Mar. 6: Tower Drive-In, Poteau OK

A grassy drive-in lot with cars facing a screen

photo from the Tower Drive-In Facebook page

It’s Day 65 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey. It took a couple of hours to work my way down from Tulsa to the Tower Drive-In in Poteau OK.

The Tower opened in 1950 and has continued operating ever since. For a while, there was another drive-in in Poteau, the “Y”. Details are a little sketchy, but it looks like the Y was open from around 1949 through the late 1960s.

The Tower sits behind a three-screen indoor theater with which it shares its marquee, as seen in this photo. The drive-in updated to digital projection in 2012. As owner Amber Pickel told The Oklahoman back then, “By the time the upgrades are paid off, it will be time to upgrade again.”

Unfortunately for me, the Tower is still closed for the season despite highs in the 70s this week. I’m still ahead of the pace I need to catch 200 film nights this year, and I’m looking forward to finding more active drive-ins soon.

Miles Today / Total:  123 / 8435 (rounded to the nearest mile)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: dark / 38

Nearby Restaurant: The closest restaurant, within easy walking distance, is a Western Sizzlin, a steak and buffet chain that I hadn’t visited in a long time. I remembered to load up on greens from the salad bar before I got tempted by all the meats and desserts available.

Where I Virtually Stayed: The closest hotel to the Tower is a Days Inn. To call that chain variable in quality would be kind, but the Poteau Days Inn is an example that proves that some of its locations are good. Solid wifi in my nice clean room along with a mini-fridge and microwave plus a continental breakfast, all for a very fair price.

Only in Poteau: The local chamber of commerce promotes Cavanal Hill (visible in the background of the photo above) as the “tallest hill in the world.” If it really is its advertised 1999 feet high, that makes it one foot short of a mountain. But according to its Wikipedia entry, Cavanal Hill’s actual summit elevation is 2,385 feet above sea level; making the difference in elevation between the summit and the nearby Poteau River just 1960 feet.

Next Stop: 112 Drive In, Fayetteville AR.

Mar. 5: Admiral Twin Drive-In, Tulsa OK

It’s Day 64 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey. I drove east from Guthrie OK for a couple hours on the smaller highways, dodging the tolls on I-44, to the Admiral Twin Drive-In in Tulsa.

According to the Tulsa World, the Admiral opened in 1951 as the Modernaire on East Admiral Street. By 1955, it had been renamed Admiral and had added its second screen. Its two-sided screen tower is unusual; most multi-screen drive-ins project from a central building in different directions. The Admiral projects from two sources to the east and west sides of its screen tower.

One more thing about that Tulsa World article. It says that there’s absolutely no outside food or drink allowed, but it also quotes co-owner Blake Smith as advising, “Come out and get a good spot … walk around, drink a beer. Yes, I’m aware that people bring beers inside the drive-in.”

Perhaps the most famous incident in the Admiral’s history was when the painted plywood screens on that tower burned to the ground in late 2010. Thanks in part to fundraisers, the Admiral rebuilt its screens and reopened in 2012. Last year, USA Today readers voted it the 8th best US drive-in.

I missed Opening Day by less than a week; the Admiral will start its 2017 season this Friday, March 10.

Miles Today / Total:  115 / 8312 (rounded to the nearest mile)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: dark / 38

Nearby Restaurant: There’s a great place for seafood right nearby, the White River Fish Market. I picked a dish I can’t get just anywhere, broiled rainbow trout, and some cherry cheesecake for dessert. I think that if I can stick to just one meal a day like this one, the calories are worth it.

Where I Virtually Stayed: While the Hilton Garden Inn Tulsa Airport is especially convenient to, y’know, the airport, it’s also one of the nicest places that’s pretty close to the Admiral Twin. Good wifi, a mini-fridge in the room, and breakfast for this Hilton Gold member made it a safe choice for the night.

Only in Tulsa: Some folks in Tulsa seriously hope to host the 2024 Summer Olympics. The Tulsa Exploratory Committee web site says. “The Tulsa2024 committee believes a theme of Native America would make Tulsa2024 national bid, an American bid, not just a city bid, and excite the entire United States in a bid for a future Olympics.” As reported by The New York Times, “The site of the annual Tulsa State Fair, where the livestock competition is a main attraction, has a recreational vehicle park that could be converted into a broadcast hub. In their downtime, athletes could relax in the nearby Big Splash Water Park, with its rainbow spaghetti of slides and flumes.”

Next Stop: Tower Drive-In, Poteau OK.

Mar. 4: Beacon Drive-In Theatre, Guthrie OK

It’s Day 63 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey. Fresh off actually seeing a movie for the first time in over a week, I didn’t mind that the 75 miles I drove from Chickasha to Guthrie OK, home of the Beacon Drive-In Theatre, was a little farther than I had expected when I thought I would spend last night in Oklahoma City.

The Beacon opened in 1950 and has been in operation ever since. From what I can tell, it’s the only drive-in Guthrie has ever had. It may be most famous for the 1996 movie Twister, when it was apparently destroyed by a tornado. According to a commenter on Cinema Treasures, a second drive-in was built nearby and destroyed especially for Twister. “The Beacon did send over all its trash for the movie to add realism. They also popped all the popcorn used, but the Beacon wasn’t used in the movie.”

The Beacon Facebook page promises that it will be open again, as usual, in mid-April. There’s also a mid-summer fireworks show each year. That reminds me – I always love the drive-in on July 4, because most of them have great views of any distant fireworks displays, all from the comfort of my car and with the convenience of a nearby concession stand.

Miles Today / Total:  75 / 8197 (rounded to the nearest mile)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: dark / 38

Nearby Restaurant: I don’t find too many great salad bars at barbecue restaurants, but that’s what they’ve got at local legend Stables Cafe. I guess that’s because they served their dinners “steakhouse style,” which is how I got my ribs, baked potato, Texas toast, and that amazing salad bar.

Where I Virtually Stayed: For the second straight night, I chose the Hampton Inn near the interstate. It’s a nice new hotel, and it delivered all the comforting, uniform Hampton touches that made me wake up and wonder what city I was in.

Only in Guthrie: According to Roadside America, Elmer McCurdy’s grave is in Guthrie. McCurdy, an inept outlaw, died in a shootout near the Oklahoma-Kansas border in 1911. When no one claimed his body, he was propped in a corner of a Pawhuska OK mortuary where for five years visitors could pay a nickel to see him. Then McCurdy’s body spent decades as a freak show attraction at various traveling carnivals. It eventually wound up painted to glow in the dark in a Long Beach CA amusement park. A workman filming an episode of The Six Million Dollar Man discovered that this was a real body, leading to an autopsy and rediscovery of McCurdy’s identity. He was finally buried in 1977 in the “Boot Hill” of Guthrie’s Summit View Cemetery.

Next Stop: Admiral Twin Drive-In, Tulsa OK.