Fried chicken is ubiquitous in Sydney these days, but when KFC – or Kentucky Fried Chicken as it was called up until 1991 – opened its first Australian store in 1968, it was a rare treat. These early photos of an opening in Preston, Victoria, show Australian enthusiasm for the import.

The inaugural KFC was opened in Sydney’s west, in the suburb of Guildford, by franchisee Bob Lapointe. Although most of us might presume KFC arrived after that other massive US food chain, it beat McDonald’s to the Australian market by three years.

Back then if you had 45 cents you could purchase a lunch pack with one piece of chicken and chips. If you had a family to feed you could get a bucket of 15 pieces of chicken, gravy and five rolls for $3.95 or 21 pieces for $5.95. A small chips was 20 cents. These days a “Giant Feast” – 15 pieces of chicken, 18 nuggets, some sauces, three large chips, a large Potato and Gravy, and Coleslaw plus drink – is $41.95, and a regular chips (small doesn’t exist in fast-food chain jargon these days) is $2.95.

Fast forward 50 years and Sydney’s fried chicken game is strong (read Broadsheet’s guide to Sydney’s best fried chicken), moving far beyond American chain stores. Some of Sydney’s best chefs and restaurants are serving deliciously golden, crisp pieces (Paper Bird, for example) and you can get everything from Nashville-style hot chicken (Belles Hot Chicken) to giant pieces, Taiwanese-style (Hot Star).

Colonel Harland Sanders began selling fried chicken from his roadside restaurant in Corbin, Kentucky during the Great Depression and, after seeing the potential, launched his first store in Utah in 1952. There are now 190 stores in NSW (625 Australia-wide) and the mega-chain services two million chicken-loving customers each week. KFC employs more than 35,000 Australians and, according to the company, one in 45 Aussie youths are employed by it.

To celebrate the 50 years, KFC is giving away free limited-edition 50th buckets this Friday 27 April. It’s happening at the Overseas Passenger Terminal from 12pm, with DJs playing music from the 1960s to now.

This article was updated on Monday April 23, 2017 to reflect that images in this gallery came from early KFC openings in Australia, not Sydney's first opening in Guildford.