Golden memories in old eatery

Customers take one last look of Solid Gold McDonald's

April 5, 2011

Greenfield — A voluptuous Marilyn Monroe stood against the big windows looking out onto 76th Street. Pushed up in front of her was a baby grand played uproariously by Mac Tonight, a figure with a huge crescent moon head and a big, beaming smile.

It was a McDonald's restaurant like you've never seen before. And may never see again in Greenfield.

On Friday, a monster moving van positioned itself in the parking lot of Solid Gold McDonald's, 5040 S. 76th St. Marilyn, Mac Tonight, a variety of Beatles items and and all the restaurant's memorabilia from the 1950s, '60s and '70s had "A Ticket to Ride" on that truck en route to be auctioned off for the benefit of the Ronald McDonald House.

Next week, most likely, wrecking crews will take their place in the parking lot as they begin to take down the old restaurant to make way for a new McDonald's.

The new eatery, expected to open in July, will have a safer drive-thru, where patrons do not have to line up in the street, and modern amenities. But it won't have that rock-and-roll ambience of its predecessor.

But "Wouldn't it be Nice" if it did?

"We talked about it," said Ernie Masucci, president of the Illinois-based McEssy Organization that bought the Greenfield restaurant from long-time owner Jim Patterson in 2008. "But we felt it is better to start again, to have a new beginning."

Understanding patrons

Nobody sitting in the hubbub of the restaurant surrounded by the whir of power tools and the rush of volunteers carrying the memorabilia away seemed to all shook up - at least not too horribly.

"It's sad to see it go," said Ruth Parks of Greendale who comes to McDonald's every Friday morning with her daughter and sister-in-law.

"Everything has to change and be with the oncoming things. You can't stay with the old," she said, despite the highlights of white in her hair.

Next to her, Lois Becker, of Greenfield, who is married to Ruth's twin brother, wasn't singing "Cry Me a River."

"It was time for a change," Lois said, but acknowledging she does love its '50s and '60s feel.

"We used to like the piano" when it actually played, Lois added.

"My favorite is the motorcycle," probably because it's a Harley, added Sharon Harding, who comes from Sussex on Friday mornings to be with her mother and aunt at the Solid Gold McDonald's.

But even she doesn't think the new owner is a "Hound Dog."

"I realize it needs updating," she said.

And sad ones, too

But some customers are quite upset about the passing of the Solid Gold.

"Why didn't Greenfield do something to keep this landmark going?" Vince Michuda asked in an e-mail, upon hearing about the impending demolition in the news.

"Big corporations are ruining tourist attractions in our local cities," he said. "What about the revenue the car shows brought to the area, and my grandkids will never again be able to view the rock and roll history of our country. … All this history will be to lost to someone's private closed-door collection. What good is that? "

Greenfield Mayor Michael Neitzke said he also is sorry to see it go.

"I'll miss it huge," he said. "I used to go every Wednesday in the summer with my kids to the car show. … You couldn't find a better bunch of people, all ages sat around and talked about their cars."

One of those classic car shows was valuable to the Police Department because it helped support the D.A.R.E. anti-drug and alcohol abuse program, Neitzke said. The show had been held every fall.

The restaurant and the car shows were good for the city because they brought people into Greenfield, the mayor said. "It's sad when those traditions go away."

The city tried to keep the car shows, but really has little say in the matter about what the property's current owner will do in that regard, Neitzke said.

Chris Baldwin, who was on his way to work nad was joined three retired friends for morning coffee, admitted "I'm kind of disappointed" with the owners' decision, noting that the new place will "be just a basic McDonald's."

Even though he is a 20s-something, Chris loves the Beatles and jazz that sings softly as a musical background for conversation.

Across the table, John Rucic of Greenfield said he hates to see the cute little kiddie car painted like a race car go.

His friend, Dean Harryman of Greendale, said he is also sorry to see the old place go.

Across from Dean was Tom George, who in his 20s drove formula Indy and midget race cars. He went back to driving in his 50s. Tom freely acknowledges he's sorry the racing mementos are gone from the walls and ceiling of the restaurant. Some were from hometown boy and NASCAR racer Alan Kulwicki.

The restaurant is so unique, Tom said he liked to bring his wife there. "She's an Elvis fan," Tom said with a smile.

The restaurant has had other distinguished guests. At one time or another, the musicians who have made the memories depicted inside have rolled into the McDonald's. They include the Beach Boys, Herman's Hermits, Jan and Dean and Les Paul.

But for customers, all those are happy memories now. But they are not forgotten because they know "All I Have to Do is Dream."


Julie London

"Cry Me a River," 1955


"All Shook Up," 1957

"Return to Sender," 1962

Everly Brothers

"Bye Bye Love," 1957

"All I Have to Do is Dream," 1958

"Walk Right Back," 1961

Rick Nelson

"Travelin' Man," 1961

Connie Francis

"Who's Sorry Now," 1958

Beach Boys

"Fun, Fun, Fun," 1964

"Wouldn't It Be Nice," 1966

"Good Vibrations," 1966


"I Feel Fine," 1964

"Ticket to Ride," 1965

"Yesterday," 1965

Bobby Rydell

"Wild One," 1960

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