It was a big deal for the small village of Madoc when it was announced several months ago that a McDonald’s franchise would be built just outside town – on what we used to call, back in the day, “the bypass.” Those days of the 1960s and early 1970s were when terrible things happened to towns large and small thanks to the “modern” idea of “the bypass.” They were the days when good highways were new, gas was cheap, and speed was what one wanted in travel. Ergo, bypassing towns in which you had to reduce your speed to 30 miles an hour (this was before metric, people) via a highway just outside of the town limits was considered a highly desirable thing. And the result was that an incredible number of villages and towns were “bypassed” – by the traffic, and thus by economic opportunity. And ruined, or very nearly. It was basically the worst civic-planning decision of all time. All in the name of progress.
But anyway, the bypass of downtown Madoc exists in the form of “Number Seven Highway,” as people of a certain vintage charmingly call it. No. 7 is the Trans-Canada, and zips straight through from Ottawa to Peterborough and thence carries on along the northern edge of Toronto, though many westbound travellers head south at Peterborough, via Highways 35/115, to the 401 and on to Toronto.
At the point on “the bypass” where it intersects with another highway, #62 running straight north from Belleville through Madoc and on to Bancroft and beyond, a bit of a commercial centre is springing up. There is a Tim Horton’s and an Ultramar – and, as of these past recent weeks, a McDonald’s. You can’t blame these operations for choosing location, location, location; it’s a busy crossroads, not only for cars but also for transport trucks and, in their various seasons, ATVs and snowmobiles. The parking lot at the new, open-24-hours McDonald’s is set up for all those vehicles and buses too.
I’ve heard a lot of local people express dismay at the coming of the Golden Arches. They worry – justifiably – about travellers, and locals too, stopping there for breakfast or lunch or supper rather than patronizing the restaurants in town, off the bypass. They see it as an unwelcome intrusion by Corporate America into a pretty, unique and off-the-beaten-track little village. I totally get that.
There’s another side to the coin, though. For one thing, my understanding is that the McDonald’s has agreed to have a sizeable display of brochures and other local tourist information. If travellers who would ordinarily whiz by will now stop at the Madoc McDonald’s – “McMadoc,” as the ads in the local papers call it, which I find rather cute – for a bathroom break at minimum, and maybe a meal, and into the bargain are able to find out what lies in the area beyond the bypass – well, they might just possibly venture a bit south into the village itself. And they will discover treasures like the Hidden Goldmine Bakery and the Country Treasures gift, antiques and collectibles store, not to mention coffeehouse Amazing Coffee, Johnston’s venerable gift shop and pharmacy, the fantastic One Stop Butcher Shop, the Barley restaurant and pub, a couple of good pizza places, and quite a lot more. Or they might decide to turn north and discover the O’Hara Mill living-history site and conservation area, or try some Eldorado Cheese Factory cheese, or go as far north as Bancroft, “The Mineral Capital of Canada” – or even, if we Queensborough folks have our planned walking-tour brochures on display, come and see beautiful and historic little Queensborough.
And aside from all that, McDonald’s is very good about having wi-fi available, helpful in an area where internet connections can still be a tad dicey. And it will be handy too for those who might want a late-night nosh in a place where most restaurants are closed pretty early in the evening. Or to any of us on the occasion once or twice a year when we really crave a Sausage McMuffin With Cheese.
And it brings jobs, which is not a small consideration.
So I am going to vote, for now, on the positive side of the new McDonald’s, the McMadoc. And hope it doesn’t turns out to have been a terrible move.
Like the bypass.