Considering that there are almost 14,000 McDonald’s in the United States alone, it’s safe to say that the majority of people have eaten there or at least been inside one. For many people, McDonald’s brings on a wave of nostalgia from their childhood, such as getting a new Happy Meal toy or playing in the ball pit. Some devoted fans even argue that McDonald’s had its heyday back in the 1980s and ’90s. Here’s a series of photos from those decades to help bring back some of those old childhood memories. Enjoy!
The Food Always Tasted Better When You Sat On One Of These
Back in the day, there were few things better than sitting on these hamburger stools while waiting for your food to arrive.
Not only are they incredibly welcoming, but they also allowed the customer to spin around on them to shake off any of that pre-food arrival energy. On top of that, they were actually pretty comfortable to sit on. Whoever decided on this design deserves a raise, because these seats were a great addition.
All The Plastic
Back in the 1980s and ’90s, people weren’t nearly as concerned with the negative impact that plastic has, so there were no restrictions and McDonald’s could make over-the-top coffee stirrers like these.
Although they might look cool, they were completely unnecessary and usually ended up on the floor of your mom’s minivan. If someone managed to keep a few of them, they could be in luck, because some McDonald’s collectors might want to get their hands on them in the future.
A Snack For The Ride Home
If you’re old enough, you’ll remember back when McDonald’s would also give their guests these cookies that were basically animal crackers, just of McDonald’s characters instead. These were great because you could eat them before, during, or after your meal.
However, if you were smart, you would save them as a treat to eat in your car at a later time. There was nothing better than finding a box of these somewhere in the backseat during a long car ride.
Festive Happy Meals
Even though McDonald’s usually tries to keep things fresh, few things ever beat-out the Halloween-themed Happy Meals. Getting one of these in the autumn made you really feel the anticipation of Halloween coming up.
What’s even better, you could even use them to go trick or treating with! We’re willing to bet that quite a few people have one or two of these stored somewhere in their garage. Unfortunately, few companies make things like this anymore.
Hanging With The Man Himself
Although you might be hard-pressed to find a bench like this at many McDonald’s locations, back in the day, these could be found at almost every establishment. However, the fad eventually died down, and most of them began to disappear.
We’re not sure why, because it was always fun to be able to sit next to the Ronald McDonald and even maybe get your picture taken. It could have something to do with the nation’s fear of clowns.
All About Entertaining The Kids
There’s no denying that some of McDonald’s greatest marketing tactics involved targeting children, in hopes they would convince their parents to take them there. These included meals designed for children with the promise of toys and play areas so they had something to do while they were eating.
One of the small things that McDonald’s also offered to younger customers were placemats with games on them to keep them entertained while they were waiting for their food. We’re sure that the parents really appreciated this addition.
Keeping It Simple
Today, when you go to order at the McDonald’s drive-thru, you’re usually met with a large LED screen that has all the options you can select from. These screens look pretty futuristic and are frequently making changes as the years go on, but they definitely didn’t always look this way.
Decades ago, they were as simple as they could come with single letters and numbers to form the entire menu. Somebody was probably thrilled when they learned they never had to put the menu together again.
Toys Didn’t Have To Be Fancy
Although McDonald’s has had some pretty impressive toys in the past, they didn’t always have to be incredibly complex. An example of this is the Ronald McDonald puppet that could be found in some Happy Meals.
It wasn’t much except for a plastic glove with Ronald McDonald painted on it, but kids sure loved them anyway. We’re willing to bet that some people still have theirs laying around the house which eventually might be worth some money in the future.
Something For The Adults
Even though most of the marketing gifts given to customers by McDonald’s were usually directed toward children, the establishment also had items for adults. Although you’d be hard-pressed to find an ashtray at any fast food establishment today, back then, nobody thought twice about it.
In those days, you could get a burger and fries with an ashtray that you could even use inside of the restaurant or to take home for your own enjoyment. What a time to be alive.
Those Swirly Cones!
People miss these cones so much that someone even set up a Change.org petition to bring them back! Someone named Sasha Forsen started it, writing, “The twist cone from McDonald’s was absolutely one of America’s greatest desserts. Last year, my husband and I were hungry from one and were shocked to find that McDonald’s now only serves vanilla cones.”
“Since then, I have not come across a person who doesn’t miss the perfect chocolate and vanilla blend of McDonalds twist cones.” Wow, sounds like a real fan.
Birthday Parties At McDonald’s Were Special
While not many people would choose McDonald’s as the premier place to have a birthday these days, back then, they were all the rage. Not only did McDonald’s know how to throw the perfect birthday parties for kids, but they were also incredibly convenient.
Having a party at McDonald’s meant that the food was cheap, you didn’t have to worry about cleaning up, and it was a nice place for both family and friends to come to celebrate.
The Transformers cartoon first aired in first ran from 1985 to 1987 and was such a success that McDonald’s had to get in on the action. So, they released a series of cool Happy Meal toys that look like anything that you might order off of the menu but could be turned into action figures.
Everyone wanted one at the time because they were some of the coolest toys to have been released. You could also try and collect them all!
These Indestructible Hand Puppets
In 2000, Disney released a computer-animated adventure film that follows a young dinosaur that was adopted and raised by a group of lemurs on a tropical island. With a budget of $127.5 million, at the time, it was the most expensive computer-animated film ever.
It didn’t disappoint people and had everyone talking, which was the exact reason that McDonald’s released their line of Dinosaur hand puppets. Simple yet effective, it wasn’t uncommon to see kids around with one or two of these puppets on their hands.
Walmart And McDonald’s Was Always A Great Combo
Depending on where you live in the country, if you were lucky, you might have been able to hit McDonald’s and Walmart in one go. Across the country, McDonald’s could be found inside of Walmarts.
This was usually where people would hang out while they were waiting for someone to shop, or if they wanted to grab a quick bite to eat before heading off to their next errand. Shopping doesn’t sound as daunting if there’s the possibility of chicken nuggets at the end of it.
A Welcoming Environment
Before McDonald’s underwent a wide-scale renovation so that it could better fit in with our increasingly modern world, they put a lot of their interior design efforts into making it as fun as possible.
This usually meant paintings of McDonald’s characters covering the walls and other decorations that made everybody know that they were at McDonald’s the second they walked through the door. Unfortunately, McDonald’s eventually gave up on this tactic, and you’d be hard-pressed to find even a picture of Ronald McDonald at most establishments today.
Toys Not Even From McDonalds
At one point, McDonald’s had become so popular that the children’s toy manufacturer Fisher-Price even began selling toys that looked like McDonald’s food.
This way, children didn’t even have to go to McDonald’s, they could just open their toy box to be greeted with plastic chicken nuggets, fries, a drink, and more. Of course, the second someone’s kids saw these toys, more often than not they would ask to go to McDonald’s to get the real thing.
Collecting Them All
There’s no denying that there has been a close relationship between Disney and McDonald’s for years. Often, when a new Disney film comes out, McDonald’s is not slow to release associating toys. Yet, during the 1990s, McDonald’s unveiled Disney figurines that were held in what looked like VHS boxes.
Not only were they unique, but many children were determined to collect them all. If they managed to do so, we hope they kept them, because a full collection could be worth a pretty penny these days.
Eating Off The Classics
If you were young enough when these Disney animated movies were released, there’s a high chance that you have one of these themed plates from McDonald’s.
On top of that, it’s also possible that you might still have one or two of them somewhere in the back of a cabinet in the kitchen. These were the type of prizes you could get from McDonald’s. If you took care of them and didn’t lose them, they would essentially last forever.
No Shortage Of Styrofoam
Back before people understood just how detrimental Styrofoam was to our planet, McDonald’s had no shortage of it. Especially if you ordered your food to-go, you could almost guarantee that the majority of your bag was going to be full of Styrofoam boxes.
While this helped keep your food from getting crushed or leaking out through the bag, this method proved to be incredibly wasteful, especially considering how much of it they were using.
The Ol’ Lavaburst
Although the drink company Hi-C is still in existence, one of peoples’ favorite things about going to McDonald’s was being able to fill up your cup with the refreshing Hi-C Orange Lavaburst flavor.
While it was great when it was still available, unfortunately, this flavor was discontinued, and lovers of the flavor had to settle for another drink. We’re not sure why they no longer make it, because there were certainly plenty of people who considered it their favorite.
Video Games And Eating Goes Hand-In-Hand
Let’s be honest, for kids that weren’t lucky enough to have a video game system like a Nintendo 64 at home, being able to play for free at McDonald’s was one of the major draws to the restaurant.
Of course, maybe only one of the controllers worked and they were usually covered in grease, but it was still always fun to play around with your friends or even with some new people that you may have just met.
The Olympics Marketing Campaign
During the Summer Olympics of 1984, McDonald’s came up with the slogan “If the U.S. Wins, you win.” The concept that was during the Olympics, with every purchase a customer would be given a scratch-off ticket with a sports category, and every time the United States won a medal in that sport, you would get a prize.
A gold medal meant a free Big Mac, a silver was free fries, and a bronze was a Coke. The only issue was that the U.S. did so well in the games, they had to give away more free Big Macs than they planned on.
They Tried Their Hands At Pizza
Even though McDonald’s had found incredible success with the introduction of the Happy Meal and McNuggets, they weren’t done yet. In 1989, McDonald’s got the bright idea to introduce pizza on their menu. Would could the harm be?
While they may have expected to sell more pizza than Pizza Hut themselves, that’s not exactly how it worked out. Instead, the item was less-than-successful, although it developed a cult following, with some establishments still offering pizza until 2017.
Mac Tonight Was Short-Lived
Beginning in 1986, McDonald’s started a new late-nite advertisement known as Mac Tonight who had a moon for a head, a stylish pair of sunglasses, and a taste for jazz piano.
Because the advertisement was essentially a play on the song “Mack the Knife,” McDonald’s was ultimately sued by Bobby Darin’s estate for illegally copying the style of the song. This brought about the end of Mac Toight’s run as the McDonald’s mascot in 1989.
Adding A Female McDonald’s Character
Years before McDonald’s unveiled their late-night advertisement featuring Mac Tonight, they also introduced Birdie the Early Bird, who was the face of the Egg McMuffin and some other morning/breakfast foods.
However, what made Birdie so memorable was that she was one of the first females of the McDonald’s characters lineup. While many younger people might not have any idea who Birdie was, kids who frequented McDonald’s in the 1980s and some of the following years would know exactly who she was.
Remember The McDLT?
The McDLT was a type of hamburger that was designed to keep the ingredients separated by their temperature. In a 1985 advertisement for the burger, Jason Alexander of Seinfeld noted that it was “key to keep the hot side hot and the cool side cool.”
The burger was then packaged in polystyrene that separated from the cool veggies from the hot meat until it was time to eat. However, the product was discontinued in the 1990s after the outrage of McDonald’s using such environmentally damaging containers.
Camp Snoopy Glasses Were All The Rage
Although McDonald’s first began selling promotional glassware in the 1970s, in 1983, they released an extra-popular line known as the Camp Snoopy glasses. However, McDonald’s didn’t give these special glasses away for free, but customers could buy them for a discounted price with the purchase of a meal.
They sold a different glass a week, so many people made a point of going to McDonald’s at least once a week in the hope of obtaining the complete set of all five members of the Peanuts Gang.
The Professor Gave Us McNuggets
Although The Professor was a classic resident at McDonaldland in the 1970s, he rarely had speaking roles in the ads. Well, that all changed in the 1980s when he became the mascot for the McNuggets and was presented to the world as a mad scientist that made the McNuggets come to life.
This helped to pave the way for all of the classic McNuggets Buddies ads as well as the invention of the Dip-o-Matic.
Officer Big Mac’s Playground Jail Was More Creepy Than Fun
Officer Big Mac is best remembered for his ginormous burger-shaped head, hat, and clown shoes. Yet, if you’re old enough, you may recall going to McDonald’s and climbing directly into his mouth, only to find yourself in jail for children.
Eventually, McDonald’s retired the character in 1985 to streamline the McDonald’s lineup. Nevertheless, some of these somewhat twisted child jails have been found restored on the Internet, with one even appearing on an episode of American Restoration.
The Fried Apple Pies Were Unbeatable
For some time, McDonald’s served and advertised their fried apple pies that were a major hit among customers. They were perfectly crispy with a delicious, but in 1992, they made a major change.
McDonald’s decided to switch out their fried apple pies for a newly baked apple pie. While many people assumed this is because a baked version was healthier, this was far from the truth. After learning this, many McDonald’s customers were up in arms. The fried apple pies have yet to make a return.
McDonald’s Beanie Babies Gave Collectors Something Else To Desire
In the 1990s, McDonald’s began including smaller versions of Beanie Babies in their Happy Meals. Beanie Babies then helped collectors make the promotion one of the most popular in McDonald’s history.
While many of the original Beanie Babies aren’t worth all that much today, the International Bears collection is worth a pretty penny. These were four bears that represented four countries: the United States, Canada, Britain, and Ireland. Today, the bear from Britain is worth a whopping $10,000.