Melancholy and happiness in Downey’s celebration for the oldest McDonald’s


Jasmine Martinez

McDonald’s on Lakewood Blvd celebrated its 65th year in service. It was opened on Aug. 18, 1953 by Roger Williams and Burdette “Bud” Landon. Landon’s grandson was also in attendance and recounted his personal history with the restaurant.

Carmelita Islas Mendez, Managing Editor

The Downey Conservancy hosted an event celebrating the 65 years of service of the oldest McDonald’s ever, located on Lakewood Boulevard.

The festivities took place on location with the famous 62 feet sign of Speedee, the original mascot of the franchise, welcoming in all visitors with a big smile and pantomimed directions to the restaurant.

It was a lively event where people enjoyed the food and the friends in attendance and which also greeted the grandson of one of the original owners, Burdette “Bud” Landon.

Todd Landon-Sell, Landon’s grandson, said that he was very happy to see the large crowd, but that this was not the case for many other previous anniversaries.

He believes that the Downey Conservancy was the reason the event brought the attention from the city’s residents as well as local news outlets, such as the Orange County Registrar and the Long Beach Press Telegram.

Roger Williams and Bud Landon were the original owners of the franchise which opened its doors on Aug. 18, 1953, when Sell was three years old.

Sell recounted a memory from his childhood and working in the kitchen, squeezing ketchup and mustard on the buns — mustard first he expressed ardently or else the buns would get soggy.

He described the story about how he told his grandmother that one day he would own the restaurant. His grandmother said, “You better get that out of your mind right now. That could never ever ever ever happen. They’re gonna let those two old codgers [Williams and Landon] run it and then it’s going back into corporate hands.”

He concluded in a melancholic tone by saying, “Where is it now? It’s back in corporate hands. There’s nothing I can do about it and it’s sad.”

President of the Downey Conservancy George Redfox also expressed the attachment to the restaurant by saying that it was important to preserve and protect the franchise because it was the “last kind of groovy-style architecture McDonald’s chain.”

In addition to the event organizers, city officials were also in attendance. Rick Rodriguez, mayor pro tem for the city of Downey, was there to join in.

Rodriguez also stressed on the historical importance of the building, ”I think this place has built memory upon memory over the years … there is a lot of rich Downey history here.”

Redfox also said that the place and event was ‘just great’ and that he was proud that a small celebration ‘snowballed into a big thing and it’s been good.’

Sell says that aside from the anniversaries he only comes to the location a few times a year to “check on [his] boy,” Speedee.

Rodriguez said, “I hope that going forward we remember this day and to continue building Downey’s legacy to be a strong legacy but at the same time form a rich history.”

Guest speaker Charles Phoenix during his speech reminded people to be proud of Downey’s rich history, culture and architecture.

He concluded by yelling to the crowd, “Paris has the Eiffel Tower. New York has the Empire State Building. Downey has this — the oldest McDonald’s in the world, a genuine article of history!”