For more than four decades, Speedee loomed atop the McDonald's sign at the eatery on east Pass Road in Biloxi. The hamburger mascot on the original sign was a reminder of times when hamburgers were 15 cents and a soft drink was a nickel. |
When the sign went up in May 1962, the owner of the fast-food restaurant was Stephen Dietz, who'd started the Biloxi franchise in the mid-1950s as a teenager.
The first McDonald's franchise opened in 1955 in Des Plaines, the result of Ray Kroc, who'd mortgaged his home and invested his life savings to become the exclusive distributor of a five-spindled milk shake maker called the Multimixer.
Kroc approached Dick and Mac McDonald, San Bernardino, Calif., brothers with a successful hamburger stand that used eight Multimixers, with the idea of opening other hamburger stands of the same name.
And so one came to Biloxi, at 1644 Pass Road near Keesler Air Force Base, where there would be lots of hungry, young airmen.
Over the years, hamburger prices changed and Speedee remained on Pass Road. The colorful sign with the golden arch became an anomaly as other McDonald's signs on the Coast and across the country were modernized. People stopped on Pass Road to take photographs.
Manager Tom Butler believes it is the only old sign like that still in use at a restaurant.
Make that past tense. Katrina was unkind to the McDonald's sign, now bent over and in sorry shape.
"Every day, a lot of people ask about it," said Butler. "It's sad."
One of the problems is that the sign is porcelain covering steel.
The eatery is no longer in the hands of the Dietz family. In January 2005, it came directly under the auspices of the McDonald's corporation, which outright owns some restaurants.
Can or will the Pass Road sign be fixed by McDonald's?
"We won't know anything until we get estimates back," said Theresa Lavay, McDonald's operations consultant for this area. "One person has told us it can't be rebuilt, but that's just one person. We're looking into other options because it is a landmark."
- KAT BERGERON