When you visit McDonald’s on the corner of Victory Parkway and McMillan in Cincinnati, Ohio, you’ll get your fast food served up with a side of 60s Rhythm & Blues. The “wicked” Wilson Picket might have you dancing while you wait for your burger and fries. As you sip your morning coffee, Otis Reading’s gritty soul version of “I Can’t Get no Satisfaction” could trigger a 1965 flashback. Even a thirty-something might find herself singing along to Dionne Warwick’s “Don’t Make Me Over” because she heard the remake on “Glee.”
It’s McDonald’s old school; but you’d never know it by simply driving by. The location has the same red roof and colorful decor of McDonald’s restaurants across the globe. You’ll enter beneath golden arches and order from a fast food menu available from New York to California and thousands of neighborhoods in between. Like McDonald’s everywhere, the staff keep things friendly and clean. They smile through even the toughest lunchtime rush. It’s all the same, except for fast food served to the tune of soulful oldies gold. The music makes it special….and old school.
Old School Music With Your Big Mac
If you’re a thirty-something, all that musical gold could drift right over your head; but your body will feel it anyway. Your fingers will carry on like they have a mind of their own, rhythmically dipping your fries in ketchup and dancing them to your lips. Your feet will tap to 60s rhythms you’ve never heard before. When you hear a stranger sing “Think” from a table across the room, it might remind you that your mother used to whisper Aretha songs while she cooked dinner on Friday night.
If you’re a Boomer, the old school music will reach deep down to your soul. It will shake loose memories from a time when life was sweet and love was the only thing that mattered. If your timing is right, you might hear Smokey singing “Ooo Baby Baby.” His butter smooth lyrics will carry you all the way back to American Bandstand’s pre-technicolor TV days. If you manage to catch a note or two of the late Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard it Through the Grapevine,” you may be tempted to shed one more tear over that long ago teen crush who broke your heart.
McDonald’s Old School Chess Players
If you happen to grab your Bic Mac at the right time on the right evening, you might notice a gathering of old school gentlemen. They span the range from young to well past middle-aged, from dark-haired to salt with a little bit of pepper. The men drift into McDonald’s and shake hands with the earlier arrivals. They order burgers or coffee, then take a seat, always on the Victory Parkway side. Sometimes they pass the time talking about family or days long gone, but they’re always ready to play chess.
Chess at the Walnut Hills McDonald’s is an impromptu affair. It’s an old school gentleman’s game. A few men show up, then a few more. Once they break out the boards, they pay little attention to the golden oldies overhead. When the chess strategy is hot and heavy, there’s only deep concentration and an occasional “checkmate” fading into a background of Rhythm and Blues.
And on Sunday……
Victory Parkway McDonald’s is a different place altogether on Sunday morning. The sweet sound of old school music is the same as on any other day, but instead of rush hour noise there’s a sense of peace. You may see another gathering of men on Sunday morning, a little older than the chess set. They walk slowly. A few men must lean on canes to make it in the door.
The older gentlemen sip hot coffee and share moments of quiet conversation. They talk news and foreign affairs: Bin Laden, Barrack Obama or whatever comes to mind. They discuss families and compare notes about what’s growing in the community garden and what work needs to be done. They talk and laugh, but if the Drifters sing “Save the Last Dance,” at least one gray-haired gentleman will smile and sing every word.
McDonald’s on Victory Parkway and McMillan