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Mr. Price’s 90th birthday celebrated at where else, McDonald's!

West Columbia, SC Paul Kirby 12/07/2020 – At 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, December 5th, 2020, a large crowd gathered in the parking lot on McDonald's on Sunset Boulevard near I-26 in West Columbia. There was people standing around a small table full of cupcakes, bright balloons, special signs, and lots of cheerful faces. All were on hand to celebrate an unimposing man with just a little ring of gray hair, spectacles, a casual button-down shirt, and a thick winter jacket to fend off the wind and chill. His mere look may not have set him apart from the crowd; however, his huge smile quickly let you know he was the man of the hour. Mr. Robert Price celebrated his 90th birthday Saturday surrounded by a crowd of people that love him at his favorite spot to get coffee, McDonald's.

Edna Langley, who along with her husband owns and operates the franchise on Sunset Boulevard, said they consider Mr. Price the honorary owner of the restaurant. “Since 2006, Mr. Price has come in every day to enjoy his coffee and say hello to people. In fact, even before we acquired this store, he would come to the McDonald's owned by my father in law on Elmwood Avenue in Columbia and get his coffee there. He would pass out little pieces of candy with a big smile on his face. “Everyone called him “Mr. Candy Man,” Langley continued.

Langley said that when she and her husband remodeled the Sunset Boulevard location, they added a name tag to the table that Mr. Price sits at each day. Langley said, “We love him,” referring to Mr. Price. “He helps us celebrate our employees and always makes everyone's day a little brighter. He loves us all, he loves the McDonald's brand, and he just loves people!”

Price who is retired from the military, later worked as an engineer for the state of the South Carolina. He said his daily tradition started because, “McDonald's had the best coffee in town,” Price said with a grin on his face. His friendly nature caused him to greet everyone as they walked in the door or to employees who passed. “I just started saying hello to everyone which is just my nature. It didn’t take long for me to become the unofficial greeter,” Price said. “Now, all these people are a part of my family.”

Besides giving away candy, Price goes out of his way to make people feel special. For years, he has mailed thousands of birthday cards done in hand calligraphy. He numbers each one before he mails it. Marsha Spolarich, a fellow McDonald's enthusiast and Price’s neighbor, said that he sends so many birthday cards each year that between November of 2019 when her husband got his and January of 2020 when she received hers, there was a difference of more than 1,000 cards. “He's done as many as 12,000 in a year and still keeps up. I know he’s done more than 1,000 this year even at his age. He's up well over 43,000 individual cards since that tradition began.”

As another special tradition, Price gives each McDonald's employee a $2 bill on special occasions. When asked how the $2 bill got started, he chuckled and said, “I wanted to tip one of the girls. All I had was a $2 bill with me. I gave her that and it became something they looked forward to.” Now, every Christmas all employees at McDonald's receive a $2 bill as a gift from Mr. Price.

Price said Saturday he just loves people. “This started before I retired, and it's just continued ever since.” He thinks a personal touch helps people begin with a good day, so he tries to greet everyone by name. “Each one of these people are so special to me and it just makes sense to treat them as the special people they are.” Price said when the COVID pandemic hit, they called to check on him and even offered to go get his groceries or run other errands.

He said Saturday that he was honored to see so many of his friends come together and was very surprised at the large celebration. “All of this is for me,” Price asked as he looked around with a huge smile on his face. “It's a very good day for birthday isn’t it.”

In addition to friends, neighbors, and employees of McDonald's, a drive by parade was held for Price. People of all ages rolled slowly by, stopped, and were given a cupcake. Price spoke to each one personally thanking them for the birthday wishes

The event's organizers had enlisted the help of the West Columbia Police and Fire Departments. At the appointed time, the public servants joined the parade of other vehicles and a long line of police cruisers and several bright red fire trucks passed by with their lights flashing and their sirens blaring. Each of these also stopped and took a few moments to speak with Mr. Price. Saturday, everyone wanted to say hello to Mr. Price!

Congressman Joe Wilson (SC-2) and his wife Roxanne were there to help Price enjoy his very special day too. Wilson presented Price with a Congressional Recognition for his outstanding and invaluable service to his community.

In the end, Edna Langley pointed out just what a special day Saturday was as Mr. Price posed for pictures under the McDonald's Golden arches and roadside marquee. High above his head the message read, “Happy Birthday Mr. Price!” Langley said, “There are only three names that ever go on that sign. Our daughters on their birthdays and Mr. Price’s.”


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