Memories last from these San Angelo drive-ins of the past
SAN ANGELO – It was their first date, their first moment of freedom. It was many things beside just a screen out in the middle of nowhere.
The stars would scatter across the sky, as cars pulled in to the slowly filling parking lot.
Cars full of family, friends or lovers settled in as the movie began.
"Those were the good old days," said Barbara Early, longtime San Angelo resident. "It seems like we all got our driver's licenses when we were 14 and 15 years old. ... We could load up our cars and meet at the drive-in movies on Friday and Saturday nights for $1 a carload."
For some, going to the drive-in meant hiding in the trunk of their friend's car.
"You’d be amazed how many teenagers could scrunch up into the trunk of a car of the 1950s-1960s era, and I can testify that it sure was hot in that stuffed trunk," said Marion Wilks Boyer, longtime San Angelo resident.
Once the carload of teens entered the drive-in, it was a rush to find a seat before the show. Sometimes, those seats were on the hood of vehicles or searching for another friend's car.
Boyer recounts how often cars were waved through because they knew the people working the booth.
"Come to think about it, owning a drive-in movie couldn’t have been very profitable," Boyer said. "But, it sure was fun for teenagers. Those were good days!"
Sadly, the San Angelo drive-ins are long gone, though the memories remain. Here is a rundown of every city drive-in from 1947 to the 1990s:
Angelo Twin Drive-In
The Angelo Twin lived for about 14 years on the Mertzon highway, which eventually became Sherwood Way. This drive-in, owned by United Artists Theaters, was shut down for several reasons, including noise complaints, declining attendance and money.
The drive-in went dark and UAT said it was more valuable to sell it, according to a May 29, 1983 Standard-Times article. It was set to become a shopping center.
It could hold 1,200 cars over 15 acres. Its first movies on opening night were "Gone With the Wind," "Support Your Local Sheriff" and "Yours, Mine and Ours."
Opened: July 23, 1969
Closed: December 1982
Like many 1950s drive-ins, the Atomic quickly disappeared. It was open for just over a year when R.S. Starling, "original drive-in theater man in San Angelo," sold it. It was at 2501 N. Main, which is now a residence.
One unique feature was the "enclosed lounge," where people could watch from there.
Opened: February 1952
Closed: May 1953
This drive-in at 654 N. Bell St. enjoyed a decent run for more than a decade on San Angelo's east side.
Closed: Late 1960s
The Jet met a fiery end Nov. 5, 1968. What began as a weed-burning fire, supervised by the city, suddenly became a destructive inferno. The fire ate up the screens, towers and a fire truck and injured three firefighters, according to a Nov. 6, 1968 morning edition of the Standard-Times.
This fire was believed to be caused by burning weeds or embers blowing into an opening on the northeast of the tower. The fire caused $15,000 of damages.The fires spread to lawns and fences as far as three blocks, according to the article. Power and telephone lines were also down, and as many as 100 phones in west San Angelo were temporarily out of service.
This would later become the Twin Vue at 1001 W. 29th St.and is now Hirschfeld Industries, 112 W 29th St.
This drive-in actually existed twice. The first time was on US Highway 87 N. from 1952-1954. It was decimated by the Lake View tornado on 1953, which caused an estimated $100,000 in damages.
This drive-in was another R.S. Starling theater. He sold it in 1953. The Starlite was on the Mertzon highway at Arden Road.
The Stardust ran for nine years at 2501 N. Randolph.
Twin Vue Drive-In
The Twin Vue, another United Artists property, could be found at 1001 W. 29th St. This was previously the Jet, according to a May 29, 1983 article. This is now the location of Hirschfeld Industries, 112 W 29th St.
This drive-in's "usual fare" was X-rated movies, according to the article.
This is the first drive-in to appear in San Angelo, created in 1947 by R.S. Starling. It was located on Christoval Road near US Highway 87 South. Starling sold the property in 1953.
More in theater:
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- Broadway director, San Angelo author aim for the stars with 1920s musical
- RICK SMITH: Do you remember the picture shows?
Alana Edgin is a multimedia journalist covering Breaking News, Entertainment, Education and Real Estate for GoSanAngelo.com. If you have a news tip, either send it to Alana.Edgin@gosanangelo.com or News@gosanangelo.com. You can also call Alana at 325-659-8381.
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