Pueblo’s Mesa sold, will reopen

The Mesa as it looked in 2005.

We can always use a bit of good news, as was published in this morning’s Pueblo Chieftain. Marcella Snyder and her husband Jon Parkin, already the owners of the Tibbs Drive-In in Indianapolis, have purchased the Mesa Drive-In in Pueblo CO. They’re working on upgrades to the plumbing and a few other items, and are looking to reopen around Memorial Day weekend.

The slightly sad part of the story is a farewell to Chuck and Marianne James, longtime supporters of this blog, who are retiring. They had owned the Mesa since they saved it from the bulldozers in 1994. In 2000, they added two screens to their drive-in from others in Colorado that had closed. After those decades of stewardship, it’s so nice that they found another drive-in enthusiast to take over.

In honor of the transition, the Chieftain produced a nice little slideshow video documenting some of the Mesa’s history. I would note that there are significantly more than 200 active drive-ins in the US, but that’s a minor quibble. Let’s all be happy that this Colorado landmark shows every sign of staying active for decades to come.

New Index for Yumpu’s Boxoffice issues

I just posted an index to all of the Boxoffice magazines hosted at Yumpu.com. To start with, it’s only the issues from 1948 through 1965, the era with the most drive-in theater news. Let me tell you why this index is important.

The cover of the Jan. 3, 1948 issue of Boxoffice, available on Yumpu

By the way, hi there! How are you? I’ve been pretty good considering (waving arm at the world). My focus for over a year has been a big project that I’ll talk about very soon, but it’s not this one. Anyway…

Once upon a time, the generous folks at Boxoffice magazine hosted its own archive of back issues, called the Vault, freely available for any internet user to read. (You can see what it used to look like in this Internet Archive capture.) Boxoffice was always the gold standard of movie theater news. It published several regional editions, presumably because a theater owner in Miami didn’t care what was going on in Seattle and vice versa. The gold standard of the gold standard was the National Executive Edition, published for the movie executive who wanted to read about every region’s news. The Vault was full of these NEE versions.

At about the same time, Yumpu also began hosting quite a few of these Boxoffice NEE issues, apparently provided by the same generous magazine workers. Yumpu is an amazing Swiss site with zillions of magazines, but I’ve never been able to find much organization there. Looking for a particular issue feels like rummaging through a deep bin of random magazines at a charity sale, and even Google searches are hit and miss.

About a year ago, the Boxoffice archive went offline. When I asked about it, I got a very friendly reply indicating that the company had an issue with the archive’s host, and it was too busy surviving during the pandemic to spare a lot of resources to restore the archive elsewhere. (I suggested that the Internet Archive would love to share that content with the world, but maybe the company wanted to keep control of its back issues.) Sure enough, as theaters slowly return to full speed, the Vault is still gone.

In the absence of that archive, I turned again to Yumpu’s Boxoffice holdings, of which the University of Pennsylvania’s Online Books Page wrote, “it can be difficult to find a specific issue, and there may be coverage gaps.” So I rolled up my sleeves and began clicking through thousands of issues, storing the link to each one. Some were mislabeled, all were out of order, but none of that mattered. I kept a list by date, adding those links.

The result is an unofficial, probably incomplete index of every Boxoffice issue available on Yumpu. I was surprised at the high percentage that’s available, probably 75% or so if you don’t count 1961, which is completely missing. I compiled the whole thing mainly for myself, because it’s such a great tool for drive-in theater history research, but I’m happy to share it with you. Enjoy!

TeePee Gets Renovated, May Reopen

Drive-in screen framed by shrubbery
The old TeePee screen was still intact, though surrounded by fast-growing plant life, when I took this photo in May 2019.

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.