On my way back to Bowling Green, KY from Dexter, MO, I was ushered off of the Western Kentucky Parkway by State Troopers who had closed off part of the Parkway at Central City, KY. It was a beautiful day and I made up my mind at the exit I was going to enjoy getting off the parkway and finding my way home through the back roads. As luck would have it as I drove along I noticed two road signs, one pointing toward Owensboro, KY and the other directing me toward Beaver Dam, KY. I am not real hot at left and right but I do have some sense of direction and knew I needed to head toward Beaver Dam, KY as it would be the closest direction to toward Bowling Green.
Of course I got just what I asked for, a long twisting road as well as an up and downhill journey through farmland and small sections of towns-if you really want the truth-a strip of the road where the speed limit changes to slow drivers down and as quick as I blinked my eyes I was past whatever little town I had just passed through and was back up to 55 mph.
Twenty miles up the road I finally caught sight of Beaver Dam’s little main street and turned following the parkway sign. At the stop sign I almost kept going straight across the little intersection and hitting Hwy 231 towards Morgantown, KY and continuing my back roads drive, enjoying the slower pace-by this point in my journey I knew where I was and how to get back home going either route-but decided I would take the quicker way and chose to make a right turn following directions back to the parkway.
As I was driving I happened to glance over to my left and to my delight I saw an old Drive-In screen still standing and it looked like it was in pretty good shape. I quickly turned around and went back to find the old Drive-In sign I had spotted and when I reached it I was delighted with my wild decision to turn back around and investigate.
I turned onto the little paved path that narrowly was set between the marquee entrance sign and what appeared to be a run down house towards the left of the entrance road. On the marquee there was a sign posted, ‘Hopeful to Re-Open In 2017’ and I wondered how long the Drive-In had been closed. I also decided that what I was looking at must not have been the original marquee entrance sign and wondered how long this quaint off the road Theater had been closed.
I drove around a little bend of the paved road which lead to another building and what must have been the ticket booth and entrance into the Drive-In. What I did find surprising was the fact that this building was built out of brick just like the marquee sign and I wondered if this building too was not the original ticket booth from when the Drive-In first opened.
As I continued around the little bend I drove right pass an old white building and guessed it was once the projection room and possibly a snack bar area. The small white building was overcome with over grown bushes and the inside of the building looked like it was piled with left over junk and some kind of door was standing up against the inside of the window. I could still see up ahead, looming high above, the big, white movie screen so I continued on my journey.
The little road opened up into what looked just like a huge field with trees to the right going back toward the marquee sign and as I looked around further off to the left there were big groves of trees. Straight ahead of me was the big beautiful screen and rolls and rolls of speaker stands from the left, center and right of the screen.
This picture was taken as I was following the run down paved road that became gravel right passed the ticket booth. As you can see the field is large and the speaker poles start on right side and center of screen and the rows go pretty far back.
At the center of the screen you can see the speaker poles clearly and to my dismay the speakers had all been removed, as so many other still running Drive-Ins have done. Now you tune into the Drive-In station on your car radio to listen to the movie playing. As a child growing up in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s I remember very well pulling up to the speaker stands and the speaker would already be sounding out while you watched the preview or old black and white commercials showing the popcorn, sodas, and hotdogs dancing reminding movie goers to visit the concession stand up on the big screen. I miss those speaker days. You were able to adjust the volume by turning the speaker up or down and were able to get out of your car and place lawn chairs in front or to the side of your vehicle.
What was even better as kids and teens we often sat on top of the vehicle hood and could hear every word coming out of those old metal speakers. By the time my daughter was old enough to take to a Drive-In in the early 90’s most Drive-In’s that were still operating had removed the old speakers and adapted to the sound being played through the vehicle’s radio, believe me when I say it’s not quite the same.
As I drove away from my visit to this lonely Drive-In the thought occurred to me that there is a great possibility that this Drive-In may never show a movie again, that this Big Screen may truly be silenced forever. No more car loads of families packed up with lawn chairs and blankets looking forward to sitting outside in the fresh evening air, enjoying each others company while watching the movie. Couples headed out for a date and spending time together under the stars watching the big screen will find someplace else to go. Long gone are the sounds of teenagers running from car to car, meeting up with friends, gossiping over the latest news, making runs to the snack bar to get everyone goodies. I found these thoughts to be quite sad for this beautiful setting in which this Big Screen held center stage.
I did find out through some research and found limited information on drive-in.com’s website. The Drive-In I found was once the Tri-City Drive-In and originally opened in 1954. It has one screen and a 200 car capacity, which is quite large for this particular small town area. The Tri-City Drive-In closed down in 2015 falling victim to a theater using the old projected movies and not being able to afford to upgrade to the digital projector and the use of digital movies.
Personally I have no problem with the old way of showing movies with film reels and projectors. It was really quite cool back then when a drive-in or movie theater had to switch out film reels. Film reels have been replaced with DVD’s and movies are filmed by digital cameras nowadays. I am sure because of this advancement we have suffered a loss of many drive-in’s having to close down and there is a possibility that the drive-in will become a thing of the past.
Let’s hope this Drive-In finds a way to light up that Big Screen once again and silence will be replaced with the sound of a great movie playing, the sounds of laughter and talking coming from different vehicles as family and friends have once again journeyed out to enjoy the wonderful scene of the Drive-In movie.