In little Prescott AZ, about halfway between Phoenix and Flagstaff, some folks there really love their old drive-in sign. It’s for the Senator (named for the Senator Highway it fronts), which opened in 1950 and lasted until at least the 1980s.
Since this is dry Arizona, structures tend to remain in place until something or someone intervenes. As shown in the embedded YouTube video, some locals decided in 2008 to put the old sign out of its misery. But try not to get too upset; within a year, other locals had restored the sign.
The reason I’m mentioning any of this is an article posted today by the local newspaper, The Daily Courier. It documents the work of Class of 1963 alum Stephen Rogers and classmate Jane Orr, who together spearheaded a restoration and fundraising effort with former alums that enabled the sign to be re-erected. Since then, the group has posted messages with the sign’s moveable letters to commemorate holidays, anniversaries, and at least one marriage proposal.
“This past week, Orr and Rogers posted a Valentine’s Day missive: ‘Senator Drive-In — We Still Love and Miss You.’ A big red heart is on the far side.” Today’s article has much more, including a photo of how the sign looks today, so you know you really ought to go read it!
The Glendale serves all nine screens from a single, well-designed projection structure and concession stand. Photo by Neon Michael from the Carload Flickr pool.
It’s Day 32 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey, and it began with a seven-hour drive, my longest so far, from El Paso TX. What made that long trek worth it was the destination, the Glendale 9 Drive-In of Glendale AZ. With nine active screens and the friendliest drive-in employees I’ve ever encountered, the Glendale is my drive-in heaven.
The West Wind drive-in chain runs the Glendale, the last active drive-in in Arizona. (The Apache in Globe closed a couple of years ago, but this Google Street View from September 2016 looks just the way it did when it was alive. It looks ripe for revival to me. But I digress.) I’m looking forward to virtually visiting several other West Wind locations in California and Nevada over the next few weeks.
According to CinemaTreasures, the Glendale opened in June 1979, and it’s been in operation ever since. It started with seven screens, then added two more before converting all those projectors to digital in early 2013. Despite all that area to cover, it’s completely paved and has thoughtful landscaping touches such as flowering bushes near the concession stand and palm trees along the property edges.
At this time of year, the Glendale shows early movies, around 6:30, and movies scheduled at a time that would be early in June, around 8:45. Despite nine screens’ worth of all these choices, the only two movies I hadn’t seen yet were a Spanish-language film and The Bye Bye Man. I don’t like creepy movies but I enjoy knowing what the characters are saying, so that’s how I picked what to watch.
Miles Today / Total: 455 / 4209 (rounded to the nearest mile)
Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: The Bye Bye Man / 22
Nearby Restaurant: It’s not a proper restaurant, but whenever I’m in range of a QuikTrip convenience store it goes on my short list of places to eat, and this one’s less than a mile from the drive-in. If the Glendale 9 is my drive-in heaven, QuikTrip is my convenience store heaven, not just because I grew up around QuikTrips. Great microwave sandwiches, a surprising array of rolling food, impressive coffee and fountain drink selection, always clean, and lately they’ve added pizzas and other food cooked to order.
Where I Virtually Stayed: The nicest close hotel wasn’t a hotel at all but the Gas Light Inn bed and breakfast. It was a little less expensive than the type of chain hotels I usually choose (those without 6 in their name), but it was very comfortable and a lot closer to the drive-in.
Only in Glendale: Just south of the Glendale city limits, Don Parks has two adjacent houses full of collected statuary and other oddities. As documented by the Phoenix New Times, it starts with a 23-foot Paul Bunyan and continues with “a Captain Crook from an old McDonald’s play area, a plaster statue of a grizzly bear wearing spectacles, and a dinosaur from an old Sinclair gas station. Perched on the roof of either house are oversized pairs of spectacles that Parks made himself.” That barely scratches the surface; you should check out the New Times’ slide show.
This was expected for months, but it’s still sad. The Apache Drive-In, (Globe AZ) which had survived so many drive-in downturns, could not survive the shift to digital projection. It held its going-away party last weekend, as documented by public radio station KJZZ.
You can also see a video report from KSAZ, Phoenix’s news leader, about the Apache’s final celebration, but KSAZ uses Worldnow video, which I can’t embed here.
Stina Sieg of KJZZ provided a magnificent time capsule of the evening’s event, including a slideshow, a link to the audio report, and a well-edited transcript of that report, which mentioned an ironic touch. “Tonight’s movie was supposed to be that Charles Grodin/Robert De Niro flick, ‘Midnight Run,’” Sieg said. “It was partially filmed in Globe. However, 35 millimeter prints of it simply don’t exist anymore.”
Now the lights are out for good. Today that Do Not Enter photo I took in April of the Apache’s one-way exit applies to the entrance as well.
Update: On the Friday before that last party, NPR also ran a story and interview about the closing of the Apache. You can listen to it or read its transcript here.