Medlin 2013 Family Trip to San Diego travel blog

The original McDonald's store in San Bernadino

Some of the memorabilia in the old store

Euclid Ave, Upland

Ninth St, Upland

The intersection of Ninth St & Second Ave, Upland

Big Bear Lake from the top of the pass

Boulder Bay, Big Bear Lake


I didn’t have to check out until noon & wasn’t supposed to arrive at the time-share until 5:00pm so I had a lazy morning & left about 11:00am. I stopped in San Bernadino because I’d read that the very first McDonald’s store was opened here on Route 66 by the McDonald brothers on December 12th, 1948.

One of the brothers wanted his hamburger stands to be more visible & came up with the idea of the golden arches & their 2nd store & first McDonald’s franchise with the golden arches was in Phoenix, Arizona.

When he was 52, Ray Kroc invested his entire life savings to become the exclusive distributor of a milk-shake maker called the Multi-mixer which could make several milk-shakes at the same time. Hearing about the McDonalds hamburger stand running 8 multi-mixers at a time he headed for California & had never seen so many people served so quickly.

He pitched the idea to the McDonalds of opening up several stores, convinced that he could sell 8 of his Multi-mixers to each one. In 1954, Ray Kroc talked the brothers into letting him franchise McDonalds & opened his first store in Illinois. It was actually the 9th McDonald’s but he called it Store #1 & it’s now the official McDonald’s museum.

In 1961, Ray Kroc bought the rights to McDonalds Hamburgers from the brothers for $2.7 million but was furious when he learned that the price didn’t include the store in San Bernadino. He made the brothers change the name to Big M & built his own store one block north, taking much of Big M’s business.

The legions of dedicated McDonald’s customers supported the new store, assuming it had simply moved to a better location but after the McDonald brothers retired, Ray Kroc closed his store & sold the property, confirming that he’d opened it out of spite with the intention of putting the brothers out of business.

Eventually a very wealthy Ray Kroc moved to San Diego & is well known by San Diegans as the saviour who rescued the Padres baseball team when it was about to leave town. He died in San Diego in 1984 & his wife, who was a great philanthropist, especially towards the San Diego Zoo died in San Diego in 2003.

This little store in San Bernadino is an unofficial McDonald’s museum & is just packed with all kinds of memorabilia. Ray Kroc ordered the removal of the golden arches from the sign in 1961 & the sign was saved from complete demolition in 1972 when a lone neighbour stopped the wrecking crew from tearing it down.

When I was driving along the freeway, I noticed an exit to Etiwanda Ave but it didn’t occur to me at the time that I must be somewhere near Upland. (For non-Mildurans, Upland is an important sister city where the Chaffey brothers were recruited by Alfred Deakin to come & establish an irrigation settlement on the Murray.)

I still had plenty of time so I back-tracked 20 miles & had a look around Upland. I’d heard that it was nearly a replica of Mildura but I didn’t find many similarities at all. It does have an impressive divided main street called Euclid Avenue & I did find an Olive Ave but that’s all. Just about all the streets in central Upland are numbered with streets going one way & avenues another so you have an Eighth Street intersecting with an Eighth Avenue. It’s a nice enough place but doesn’t look anything like Mildura – maybe I wasn’t looking in the right place.

After wandering around Upland for a while, I drove back through San Bernadino, then up a very winding, narrow road into the San Bernadino mountains. The highest pass was just over 7,200 ft then the road dropped down to Big Bear Lake which is about 6,700 ft above sea level so it’s considerably cooler than Los Angeles which has been in the 80s this week. Lagonita Lodge where I’m staying is built right on the edge of the lake & is a typical mountain lodge with lots of pine trees & timber buildings.

Big Bear is a very popular ski-resort in the winter & is probably the closest resort to Los Angeles. They had 5 inches of snow here early in October & there are still a few traces but the forecast is for perfect sunny weather all this week.

My apartment is very comfortable with a sunny balcony, well-provided kitchen with a dishwasher, a separate bedroom with a comfy queen-size bed & ducted heating & a gas fireplace for the chilly nights. There’s lots of things to see & do but I don’t plan to do a lot – just relax & catch up on all the things I’ve neglected for the past few weeks (like this journal).



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