Two workers operating a crane and a blowtorch spent less than an hour Tuesday removing a piece of popular culture that has stood watch over Northern Avenue in Hagerstown for nearly four decades.
The Ronald McDonald sign that stood in front of the McDonald's restaurant at 520 Northern Ave. is gone.
Store owner Mark N. Levine said his deceased father, Murray, had the sign shipped from Texas to place in front of the restaurant in 1973. Murray Levine opened the store — the first McDonald's in Washington County — in the late 1960s.
"This is the first time Ronald's ever come down," Mark Levine said Tuesday, just after the sign was strapped on a trailer. "I'm going to put him back up. It's up to Washington County (Planning and) Zoning to let me put him up at one of my other stores."
Levine said the McDonald's on Northern Avenue will be relocated about 800 feet away to the Longmeadow Shopping Center. The new restaurant is slated to open Oct. 24.
The weather-beaten sign needs to be refurbished while the permit process runs its course, Levine said. Ideally, he would like to move it to one of his other stores on Dual Highway or Sharpsburg Pike.
The McDonald's on Northern Avenue was the hamburger chain's 1,138th restaurant to open, he said. McDonald's has about 37,000 stores today.
"It shows you how old this store is," Levine said.
A regular at the Northern Avenue McDonald's for breakfast, former Hagerstown Mayor Steve Sager snapped pictures of the giant clown as workers from W.J. Strickler Signs in Hagerstown took it down.
He said he remembered going to the restaurant as a teenager for a promotional appearance by weatherman Willard Scott, who at the time portrayed Ronald McDonald.
"Before he was a weatherman, he was Ronald McDonald," Sager said.
Sager reminisced about McDonald's employees picking up sandwich wrappers that were left on the ground by people who attended the event.
It seemed, he said, that McDonald's wasn't prepared to take care of mass amounts of trash from the fast-food craze that had made its way to Washington County.
Editor's note: This story was edited Sept. 28, 2011, to correct attribution of several quotes to Mark Levine.