Saturday, March 21, 2020

This One's To Go

Raymond Albert Kroc was born in Oak Park, Illinois on October 5, 1902.  Why this is not celebrated as a national holiday I will never know.

He was the son of Czech immigrants who fulfilled the American dream of striking it rich in the land of opportunity.  Unfortunately, most of the money they made selling real estate would be lost in the Stock Market Crash of 1929.

Kroc suffered a series of business failures through most of his early career.  In 1954, he was a traveling salesman for a milkshake company called Prince Castle, but had very few clients.  Then he got word of a business in San Bernardino, California, that had mysteriously bought six of his milkshake mixers.  This was unheard of at the time, and Kroc went to California to investigate.

There he met the owners of the business, Richard and Maurice McDonald, who had invented what would become the fast food industry.  Kroc was immediately impressed with their business model and wanted in on the company.  The brothers were hesitant however, having had prior franchising difficulties.
Richard and Maurice McDonald.

Kroc persisted, and the brothers ultimately allowed him to open a franchise back in Des Plaines, Illinois.  By all accounts, he was most interested in creating an environment that was safe and clean, one that customers would want to return to.  Employees were to be well groomed and were to treat customers with professionalism and respect.  Yes, we are talking about McDonald's here.

The original location in San Bernardino is today a McDonald's
museum, which this blogger visited in 2008.
The restaurant was a success, and Kroc, defying the brothers, opened additional locations.

The relationship between Kroc and the brothers was tumultuous at best.  He bought them out in 1961 for a mere $2.7 million.  For more information, I highly recommend the 2016 film The Founder, starring Michael Keaton as Kroc.  Watch the trailer here

Kroc died of heart failure on January 14, 1984.  He was interred at El Camino Memorial Park in San Diego.

Mausoleum of the Bells Terrace
Sunset Couches
Section D
Bay 1


  • During World War I, 15-year-old Kroc lied about his age and enlisted in the Army, serving as an ambulance driver with the Red Cross.  One of his fellow drivers was a still-unknown Walt Disney.

  • In 1974, Kroc retired from McDonald's and turned to his other interest, baseball, buying the San Diego Padres.  Watch him throw out the first pitch here.  During his first year as owner, the team lost 102 games.  In 1984, shortly after his passing, the team made it to the World Series, ultimately losing to the Detroit Tigers four games to one.  Kroc was posthumously inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1999.

  • In 1977, Kroc published his autobiography Grinding it Out: The Making of McDonald's.  Pick up a copy here.

  • Kroc gave interviews well into his final years.  Here's one in which he discusses the name McDonald's.

  • One of Kroc's neighbors at El Camino Cemetery is Jonas Salk.

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