Mac’s Drive In sits off the road a bit between Clemson and Pendleton SC. Its sign is permanently discolored by streaks of rust. Mac’s offers up a mixture of homemade hamburgers, beer-battered onion rings, milkshakes and conversation that has attracted locals, passersby and neighbors for two generations. Oh, and lots of sports on the several TVs and the radio ( Clemson sports of course).
Harold McKeown, aka “Mac,” opened the restaurant along with Dan Gentry in 1956, shortly after graduating from Clemson University with a mechanical engineering degree. A trolley car that housed a former roadside business served as the drive-in’s first incarnation, until 1964, when the small, one-story, ranch-style brick building replaced it. Later, a wooden side deck was added to expand the seating beyond the one long countertop indoors.
I remember as a kid actually driving up and parking and my dad would blow the horn and out would come the carhops.. We would eat in the car with a tray of food attached to the window.. I thought that was the coolest thing ever as a kid.
Mac’s decor is totally local with several miniature statues featuring the Clemson tiger mascot holding a South Carolina gamecock by the neck. Above the grill, a wood-paneled overhang looms as a homey symbol of almost unconscious locality. It is crammed with framed, mostly signed, photos of Clemson athletic heroes past and present — history played out inch by inch, frame by frame. C.J. Spiller, a running back for Clemson, signed a photo of himself that reads, “To Mr. Macs, thanks for putting some fat on my body with those shakes and hamburgers.” Dwight Clark, who played for Clemson and the San Francisco 49ers, signed a photo of a game-winning catch he made in a game that led the 49ers to the Super Bowl: “The hamburgers made me do it.”
Now days, although still called Mac's Drive In, you do need to go indoors and sit at the counter. Until very recently, shuffling behind the counter, was Mac himself. Though he had retired years ago and sold the place to Ted Hunter, father of Pat Hunter, who manages the restaurant, Mac was still a fixture at Mac’s. Mac died Dec. 30, 2009 at the age of 82. Shortly before his death, Clemson Mayor Larry Abernathy and Clemson University President James F. Barker, along with dozens of friends and family, went to his hospital bedside with an official proclamation designating Dec. 30, 2009, as Harold Alexander “Mac” McKeown Day.
Below is a youtube video of a short documentary on Mac's.. It is worth a viewing.. If you are ever near Clemson or Pendleton SC, you MUST stop by Mac's for a meal! You will be so glad you did.
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