50 years of Oceanside McDonald's


A memorable 50th reunion took place at MacArthur Park in Rockville Centre on July 22, bringing together mid-1970s crew members of Oceanside McDonald’s. With music and dancing setting the tone, these former co-workers looked fondly back on the time spent working together.

For Carolyn Stone, who began working at McDonald’s in the summer of 1974, the 50-year milestone held special significance. She emphasized how crucial it was for her and her crew members to gain real-world experience in their teenage years working at the fast-food chain, which she now considers a source of pride.

Recalling the mid-1970s era at Oceanside McDonald’s, Stone described the working environment as a “well-oiled machine,” attributing its success to the unity of crew members joining together with consistent and solid team efforts.

“There was a real sense of responsibility and ownership,” said Stone. “I think that was a big part of it. It was ownership of what we were doing, and we did it together.”

Tom Knag, one of the organizers and a former crew member who started working at McDonald’s in the early 1970s, compared the experience to participating in a sports team. He explained that each crew member aimed to win games, and their job was the game while caring for their customers.

“We learned from just the way McDonald’s taught you – to work, to take care of customers, respect each other as employees, respect management, and you’ll be rewarded,” said Knag. “That’s what a lot of people take away. It was a great work ethic.”

The reunion centered around the 1970s, with an emotionally curated playlist that lasted over four hours, evoking nostalgia and fondness as crew members relived old memories through laughter, tears, and dancing.

The reunion itself was inspired by a special event organized in the 1990s by Steve Smith for their friend, Jon Newcomer, who had suffered a serious auto accident. This experience brought the former crew members together, inspiring Knag to create a Facebook page that ultimately led to organizing the 50th reunion.

Lauren Hendel, the owner-operator, and Michael Chmelev, the operations director, both current owners of Oceanside McDonald’s, played a role in providing various party props, contributing to the event’s atmosphere.

During their time at McDonald’s, former crew members not only learned about responsibility and teamwork but formed close bonds with each other.

“We spent so much time together, talking, and going out,” Stone said. “With those of us who had anything going on at home whether we had a parent’s divorce, a death in the family, difficulties in school, or a breakup with a boyfriend, nobody had to suffer alone. There was a sympathetic ear, there was a friend, someone’s shoulder to cry on.”

Many former crew members advanced to management roles, starting from entry-level positions and climbing the corporate ladder. Some became successful McDonald’s franchise owners, while others pursued careers as nurse practitioners or joined the New York Police Department, utilizing their time at McDonald’s as applicable work background.

Among those who stayed with McDonald’s is Paul Facella, who started as a crew member and later became a regional vice president. His book, “Everything I Know About Business I Learned at McDonald’s (Management & Leadership),” dives into his experience at Oceanside McDonald’s and distills valuable lessons on teamwork, leadership, integrity, and communication.

“We didn’t realize what we were learning, that it would support us for the rest of our lives,” said Knag. “I don’t think anybody really realized that in 50 years we’ve been together, talking about the past and remembering it the way we did. Not only the good times and parties and stuff but just the fact that we all worked together.”