAST” like hamburgers and fries.
“Speedy Burger was the original mascot created by the brothers in 1948,” Cabral said.
The idea of “fast food” eventually caught the attention of Milk Shake machine salesman Ray Kroc.
“He knew this was the future of the restaurant business and eventually became their franchise agent,” Cabral said.
The partnership between the McDonalds Brothers and Roy Kroc was not exactly friendly. The 2016 film “The Founder” starring Michael Keaton tells the story of how Kroc built the McDonald's franchise up and the conflict with the McDonald brothers.
“Ray Kroc would eventually buy the brothers out for $2.7 million -- equivalent to about $30 million today,” Cabral said.
McDonald's would go on to revolutionize and inspire other fast-food chains with its innovative ideas, like the Happy Meal that includes small prizes.
Over the years, McDonald's expanded the franchise and changed the Happy Meal prize to a large toy collection. Eventually, they would become one of the largest employers in the world. Today, McDonald's has around 34,000 restaurants in 118 countries.
The Mcdonald's brand is recognizable all over the world and that’s what attracts people to the museum. But this location, the historic site of the Original McDonald's would have been lost had it not been for the Albert Okura.
The self-made entrepreneur is the owner of the Juan Pollo, a San Bernardino restaurant chain. Okura is also a historian of fast food.
“He always pays tribute to the brothers. He sees them as inspiration to his own achievements at his own fast-food chain,” Cabral said.
And thanks to Okura, the history of McDonald's lives on!