Once Upon a Passion Pit: The Ghosts of Drive-Ins Past

The steel orchards of speaker posts have been clear-cut. The clattering, whirring projectors have been scrapped. The smells of popcorn and hotdogs have long since been replaced by the smell of automobile exhaust. And the sounds of Rock and Doris wooing and the Duke “Pilgrim”ing have yielded to the sounds of boom cars thumping and smartphones ringing.

But a few relics of Fort Worth’s drive-in theaters can still be found.

south side twin newspaper ad drive-ins 1975For example, the concessions and projection building of the South Side Twin on Old Hemphill Road are now part of Treasure Island flea market.

pike aerial
On East Lancaster Avenue the concentric, undulating parking ramps of the Pike can still be seen on the ground and from the air.

The Pike opened in 1947, named for the Fort Worth-Dallas Pike, which was replaced by today’s U.S. 180.  (Photo from University of Texas at Arlington Library Special Collections.)

The concrete foundation of the ticket kiosks are all that remain of the Mansfield Road drive-in theater on Seminary Drive.

The Mansfield Road drive-in theater opened in 1950 as “an entertainment wonderland.”

twin ringsIn a bend of Sycamore Creek just east of Riverside Drive and north of Lancaster Avenue near a natural gas well, from the air you can still make out the concentric curved parking ramps of the Fort Worth Twin.

meadowbrook screenAnd, finally, on Riverside Drive just north of the Fort Worth Twin was the Meadowbrook drive-in theater. Its screen stood alongside the original channel of Sycamore Creek where the creek flowed into the original Trinity River channel before flood-control measures of the 1950s and 1960s.

The Meadowbrook opened in the summer of 1953.

For a while the Meadowbrook had a stage for live entertainment, including “Ft. Worth’s own Pat Boone.”

After the Meadowbrook closed, its sign on Riverside Drive was eventually obscured by trees. Why the bicycle on a pole? The drive-in property was later a bicycle park.

riverside dumpsters

The property was later a holding area for Waste Management Company.

meadowbrook dumpstersWhere once cars of young couples parked in row later were rows of parked  mobile garbage bins, as if waiting for the first feature to start. (“We wanna see a trashy movie!” “Yeah! Show us Dumpster Does Dallas!”)

The closing credits eventually will roll for what remains of the Meadowbrook. The property is destined to become part of the expanded Gateway Park. The property had been cleared of the dozens of mobile garbage bins, and a crane looms nearby. After sixty-six years the screen, obscured from view on three sides by trees, has become a temporary home for people experiencing homelessness and their dogs. In the bottom photo, the big blue and yellow “Meadowbrook” sign on Riverside Drive, also obscured by trees, also had become a temporary shelter.

This page of movie listings from 1953 is a snapshot of movie stars and theaters of sixty-six years ago.

newspaper ad drive-ins 1975

Fast-forward to 1975. These were the drive-in theaters still in business.

Drive-in movie theater concession stand commercial:

Posts related to the movies:

A Century of Cinema: From Edison to Evita (Part 1)
Cowtown Yoostabes, Double-Feature Edition: Movie Theaters
Once Upon a Passion Pit: The Ghosts of Drive-Ins Past
The Great Escape: When Harry Met Amon
The Palace Theater (Part 1): From Verdi to Bogie
Worth Hotel and Theater: 300 Rooms, 2,284 Seats, 1 Mighty Wurlitzer
Cowtown Goes Hollywood: “Fort Worth’s Newest Movie Cathedral”
Triple Feature: When 7th Street Was Show Row
“Lights! Camera! Obscurity!”: The Lost All-Fort Worth Movie
Now Showing: Knickers, Flickers, and Applesauce 
3801 Arundel Avenue: At the Corner of Cowtown and Tinseltown
Elston Brooks: The Passing Showman
The Jazzman and the Iron Horse: Home, Home (Run) on the Range
Punkins Parker: From the Poly ’Hood to Hollywood
“Deep Within My Heart . . .” (Part 1): From Turkey to Tulsa
“Beloved No. 1 Comedian” (Part 1): “Just Homefolks”
Connections: From Horizons to Hitchcock (Part 1)
Connections: Of Raccoons and Rabbits (Really Tall Rabbits)
Fort Worth in the Footlights: Ready for Your Close-Up, Cowtown?

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One Response to Once Upon a Passion Pit: The Ghosts of Drive-Ins Past

  1. Larry Martinez says:

    SO MANY memories of the drive-in theatres that operated in Fort Worth back in the ’70s! My now-sainted Mom and I usually went to one if I saw an exciting-looking movie trailer on tv or if we wanted to get out of the house for a couple of hours.

    We visited several local “ozoners”; the Southside Twin, the Mansfield Twin, the Downtown, the Meadowbrook, and the Belknap. But our favorite (and the closest to our house at that time) was the good ol’ Fort Worth Twin. We saw such movies as ‘Zardoz’, the original ‘Rollerball’, and ‘Warlords of Atlantis’ there, the latter movie being the last time we went to a drive-in (in 1978).

    The drive-in theatre has been, is, and will always be one of my GREAT passions!

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