Video: Rodeo Celebrates 70 Years

Over the years, I’ve seen a lot of local TV news segments about nearby drive-in theaters. This week, KING-TV, Seattle’s News Leader, posted an affectionate look at Bremerton WA’s Rodeo Drive-In Theatre that has to be in my Top Ten.

As I wrote two years ago during my Drive-In-A-Day Odyssey, “Rodeo Motor Movies” opened in 1949 as a single-screen drive-in for about 600 cars. The Seattle-based Cascade/Seven Gables Cinemas bought the Rodeo in 1977 and added two more screens the following year, expanding the capacity total to about 1000 cars.

Jack and Cindy Ondracek bought the rundown Rodeo in 1986 after it had been for sale for several years, and they still own it today. “It was a big leap of faith at the time but it worked out real well,” said Jack, who is now the projectionist. Cindy runs the box office, and oldest daughter Cheryl manages the snack bar.

KING’s video, which I can’t recommend highly enough, shows plenty of patrons relaxing and getting happy waiting for the movie to start. Its story ends with a perfect quote from Cindy: “People up here value the fact that the evening is sometimes the most amazing part of the entire day. Out here we kind of embrace that, and we give you a great way to finish the day off.”

There are photos and more details in KING’s post online. For a good time, you really should go read it!

Blue Fox Celebrates 60th Anniversary

The Blue Fox Drive-In Theater in Oak Harbor WA turned 60 years old this year, and KIRO radio’s MyNorthwest ran a nice story this week about the achievement.

As I wrote in my Drive-In-A-Day Odyssey in 2017, Woodrow “Woody” Cecil and his wife Charlotte built the Blue Fox in 1959. What I didn’t know then was the great naming story offered by current co-owner Darrell Bratt.

“The reason it’s called the Blue Fox, from what I understand from the original owner, was when he built the place in ’59 he didn’t have a name for it,” Bratt told MyNorthwest. “He contacted a sign company to build a sign for him. The maker of the sign says, ‘I’ve got a deal for you if you’re not picky on your name.’ He had a sign that was the Blue Fox Drive-In, you know the old drive-in restaurants. He goes, ‘It’s a repossessed sign, so if you call it that I can make you a heck of a deal on a sign!’ That’s how it got the name of the Blue Fox drive-in.”

Bratt and his wife bought the Blue Fox in 1988 and have run it ever since. They added a go-cart track. A few years ago, they raised the money for a digital projector by selling t-shirts and sweatshirts from its screen printing shop.

There’s so much more to see in the MyNorthwest article, including a fine photo of a woman holding a popcorn bucket, so you just know you need to go read it!

May 17: Auto-Vue Drive-In Theatre, Colville WA

Previous, narrow screen at the Auto Vue Drive-In with a full field of cars

photo from the Auto Vue Facebook page

It’s Day 137 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey. It’s a testament to how long my drives have been lately that traveling four and a half hours (not counting my time waiting at the border) from Enderby BC to Colville WA didn’t seem so bad. I arrived at another rejuvenated drive-in, the Auto-Vue Drive-In Theatre.

The Auto Vue (or “Auto View,” as some sources call it) was built in 1953 and rolled along for 60 years. According to The Statesman Examiner of Colville, the Auto Vue closed after the 2013 season. Owner Steve Wisner faced the typical problem of needing to find the money for a digital projector, but he had another problem – his screen was falling down. “I’ve had [my] contractor look at it [the screen], and the insurance company contractor look at it,” Wisner said. “They both said that it should be torn down.” That screen was also too narrow for today’s typically widescreen movies; you can see the dimensions in the Facebook photo in this post.

As you can guess, that story had a happy ending. The Auto Vue procured a nicer 65-foot wide movie screen from the recently closed Park In Drive-In of Soap Lake, erected it on site in June 2015 and opened soon after. They switched to digital projection just before opening for the 2016 season. As now it’s going strong once again.

Once again, I’m at a drive-in in season but in the middle of the week. The Auto Vue is showing movies on Fridays through Sundays this month. That gave me more time to rest from all that driving.

Miles Today / Total:  204 / 15731 (rounded to the nearest mile)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: dark / 61

Nearby Restaurant: This small, fairly remote town isn’t where I’d expect to find authentic Polynesian cuisine, but that’s what Brown Boyz Island BBQ serves up. There’s Spam on the menu, but I forgive them for that. What counts are the large portions of unusual dishes, like my Hawaiian chicken sandwich on a Hawaiian bun with coconut cream sauce. Where else am I going to find that?

Where I Virtually Stayed: After a few nights in Canada, nothing says standard, comfortable Americana like the Comfort Inn. My room had a mini fridge and microwave, good wifi, and a (dare I say) comfortable bed. Breakfast in the morning included a nice selection of hot items, waffles, and the usual continental suspects. It made me glad to be back in the states for a few days.

Only in Colville: The small Stevens County Historical Society museum here contains dozens of works by Leno Prestini, an artist whose paintings, according to Wikipedia, were “unique to the point of eccentricity.” After his sister, Battista Prestini, passed away in 1983, her collection of his material (including tiles, sculptures, World War II-era cartoons, and 70 paintings) was donated to the SCHS.

Next stop: Sunset Auto Vue, Grangeville ID.