Photo by Thomas Chiapel

I was recently reading through a post on a 70s and 80s group on Facebook about McDonalds birthday parties. People were gushing about how amazing they used to be. About how the servers were smiling and they had such amazing cakes. Some of the franchises had the various characters dressed up to meet the kids. It appears that some of them were held in basements or abandoned boxcars, though I may have missed a little context there.

I never had this experience, but looking at the pictures of happy kids and families applauding another year around the sun, I really wanted to be there. I wanted that experience. But until I was about 8 or 9, I grew up in a really tiny town that did have a McDonalds. I don’t really know if I had eaten at one until we moved to the oh-so metropolis of Pocatello, Idaho. But even then, when I had multiple McDonalds to visit, I somehow never ended up at a birthday party in one. I’m not sure if it was because I was a loner kid who no one invited to their birthday parties (quite probable) or they ended up having them at their houses instead (also probable).

Okay, that makes it look even more creepy than the boxcar and basements with Ronald McDonald overseeing the children from his perch on the table and the Apple Pie tree ogling the room with its pendulous eyes.

But I still feel like I missed out on something big that a lot of people had as a core memory. In fact, some of them were so passionate about their memory of birthdays as children that they were screeching about how awful modern-day McDonalds are. I could almost hear literal screeching as their posts seethed with hatred of all things modern. Hey, I like nostalgia a lot. I wouldn’t have created Nostalgia Drop if I didn’t. But I don’t get lost in the memory of it while I wallow in the misery of today.

Of course, I also remember some great birthday parties at the local roller rink, or eating (and subsequently throwing up) at a seafood place called Sea Galley. Ah, memories. The hostess adamantly told her boss, “I’m NOT cleaning that up.” I don’t blame her. I bazooka-puked all over the entryway to the restaurant. I really feel for whoever did have to clean it up, and for the lost business as people entered, saw the carnage, and turned tail.