Note: Despite specifically mentioning Nov. 23 on its web site last weekend, the Jesup was closed for Thanksgiving. Somehow that means I swapped my Jesup visit with my trip to the Starlight. I might work out the details later. It’s all virtual, you know.
It’s Day 327 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey. These distances look a lot shorter on a map, but even staying within Georgia it took me over 3½ hours to drive from the Starlight Drive-In Theatre in Atlanta to the Jesup Twin Drive-In Theatre in Jesup of course.
The Jesup opened as the Family Drive-In, or maybe the Jesup Family Drive-In. Ward Riggins built it in 1948, according to his grandson, Ward Riggins III. The youngest Riggins said that when the founder became ill, Ward Jr. continued the business. It operated until 1960, then closed.
According to a 1999 article in the Florida Times-Union, Tim Cockfield bought the Family in 1970. He added a second screen in 1975. “The family operation has run smoothly for almost 30 years. Of course, there was the time the brick screen tower was broken by a tornado in the late 1960s. In 1993, part of the screen blew down during a strong windstorm.” Tim Jr. and his wife Laurel were helping out at the box office and refreshment stand, and the younger Cockfield was in line to eventually take over the drive-in.
The embedded YouTube video of the day is a 2011 report from WSAV, Savannah’s News Leader, and it shows the Cockfields still running the Jesup. (For a look at what a typical movie night is like these days, check out this video from 2016.)
Not so long after that video, in 2012 Ralph and Jamie Hickox bought the Jesup, added digital projectors, and embraced the drive-in’s retro vintage. Deep South magazine wrote “Local high school students work as carhops, dressed in poodle skirts, to serve moviegoers the classics: hamburgers, hotdogs, funnel cakes and fried Oreos – a customer favorite.” All you have to do is text your order from your car.
The place caught on quickly in the Hickox household. Ralph told the Savannah Morning News, “I have a 15-year-old son. When we first bought the drive-in, he was like, ‘Whatever.’ Now he loves it.”
The Travel Channel shot footage at the Jesup in January 2017 for its Ultimate Road Trip: Top 5 special. I’m guessing that’s the Dinosaurs, Drive-Ins and Dunes episode, so check your TV listings for the next time that one comes around.
And on this Thanksgiving night, I had the choice between my fourth viewing of Justice League or my fourth viewing of Thor: Ragnarok. That was an easy choice!
Miles Today / Total: 237 / 37678 (rounded to the nearest mile)
Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: Thor: Ragnarok / 196
Nearby Restaurant: There aren’t many restaurants open on Thanksgiving, so I was glad to find the Western Sizzlin serving up a turkey buffet with all the trimmings. I love a good buffet, and the familiar tastes of cranberries and stuffing made me feel a little better about being away from home.
Where I Virtually Stayed: The nicest hotel in Jesup might be the Quality Inn. It had coffee and cookies waiting for me. My comfortable room had all the modern amenities. The breakfast room held eggs and sausage as well as the continental standards. Even the wifi was peppy. I wish all Quality Inns could be as good as this one.
Only in Jesup: Every October, Jesup holds its Arch Fest, begun in 2003 to celebrate its restored downtown arch. The old arch had been a historic landmark since the 1940s but had to be removed for safety concerns. A duplicate of the arch was placed in front of the new city hall.
Next stop: Highway 21 Drive In, Beaufort SC.