Summer Drive-In

In Northeast by Rebecca Phillips2 Comments

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As a sales manager for his father’s company, Whiz Auto Products, Richard Hollingshead understood the automobile and society’s love for this personal machine. He also understood a large lady like his mother couldn’t find comfort in the seat of the town’s lavish theater. Thus, he worked on an idea to create a movie watching experience in the comfort of your own car. Mounting a 1928 Kodak projector on the hood of his car, tying sheets to trees, and with his radio, he practiced his clever project in his own driveway. In May of 1933 he received a patent for his concept and opened the first Drive-In Theater on Tuesday June 6 of the same year in Camden, New Jersey. The investment was $30,000 and the product was genius. At some point between the late 1950’s to early 60’s around 4,000 Drive-In theaters existed across the country. One of the largest was in Copiague, New York which provided space for 2,500 parked cars, a kid’s playground and a full service restaurant.

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Though today we don’t need to list or search for numbers to know they declined. Less than 500 of these theaters survived. Likely, you recall a Drive-In which is no longer in existence or you’ve passed one standing vacant and abandoned along a highway. There certainly aren’t near as many as there were in our childhood whether you are 60 or 30 years old. So naturally, when you move to a city which possesses one of these treasures like I did, you feel ultimate jubilation.

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On Summer Ave. lives a Malco Drive-In Theater. And just like Drive-Ins of the past, it is a place you can enjoy a movie as lovebirds with a backseat available, as parents with a sleepy and hungry baby, and as a family or young crowd in the bed of a truck. In addition, they don’t cast shame upon you for bringing your own food and drink. Our hearts are content.

If you have a good Summer Drive-In story you’d like to share, please send it to memphistypehistory@gmail.com

Rebecca Phillips

I am a female born in the United States though I generally fear the border patrol. Buy me an ice cream cone and maybe I'll paint you something.

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    1. Author

      Thanks kindly, Omar! I don’t sell anything online but occasionally I participate and sell at different events around Memphis. You can follow me on Instagram (@rlwphillips) if interested in seeing what’s available or what I’m working on.

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