A few weeks back, a friend of mine posted the featured image on his Facebook page with the caption: I’m this old. The real ones will understand. It was a clear indicator of just how expensive things have come to be these days…and not just with this ridiculous inflation. The menu in the image brings me to this week’s moment in the Flashback Friday series: the Birmingham Green McDonald’s days.
How I first came across this moment? I’m pretty sure I discovered the Birmingham Green location of McDonald’s when my mother used to stop in and get Jasmine and I something to eat whenever we were catching a 6-Pratt/Ensley, 23-Collegeville, or 38-Graymont/Ensley out of Downtown Birmingham when we were toddlers. But for the purpose of this Flashback, I’m drawn back to the Fall of 1999, when the Linn-Henley Research Center became my after-school spot. I usually left out of the library at exactly 6pm in order to make my 2 ½-block walk down the Green to the old First Alabama Bank Building at the corner of 5th Avenue North & 20th Street in order to catch the last 8-Sixth Avenue South at 6:14pm. I suppose I got hungry one day and decided to walk an extra block to 4th Avenue North & 20th Street, stopping in at the McDonald’s, which closed at 6pm.
What it meant to me then? In 1999, I was a freshman at Parker High in Birmingham. I didn’t have much money except for the monthly $20 my dad gave me and whatever loot I brought in from being a vendor at Legion Field. Having really not eaten since around noon at school, I was usually starving by the time I was leaving out of the library. The food I got at the Birmingham Green McDonald’s held me over until I got home. I usually got the Two Cheeseburgers Meal—#2 on the menu selection list—with a Grapico for $2.99. I always supersized. I’d usually be eating on my way out of the door for the one-block walk to my stop. The food was always delicious and the manager there noticed that I was a late regular so he always dropped new fries for me…even hit the employees with a “make sure you get Juan’s Grapico with no ice”. It was a simple transaction but the consistency of it all made it meaningful to me.
What it means to me now? That McDonald’s location closed in 2001. By that time, I had started working and my visits were rare. But I’m still fond of the many interim meals I got there that filled me up just enough that I wouldn’t die of starvation until I arrived in my mom’s kitchen.