San Bernardino, California, has gone from being the birthplace of McDonald’s, one of the world’s most successful companies, to a mound of unpaid debts. It’s a sad example of what a lack of infrastructure investment and an almost religious aversion to higher taxes have done to cities across the United States.
Ketchup and mustard, always in exactly the same amounts — this is the secret of the serving machine that Albert Okura keeps in the first display case at his museum. Here in San Bernardino, California, in the building that once housed the first McDonald’s restaurant, Okura has collected nearly everything the fast-food chain has ever produced. There are paper cups, paper napkins, Happy Meal toys — all the consumer detritus of America’s golden years — but nothing is more important to him than this small metal machine. “It was a brilliant idea,” he says. “This way, every hamburger is the same.”
Okura believes in that idea to this day. It reminds him of San Bernardino’s heyday, here in this city where brothers Richard and Maurice McDonald opened their first fast-food restaurant.
Back then, in 1948, people came from all over the country to see the brothers’ unusual hamburger stand. One of those people was Ray Kroc, then a traveling salesman for milkshake mixers, who later transformed the San Bernardino hamburger joint into a global corporation worth billions.
Couldn’t the same thing happen again? Seventy years after the McDonald brothers, couldn’t Albert Okura, son of a Japanese immigrant, one day be discovered in the same way, thanks to a bit of patience and a good idea?