CRYSTAL, Minn. - Golden memories. That's what the Crystal McDonald's has meant to Steve Rydberg clear back to the 1960s.
"When I was sixteen years old, this was the place to be," he joyfully recalls. "I remember the summer nights, the beach boys playing. This is where the hot cars were. This is where the great looking ladies were."
Steve would buy one of those hot cars, a 1967 Ford Mustang, with money he saved by flipping burgers at the same McDonald's. But his eyes weren't always on the grill.
"What do you think guys who are 16 years old like?" he asks. "They like 16, 17-year-old girls."
But back by the grill, Steve and his coworkers had a problem. How were they to know when a pretty girl was approaching the counter? Their solution: a code that could be passed between the boys working the counter and the boys manning the grill in the back. They chose the number "13" as the tip off, followed by the register number where the young lass was ordering.
"'13 on six, 13 on five,' and we mixed it in, like, 'I need 12 burgers on a 13 on two,'" laughed Steve.
Then, one day, in walked 16-year-old Kristine Hess, Steve's perfect 13. "I thought she was the most beautiful woman in the world."
Steve and Kris became high school sweethearts. As Kris' trips to the Crystal McDonald's became more frequent, Steve would anticipate her arrival as if trumpets were sounding. "I'd hear, '13 on 2 for Steve, 13 on 2 for Steve.'"
Then Steve left for college, and as often happens, the sweethearts drifted apart. He moved across the country, raised a family and divorced. Kris stayed in the Twin Cities, raised a daughter, but remained single.
That was about to change.
"In 1990 I called her," said Steve. "It was like I never left her."
Six years later, Steve and Kris married. "Meant to be," he says.
Which brings us to last Wednesday, when Steve stepped into the Crystal McDonald and put on an apron, kitchen cap and name tag.
"Ready to go to work?" asked Shahab Hyder, the restaurant's owner, who outfitted Steve for a birthday surprise Kris would never forget. "I'm ready," Steve responded.
Then into the parking lot came Kris, under the guise of a quick birthday lunch suggested by Steve's sister-in-law.
Steve peaked out from the kitchen. "I'm getting nervous like it's my first date again."
Forty-three years is no small period of time. But as Kris put in her order for a "Filet-O-Fish" sandwich the years melted away. "Filet-O-Fish," repeated the polite young man behind the counter, before turning to the kitchen and shouting: "13 on two."
Kris' reaction was immediate - and priceless. "Oh my God," she gushed. "Where's my husband."
Seconds later Steve emerged with her order on a platter. "Somebody said '13 on two' out here?"
"You," said Kris, patting his face, before the couple kissed across the counter. Delighted McDonald's workers erupted in applause. Kris cried as she hugged her husband.
A short time later Steve escorted his high school sweetheart to the parking lot, helping her into his car - not a Mustang anymore, but a black BMW.
Could anything be sweeter than 1969, redo - when you're still a guy with a hot car, and your 13's with you?
(Copyright 2012 by KARE. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)