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.

Mar. 3: Chief Drive In Theatre, Chickasha OK

It’s Day 62 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey. When I first drew up this leg of the trip, I had planned to spend Thursday night, March 2, here at the Chief Drive In Theatre in Chickasha OK, then Friday night at the Winchester Drive In in Oklahoma City. As I got closer, I saw that the Winchester was closed till April but the Chief is open all year, but only on Friday through Sunday nights. So I switched, which meant that I doubled back 40 miles down I-44 for a Friday night show.

The Chief opened in June 1949 and has been in operation ever since. From what I can tell, it’s the only drive-in Chickasha has ever had. Its tree-lined entrance driveway gives a glimpse of what that classic first wave looked like. More recently, during the NBA Playoffs last year, the Chief showed some Oklahoma City Thunder games on its big screen.

It had been so long since I visited a concession stand that I almost forgot what it was like. The Chief has the classics, plus Frito pies, mozzarella sticks, and beef jerky. I’ll bet they didn’t offer bottled water in 1949, but I was glad to be able to buy it in 2017.

Since I finally got to see a movie for the first time in over a week, it didn’t really matter what was on. Which turned out to be Logan, a pretty good movie and a great fit for a drive-in.

Miles Today / Total:  40 / 8122 (rounded to the nearest mile)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: Logan / 38

Nearby Restaurant: Another day, another great burger experience. J&W Grill, a block away from the county courthouse, doesn’t look like much except if you notice that it’s packed with locals. The grilled onion burgers are a but like White Castle, except substantial, and a sunny afternoon in the 60s was a great time to eat at a table outside.

Where I Virtually Stayed: It had been far too long since I stayed at a Hampton Inn, and the one in Chickasha was as modern and efficient and the same as all the others, in a good way. The wifi and breakfast were solid, and there was coffee at all times in the lobby. No surprises, just a comforting stay.

Only in Chickasha: The University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma in Chickasha has been through a lot of changes. It was founded in 1908 as the Oklahoma Industrial Institute and College for Girls. A couple of years later, a judge who thought “Industrial Institute” meant reform school, sentenced an “incorrigible young woman” to serve time there, so the school changed its name to Oklahoma College for Women in 1912. It went coed in 1965 and became the Oklahoma College of Liberal Arts. Then in the mid-1970s, the Oklahoma legislature moved to rename all public institutions of higher education in the state under a new system: 2-year institutions would be known as “colleges” and 4-year institutions would be known as “universities.” So even though it still offers just bachelor’s degrees, the school keeps the U in USAO.

Next Stop: Beacon Drive-In Theatre, Guthrie OK.

Mar. 2: Winchester Drive In, Oklahoma City OK

It’s Day 61 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey, and I did something a little different. For the first time on this trip, I added a few miles just to make sure I can schedule a drive-in visit on a night of the week when it’s active. The good news is that going directly from Clarendon TX to the Winchester Drive In in Oklahoma City actually saved me a little time, although I’ll lose it when I double back a little for my next stop.

The Winchester arrived late to the drive-in scene in Oklahoma City. When it opened in 1968, There were over a dozen competitors, including such neat names as the Bomber, the Riviera, and the Sooner Twin. Now it’s the lone survivor in town. A tornado that tore the roof off the concession stand and projection building in June 2013, ruining a brand-new digital projector. It took until October 2013, but the place reopened as good as ever.

One more thing: That two-story neon cowboy on the Winchester sign? His name is Chester.

The Winchester was dark on this Thursday night, and its Facebook page says it’ll open for the season again this April. I’m expecting better results on my next stop on a Friday night.

Miles Today / Total:  219 / 8082 (rounded to the nearest mile)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: dark / 37

Nearby Restaurant: The Garage was a fine place to grab some burgers and beer, especially considering that it was a short two-block walk from my hotel (see below). Not only could I watch some sports on the big-screen TVs and play a few arcade games, it could safely return to my room without needing to drive. If you know what I mean, and I think you do.

Where I Virtually Stayed: There are a cluster of hotels just on the other side of I-240 from the Winchester, and I chose to stay at the Home2 Suites by Hilton. It was my first time at that brand, and I was impressed. Even though it’s designed for extended stays, the room and its microwave and fridge were handy even for a one-night visit. And microwaving my breakfast made me feel like I was home.

Only in Oklahoma City: Oklahoma City is home to the American Banjo Museum, a $5 million, world-class 21,000 square foot facility honoring the rich history, vibrant spirit and unlimited future of the banjo. The museum’s collection contains more than 400 instruments, recordings, film, video, printed music, instructional materials, ephemera and memorabilia associated with the banjo, and of course, the largest collection in the world of banjos on public display.

Next Stop: Chief Drive In Theatre, Chickasha OK.