The venerable TeePee Drive-In, just west of Sapulpa OK, has been purchased by a group headed by a local entrepreneur. Although it’s uncertain when or whether it will reopen, tractors and excavators have already cleared the overgrown brush from the viewing field, and why would you do something like that if you weren’t planning on showing movies?
I didn’t want to bury the lede, but if you’ve noticed that Carload has been quiet lately, it’s been because I’ve had my head down researching my next book, the expanded second edition of Drive-Ins of Route 66. It’ll have more photos, more drive-ins, more stories, and now it’ll have a note about the TeePee, which will have reopened (I’m guessing) when the book comes out around August 2021. (While they last, you can still buy the soon-to-be-rare first edition, signed by me, on eBay.)
The Sapulpa Times reported that the Kante Group, backed by Joni Rogers-Kante, closed on the TeePee property last week. As shown by the photos in that article, heavy machinery got right to work cleaning out a few year’s worth of nature’s continuing attempts to reclaim the site. The article quoted “unnamed sources” who said that they expect the TeePee to be operating again this summer.
Left unreported was how TeePee visitors would access the drive-in. It sits on Ozark Trail Road, which is so old that it predates US Highway 66. As I saw when I visited in 2019, the adjacent Rock Creek Bridge on former Route 66 is closed, so cars from Sapulpa would have to drive three miles up Dewey Avenue, then double back another three and a half miles along the narrow, twisting, historic Ozark Trail. A nearby VFW Hall has a parking lot with entrances on both Dewey and Ozark Trail; maybe the TeePee could use that as an access road short cut?
Here’s hoping that the Kante Group can get the TeePee up and running again, especially if they can beat the deadline to get included in my next book.
Here’s more great news about the resuscitation of another long-dead drive-in. This time it’s the old Montgomery Drive-In in southeast Missouri. It closed after the 1981 season, but work is underway to reopen it this October as the Rock ‘N’ Roll Drive-In.
The new/old drive-in is about five miles due west of the Cape Girardeau Regional Airport. News reports call the community Blomeyer, an unincorporated area of Cape Girardeau County. The business sharing the site today gets its mail from the city of Chaffee, which is where the old drive-in lists placed it. Enough about that.
The original Montgomery held its grand opening on Easter Sunday, April 10, 1955, the same day Home of the Stars Drive-In also opened in Chaffee. That competitor closed in less than a decade. The Montgomery, owned first by Bernice Montgomery, had to rebuild its screen after a storm blew down the original redwood version in 1965. The new screen was made of steel-reinforced concrete. Clearly, it was built right.
That sturdy concrete screen is the focal point of Rock-in-Roll Drive-In co-owners Chuck Stratton and Jonny Tosarello. They’re working to clear the viewing field and clean the foliage off the screen, as they described to KFVS, Cape Girardeau’s News Leader. (That link includes a video. Wish I could have embedded it for you.)
Stratton told the SE Missouri State student newspaper, the Arrow, that he plans to charge by the Carload. Food trucks and a concession stand will provide the dining experience.
Tosarello said they were adding a new wrinkle. “We’re going to put effect lighting in all the trees and speakers in all the trees, and we’re going to time load those to the movies. So, when you’re watching a movie, something explodes, all the trees will turn red.” Let’s hope someone captures a video of that.
On Thursday night, Sept. 17, Tulsa’s Philbrook Museum of Art will hold its annual Internet Cat Video Festival. Instead of showing the videos on the Philbrook’s lawn, they’ve moved the festival to a place we care about, the Admiral Twin Drive-In.
The Tulsa World reported that the Internet Cat Video Festival was co-created by Philbrook Executive Director Scott Stulen when he with the Walker Arts Center of Minneapolis. The Philbrook event page described it as a “notorious offline celebration of online cats, (with) the best cat videos the internet has to offer. First time ever at a drive-in!”
I like cat videos and I love drive-ins. This sounds like the best of both. If you’re in the neighborhood, you really should check it out!