Thursday, June 21, 2012

Fast Times at Big Mac Bridge

want fries with that?
The Daniel Carter Beard I-471 bridge built in the early 1970s crosses the Ohio River and connects Eastern Cincinnati with Newport KY. No one calls it by its official name. It has been called the “Big Mac Bridge” right from the start because the shape and yellow color reminded the people of OH and KY of the McDonald’s Golden Arches, one of the most iconic American symbols recognized worldwide. McDonald’s even planned to build a floating diabetes and heart attack center they call a “restaurant” at the base of the bridge in the 1980s but it never coagulated. In case you didn't know, Cincinnati is listed as one of the fattest cities in the US according to the Centers for Disease Control. One in three Cincinnatians are overweight. No wonder the bridge looks like wonderful fast food arches to its citizens.

We all know what McDonald's is, but who the $%&# is Daniel Beard? 

Uncle Daniel Carter Beard
Beard founded the Sons of Daniel Boone in 1905, a precursor to the Boy Scouts. The club honored American frontiersman such as Daniel Boone, Simon Kenton, Kit Carson, James Audubon, Johnny Appleseed, Davey Crocket and George Catlin. He started the boys club to teach city boys about pioneer living skills which encouraged the children to stay fit via outdoor recreation such as swimming, camping, hunting, and fishing. Uncle Dan's handbook even taught boys how to build their own gym. There were other activities in the book that simulated aspects of frontier life such as Running the Gauntlet and Defending a Snow Fort Against Indians. Not really practical skills but I suppose it was fun in 1905 to engage in mock torture and simulated encroachment rather than toil in a factory or a mine. This was a time in the US when child labor was a fact of life for the poor, and most kids never finished school beyond 8th grade. It was probably good for these kids to spend some time in the outdoors. Some things never change.

Aloha. My name is Mr. Hand
Beard, a ringer for History Teacher Mr. Hand in Fast Times at Ridgemont High if I ever saw one, was born in Cincinnati on this day on June 21st, 1850. He lived in Covington KY where his boyhood home is on the National Register of Historic Places. Dan was a land surveyor and also illustrated many books including Mark Twain's “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court”.
Beard left the area in 1878 and moved to move to New York City where he lived out his days until the age of 90, an age that frequent eaters of Big Macs will likely never see.

I don't think Beard would be "Lovin' It™" to learn that the bridge honoring his legacy derives its nickname from a company that is responsible for the fast food industry as we know it. An industry that peddles a steady diet of fat, corn syrup, and sodium to kids worldwide. However, I'll bet Beard WOULD approve of that stern Mr. Hand who did not allow Spicoli access to that pizza delivered to his classroom.

In conclusion, read "Fast Food Nation" but skip the movie version.

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