Al Cappellino sent letters, made dozens of cold calls, scoured Facebook, and even consulted an investigator to assemble a group of former employees of the Farmingdale McDonald’s, who gathered for a reunion on Sunday.
The group of more than 30 people worked at the fast food joint on Fulton Street from 1973 to 1978. Though four decades have elapsed, many said it felt like just yesterday that they were clad in the red-and-yellow uniforms.
“We’ve all been through families and tragedies, but it doesn’t matter,” said Denise Bundow, 58. “We had that initial connection.”
Bundow was one of the location’s first employees after it opened its doors in 1973. She made the trip from Seattle to attend Sunday’s reunion at a Farmingdale restaurant. Several other guests also traveled from afar, coming from places including New Hampshire and Virginia.
Now most of the former employees are in their 50s and have moved on from flipping burgers, but they reminisced fondly about their time at the Golden Arches.
“In this neighborhood, back in the ’70s, we didn’t have to drive. We could go everywhere we needed to on a bicycle. Some of us went to the same schools,” said Bob Klobus, 59, of Brooklyn. “It was a different day.”
The prices and salaries were certainly dramatically different, with a hamburger and fries together priced at 60 cents. Pay started at about $2 an hour. Many of the inaugural 1973 crew were 16-year-old Farmingdale High School classmates working their first part-time jobs.
In fact, Bundow said the work environment was like “a small subculture” of Farmingdale High. “It was much easier to get to know people; we were there for the same reasons,” she added.
West Babylon resident Barbara Procida said that it was more than a job — it was about friendship and sometimes lasting relationships. Procida, also a member of the original crew, met her husband, Gary, while working there.
“It was love at first sight,” Gary Procida, 59, said. “I went home that night and told my mother and father I’d just met the girl I was going to marry.”
They’ve been married 37 years and have two children. They’re not the only former employees who found love; the Farmingdale McDonald’s is responsible for at least six marriages, Cappellino said.
At Sunday’s reunion, guests browsed photo collages of their youthful selves spending time together both on and off the clock. There were parties, dances and laughs. “It was good, clean-cut fun,” Gary Procida said.