Mar. 9: Stone Drive-In Theatre, Mountain View AR

It’s Day 68 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey. Actually it was the night before when I drove a bit less than an hour from Marshall AR to the Stone Drive-In Theatre in Mountain View, home of more hotels than Marshall. This wraps up the third of the three active drive-ins of Arkansas.

The Cinema Treasures page on the Stone says that it opened in 1965, holds 300 cars, and runs from March to October. My Motion Picture Almanacs suggest the date was right but maybe it only holds 200 cars. According to the Stone Facebook page, they closed in early September 2016 to convert to digital projection. On February 27, they posted, “It’s all coming together and I promise I will let y’all know as soon as we get it going and set a date for opening!” A positive sign, but not for my visit.

What else can I tell you? How about a CNN Money article from 2003? That story profiled people in “old-fashioned jobs,” including Stone owner Bobby Tompson. It mentioned that time in the 1960s when his father “came home one day with a used Ford truck, small popcorn machine and two movie projectors. He drove the Ford throughout Arkansas, stopping in towns to sell tickets to films that he projected on the sides of churches and school buildings.” Eventually, Dad built the Stone, and the family keeps it going to this day.

Miles Today / Total:  40 / 8680 (rounded to the nearest mile)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: dark / 38

Nearby Restaurant: It was just a short drive to the middle of Mountain View to reach PJ’s Rainbow Cafe. I chowed down on some chicken fried steak and green beans, being careful to save room for coconut pie for dessert, and everywhere I looked in there, I saw more Elvis stuff.

Where I Virtually Stayed: It’s not often on this odyssey that I get to stay two nights in the same place. The Econo Lodge rescued me the night before with an older, clean room with a decent continental breakfast and a low price. It was nice to have had one day where I didn’t have to pack everything up and hit the road again.

Only in Mountain View: Every October, the Mountain View Area Chamber of Commerce hosts the Annual Bean Fest & Great Arkansas Championship Outhouse Races, which happens just about as it sounds. The family event features beans and cornbread, music, dancing on the courthouse square, handmade crafts, and “outrageous outhouse races.”

Next Stop: Calvert Drive In, Calvert City KY.

Mar. 8: Kenda Drive-In, Marshall, AR

photo from the Kenda Drive-In Facebook page

It’s Day 67 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey. I drove about two and a half hours following US 412 from Fayetteville to US 65 and on to the Kenda Drive-In, deep in the Ozark Mountains in Marshall, AR.

The Kenda’s Facebook page says that the drive-in opened in April 1965. Its sign is on Highway 65, but the theater itself is about a block north on Westwood Drive. It’s almost certainly the only drive-in that Marshall has ever known, considering the city has never had as many as 2000 residents.

Although the Kenda is only showing movies on Friday through Sunday nights for now, the concession stand was open for lunch. I got here in time to try some burgers and those chocolate rolls for dessert, and watching a movie loaded on my phone, it was an interesting daytime drive-in experience.

Miles Today / Total:  117 / 8640 (rounded to the nearest mile)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: dark / 38

Nearby Restaurant: When the drive-in isn’t serving food, the best example of local cuisine is the Daisy Queen just down the road. That’s not a typo; although the sign looks a lot like that other DQ, this place is more like a diner than an ice-cream parlor. It’s best known for its burgers and fries, but I had a chef salad just to get something green. And yes, they do serve ice cream for dessert.

Where I Virtually Stayed: Oh dear. Google Maps didn’t think there was a place to stay within 10 miles of the Kenda, and I think that’s because it thought the old Sunset Motel was closed. I kept looking for hotels along the way to my next stop, and I couldn’t find anything I wanted. Mountain View was only an hour away, and since I didn’t have to drive late at night, I didn’t mind too much. Besides, this way I’ll get to spend two nights at a clean, nicely priced Econo Lodge.

Only in Marshall: The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture says “Marshall’s significance lies in its survival as a mountain county seat after challenges such as Civil War anarchy, devastation of mining and timber industries, a bankrupt railroad, failed small local and outsider-owned industries, and aggressive environmentalists.” The Searcy County historical society’s annual North Arkansas Ancestor Fair, started in 1990, draws hundreds of visitors.

Next Stop: Stone Drive-In Theatre, Mountain View AR.

Mar. 7: 112 Drive In, Fayetteville AR

It’s Day 66 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey. I spent an hour and a half driving across the border from eastern Oklahoma to western Arkansas, then north to the 112 Drive In in Fayetteville.

The 112 is a single-screen theater. It’s laid out for a second screen, but a Cinema Treasures commenter relayed that “the City of Fayetteville wanted us to Build a lake to retain water, (and) to dig out the culverts under 112. … We were to put a sidewalk from Nelms to the Glass company, to put in an irrigation system and water line and plant trees all across the HWY 112 frontage, So that kind of killed (the second screen) as ever being possible.”

When did the 112 open? I couldn’t find any hard information about it. There was a New York Times article about a guy who graduated college in 1980 and had visited the 112 “as a teenager”. It’s listed for Fayetteville in my 1984 Motion Picture Almanac along with the 62 Drive-in and 71 Drive-In. (Can you guess that they were all owned by the same company?) Yet the 1982 MPA lists the other two drive-ins and not the 112. On the other hand, none of those three appear in my 1972 MPA, but I know from another source that the 71 had operated since the 1950s, so maybe that source is just too erratic to trust.

The previous paragraph already had too many numbers in it, so the short version is that the 112 was probably open by the mid-1970s, but I just don’t know.

Once again, I arrived just a little too early. The 112 will reopen for the 2017 season on March 17.

Miles Today / Total:  88 / 8523 (rounded to the nearest mile)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: dark / 38

Nearby Restaurant: There are a lot of chain restaurants along the main drag on old Business 71 about a mile from the 112, but I kept on going because of the promise of an unusual experience. Hammontree’s Grilled Cheese offers, yes, gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches, sweet potato fries and so much more. I started off with the edamame hummus dip and black bean tortilla soup before the sourdough-based specialty of the house.

Where I Virtually Stayed: Had I stayed at a Sleep Inn yet during this odyssey? All those modern motel chains are starting to blur together. Anyway, at a great price, I got a clean room, good wifi, and some breakfast – all I needed for another day in Arkansas.

Only in Fayetteville: If you happened to click that New York Times link above, you already know this one. Sitting in front of the Colonial Motel in nearby Prairie Grove is a phone booth with its own Wikipedia page. This style of booth was introduced by AT&T in 1954 to make pay phones accessible in outdoor locations. It was damaged in a 2014 traffic accident, and its restoration became an internet cause célèbre. The phone booth was added to the National Register of Historic Places in November 2015.

Next Stop: Kenda Drive-In, Marshall, AR.