Queensland’s first McDonald’s ‘was so much fun’
It's been 20 years since Queensland's first McDonald's closed its doors for the last time. It was right here on the Gold Coast and there were even some famous faces who spent time behind the grill.
This week it was revealed that a Southport's Ferry Road was fast becoming the city's fast food mecca, with two new restaurants set to join an existing pair of franchise chains.
A KFC is proposed, while another mystery eatery, believed to be a Taco Bell, is well under construction.
It's hard to go through a busy suburb which doesn't have at least one fast food outlet.
But it was a different story back in the early 1970s when there were none at all on the Gold Coast.
The first McDonald's opened in the US in 1940 when it was founded by brothers Richard and Maurice McDonald.
It was later taken over by businessman Ray Kroc in the mid-1950s who developed the current fast food empire.
It took 20 years until McDonald's arrived in Queensland, and a fast-growing Gold Coast suburb was picked as its first location.
Australia's first McDonald's opened in NSW's Yagoona four years earlier and proved so successful that the chain hatched plans to expand across the country
A parcel of land on the Gold Coast Highway at Mermaid Beach was selected and construction began.
The upstairs area featured the kitchen and front counter while there was a water feature which ran down into the lower floor where a children's playground and dining area was built
The two-level restaurant opened on August 24, 1975 and drew crowds from across the state as well as northern NSW.
These crowds were described as being similar to today's Boxing Day sales, with people travelling far and wide to see the novelty of a McDonald's.
There on opening day was Nerang resident Margaret Cushing, who would go on to work there for more than 15 years.
Speaking to the Bulletin this week, Mrs Cushing said she had fond memories of her time there.
"I started working there the day it opened back in 1975," she said.
"It was very busy, there were people just everywhere. They came in and lined up just to see what a McDonald's was," she said.
"I just remember how busy it was but everyone seemed to like it because there was nothing like it at all on the Gold Coast at the time.
"You had all sorts of different jobs. We were never on the same station every day, so I did everything from the front counter to working on the grill.
"At the time we had the burgers, chicken and fillets."
Mrs Cushing continued to work at the McDonalds until 1991.
Nearly 20 years later she and other founding staff held a reunion to mark the occasion.
A famous face who manned the grill in the late 1980s was celebrity chef Pete Evans.
The former Merrimac High student turned My Kitchen Rules host was just 14 when he worked at the Mermaid Beach restaurant.
Less than a decade later he found fame running some of Sydney's trendiest eateries through the late 1990s moved into television.
The city's original McDonald's continued to operate during the early '90s but eventually closed in 1998.
Its former site became the Mermaid Tavern, which opened in 2001.