Thursday, June 27, 2013

Jump in Your Car and Come as You Are!

by Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Curator

A focus on the 1950s would not be complete without mentioning the drive-in movie theater.  Although first developed by a New Jersey inventor in the 1930s, the drive-in did not really take off until the 1950s.   In the post World War II period, Americans were prospering, had more leisure time, and were in love with their cars.  Anything that involved the car was bound to be a hit and Kansans were not an exception.  At one time Kansas had as many as 125 drive-in theaters.  Nationwide there were approximately 4,000.  Newton had two drive-ins and at least two indoor movie theaters during the 1950s.

On Sunday, July 19, 1953 Newton's second drive-in movie theater opened one half mile north of Newton on US Highway 81 with the bold invitation: " Jump In Your Car and Come As You Are!" 

Newton Kansan, July 18, 1953

The history of Starlight Drive-In remains something of a mystery. The theater is listed in the 1954 City Directory with a location of Hwy 81 North.  The Directories do not mention the Starlight Drive-In again until 1960.  In 1960, the Starlight Drive-In was located at Rt 1, Newton and owned by Lorin W. Kemp who also owned the Roxy Theater at 214 Main, Newton.    

The other Newton Drive-In is a little easier to track through the 1950s.  In the directories for 1952, 1954, 1958 and 1960, the West-Vue Drive-In Theater was owned and operated by Raymond Roberson.  The  drive-in was located on the west edge of Newton at Hwy 50 S.  Roberson also owned the Roxy Theater at 214 Main, Newton, until 1960

West-Vue Drive-In Theater
ca. 1970
HCHM Photo Archives

West-Vue Drive-In Theater
ca. 1970
HCHM Photo Archives

Do you have any memories of going to a Drive-In theater? 

From the Newton City Directories:

  • 1952 lists West-Vue Drive-In at Hwy 50 S.  In addition there were three theaters located on Main; the Chief (506), Regent (518), Roxy (214).
  • 1954 lists Starlight Drive-In at Hwy 81 North and West-Vue Drive-In at Hwy 50 S.
  • 1956 lists the Fox Theater (518 Main), Roxy Theater (214 Main) and West-Vue Drive-In.
  • 1958 lists the Roxy Theater and West-Vue Drive-In with Raymond P). Roberson as manager and owner.
  • 1960 lists Fox Theater (518 Main) manager M.E. Lehman; Roxy Theater (214 Main) owner L.W. Kemp; Starlight Drive-In (Rt 1) owner L. W. Kemp; and West-Vue (Hwy W 50 S) owner Roberson.


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1 comment:

  1. As a teenager I spent many summer nights at the West-Vue mostly making out with my boyfriend and watching a little of the movie.