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Downey, CA (Population: 109,376)
Downey has a population of 109,376 (2006) and is located just 21 miles southwest of Los Angeles. The city was incorporated in 1956 and after WWII the farms were replaced with factories and suburban homes. Near the center of the city, you'll find what was once one of the busiest intersections in the world, State Route 19 and former State Route 42. The former was a major thoroughfare between Pasadena and Long Beach while the latter connected Los Angeles to San Diego as a part of the old Spanish Trail system. For many years, Downey was a hub for airplane and space vehicle manufacturing, but this industry came to a halt when the Rockwell Aerospace Plant closed in 1999. Rockwell's facilities produced some of the systems of the Apollo project as well as the space shuttle. The plant's old grounds now house the Downey Landing shopping center, a hospital, a park, a space museum and Downey Studios. Located at 10207 Lakewood Boulevard is an edifice which was on the 1994 list of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places. This building, which still stands today adorned by its original golden arches and a 60-ft high neon Speedee sign, is the fourth McDonald's ever built and the oldest one surviving. Due to earthquake damage in 1994, the restaurant had to be closed. But preservationists spent two years restoring the building and it is now open for business, along with a museum and gift shop. In 1962, Glen Bell contributed to Downey's fast food legacy by opening the first Taco Bell the world had ever seen. To further Downey's diner history, Johnie's Broiler, a well known drive-in restaurant and coffee shop, planted its legacy in the city. The drive-in has been seen in movies, sitcoms, music videos and television commercials. It is quite famous among Southern Californians, many of whom used to drive miles to visit this famed eatery. Sadly, the restaurant was closed in 2001, but the place remains a landmark of a bygone era.