Saturday, June 4, 2016
A Fast-Food Addiction Is Born
What were those places? The only ones I can remember with absolute clarity were a Howard Johnson's in Columbia, Missouri (now leveled) and Nikki's in Estes Park, Colorado.
I can tell you exactly when I got hooked on the Golden Arches: the Summer of 1980, at the McDonald's off of Cave Springs Road in St. Charles, Missouri.
We were into the first leg of what would become a regular summer journey into New England to visit my Aunt Shirley, and we were stopping for dinner. I'm not sure how my tastes changed, or whether it was just the right meal at the right time, but I discovered Happy Meals in the brightly-colored box.
That summer vacation, we must've eaten at more McDonald's in two weeks than I had ever eaten at in the past 9 years. What was a relief to my parents at first progressively soured. It wasn't just the food; it was the necessity of having to have cash on hand, because Mickey D's at that time didn't take credit cards. Thus successive summers became a partial exercise in weaning your young servant off Ronald's Place. We managed to have sit-down dinners at Perkins, Dutch Pantry, Denny's and a few moderately classier places on the road which would take MasterCard.
Until then, my folks not only had to tolerate my newfound diet, they also had to tolerate me keeping the Happy Meal boxes -- every one of them. So for vacation souvenirs in 1980, I had several empty, fry-oil anointed cardboard shells. What was I planning to do with them at home? Beats me. In my youth and naivety, I thought they might make good carrying cases for something, whatever that something was. I never found the use, even though the boxes still made their way home with me, after the Royal Father insisted they could be folded down and packed into the trunk with the rest of the luggage without ruining any of them.
Several years later, the Royal Father would end up managing for McDonald's. I would move up to Big Macs, two at a time... but without saving the box.