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If the Big Mac has been around for 50 years, that must mean I’m getting old

McDonald’s celebrating 50th anniversary of the Big Mac with “MacCoins”

The Big Mac turns 50 this year. Ledger-Enquirer reporter Chuck Williams sat down with local McDonald's officials to talk about the new "MacCoins", swap Big Mac stories, see who remembers the famous jingle, and finally taste-test the iconic burger.
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The Big Mac turns 50 this year. Ledger-Enquirer reporter Chuck Williams sat down with local McDonald's officials to talk about the new "MacCoins", swap Big Mac stories, see who remembers the famous jingle, and finally taste-test the iconic burger.

An old friend just turned 50. And it is going to be one heck of a party.

If you are in your late 50s like me, this old friend has likely been a part of your life through the years, as well.

McDonald’s, the first hamburger franchise that many of my generation knew, is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Big Mac, “two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions, on a sesame seed bun.”

I feel younger just writing that jingle that was part of 1975 pop culture. You know, back when many of us still had some pop.

As a friend on Facebook said, “The Big Mac jingle is one of marketing’s greatest hits. Seems like everyone over the age of 50 can still sing every word.”

Everyone but me. I always mess it up. But I can eat a Big Mac.

There have been more than 1 billion Big Macs sold in more than 100 countries over the last half century. That’s an ocean of special sauce and mountains of sesame seed buns.

For lunch Thursday, I had a Big Mac with Jack Pezold, who along with his son, John, owns 20 McDonald’s restaurants in the Chattahoochee Valley. He has owned McDonald’s stores since 1974 — most of the Big Mac era. How many of those billion has he sold?

“I have no idea, I really don’t,” he said. “But it has to be in the millions.”

When Pezold started selling Big Macs, they were 65 cents each. Today, they are $3.99.

I for one, have eaten my share, though most of that consumption came in my youth. I hit McDonald’s after high school football practice, when I was in college and always broke, or in my 20s, when McDonald’s was the best option at the time.

For a couple of bucks, you could fill up fast. That was back in a time when you didn’t have to worry that a Big Mac had 563 calories.

Back in the day, there was no Chick-fil-A, the fast-food option my kids and their generation gravitate toward. Sure, you could go to Burger King and get a Whopper. You had Hardee’s and the Big Twin, which my childhood friend Rick Lingo reminded me was a superior burger.

“More meat, less bread,” Rick said.

But for some reason, Big Mac was almost always my first option. And I know it was for the coaches who drove the buses that carried the high school teams home from a game in Dothan, Montgomery, Troy or Phenix City. Those golden arches were magnets for team buses.

And McDonald’s was ready for those buses on Friday nights, slapping Big Macs together in an assembly line that fed teams, cheerleaders and fans in a hurry — which was important at 10:30 on a Friday night.

And McDonald’s came to us, those of us who lived in the smaller towns 50 miles or more from the bigger cities that had all the fast-food options. In 1977, the first McDonald’s opened in my hometown of Eufaula. It was on 431 South, and back in the day, it seemed a long way from downtown and Lakeside School. Today, the Eufaula McDonald’s, which is still on the same site, doesn’t seem that far out of town.

“McDonald’s started the fast-food business as we know it today,” Pezold said. “... And the Big Mac was a big part of that.”

Yes, it was.

McDonald’s is celebrating the milestone the way McDonald’s does best, with a gimmick marketing campaign. They are giving away “MacCoins, the world’s first fully food-backed currency.” Of course, the MacCoin is backed by the Big Mac. You can collect all five, or you can do what I plan to do with them: exchange them for a Big Mac.

With the news release delivered by FedEx, McDonald’s sent a few of the MacCoins and a disclaimer.

“MacCoin has no cash value and is only redeemable for one free Big Mac at participating McDonald’s restaurants,” the fine print says.

I know it doesn’t have any cash value, but I wish I had a dollar for every one I have eaten over the years. Now, that would be some cash value.

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