Back in the day this was one of the best parts of childhood. Dusk is approaching. The whole family gets piled into the Ford Galaxy, Chevy pickup, etc. and off you go. As you approach the theater you see the bigger-than-you-can-possibly-imagine neon sign of a cowboy on a bucking bronco. After paying by the carload you drive into the huge dirt lot with little hills and speakers on stands. After parking on one of those little hills it’s important to check the speaker immediately cuz you need to be sure that it works. Yep, it does! Now the kids are off to the skeezy snack bar for some popcorn and soda. It’s getting darker. Once everybody is situated in the car the movie comes on. Heaven.
Arizona got off to a late start in the outdoor drive in business. At the end of the 1940’s, there were only five drive ins operating in the entire state. But by the late 1950’s, during their heyday, there were about 50. Since that time, the number of operating drive-ins in the state has steadily declined.
There isn’t a lot of information about the old drive in theaters in Tucson. I suppose we’d need to ask a movie-loving Tucson native if we wanted all of the info. But as far as I can tell the names of the drive ins here in the Old Pueblo were: The Apache, The Fiesta, The Prince, The 22nd Street Drive-in, The Midway, The Rodeo, and The Cactus, also known as The De-Anza.
There is a group of people here in Tucson who are doing their best to get a drive in re-established. Let’s hope they do. Just leave out the skeezy snack bar!