Apr. 10: Sunset Drive-In Theatre, Aurora MO

It’s Day 100 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey. It was another day of driving through the Ozark Mountains, this time mostly along US 60. It took over two hours to go from the Phoenix Drive In in Houston MO to the Sunset Drive-In Theatre in Aurora.

The Sunset was on US 60 when it opened in 1951. (The highway bypasses Aurora to the south these days, leaving the “Business Route” to handle traffic through downtown.)

According to the Sunset web site, it was first owned and operated by Ralph Hough Sr. and family, then sold in 1966 to Jesse, Cecil and Clyde Ruble. In 1977, David Marks bought the Sunset from the Rubles.

Fire struck the old wooden screen in 1979; it was replaced with a steel screen for the opening of the 1980 season. Over the years the drive-in has enlarged from 200 to 325 cars. The Sunset upgraded to FM sound in 2001 and digital projection in 2013.

Last July, Springfield’s News Leader KY3 ran a nice story with a video featuring Marks, the Aurora’s playground area, and plenty of enthusiastic patrons. “As a rule, everybody’s happy,” Marks said.

This year, on a Monday night before the Sunset opened for the season, I was doubly in the dark. It was a bit rainy outside anyway.

Miles Today / Total:  117 / 10983 (rounded to the nearest mile)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: dark / 47

Nearby Restaurant: For a great lunch buffet, I headed over to Your Pizza Place. I used to love pizza buffets when they were popular a few decades ago, and this one was better. Great salad and a variety of tasty pizza slices left me pretty much full for the rest of the day.

Where I Virtually Stayed: If you want to stay in Aurora, you’ll want to stay at the Aurora Inn, apparently the only hotel in town. My room was clean, looked recently remodeled, and it had a microwave and mini-fridge. There was even a bit of continental breakfast in the morning.

Only in Aurora: Less than five miles east of the Sunset is Marionville, “home of the white squirrels.” According to Roadside America, they’ve been around for over 100 years, but no one knows how they got started. But they’re definitely protected; Marionville slaps a $500 fine on anyone caught trying to trap or sell a white squirrel.

Next stop: 66 Drive-In Theatre, Carthage MO.

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