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Tue, June 25

Old drive-in movie sign on Senator Highway comes down

Jo. L. Keener/The Daily Courier<p>
Mark Goudil of A & B Sign Company works to remove lights from the old Senator Drive-In sign Wednesday morning.

Jo. L. Keener/The Daily Courier<p> Mark Goudil of A & B Sign Company works to remove lights from the old Senator Drive-In sign Wednesday morning.

PRESCOTT - Sylvia Neely was a bit sad when she got the news this week that an old Prescott classic officially was going away.

A couple of guys from A & B Sign Company spent Wednesday morning taking down and cutting up the Senator Drive-In sign along the highway.

The roughly 13 X 20 sign fell into dry brush just inside the metal traffic barrier as the crew cut the sign into pieces and drove it to a local salvage yard.

"I guess I thought that was going to happen all along," she said. "It was just another piece of old Prescott that is disappearing and it's kind of sad for people that have lived here for a long time."

Longtime residents like Neely have fond memories of the theater that was the summer movie hub of the city when people piled into cars and car trunks to catch a flick.

Neely remembers going to lots of movies at the drive-in as a teenager in the 1950s, including watching the 1956 science fiction classic, "Forbidden Planet."

"It was close to town, we were safe, we were entertained and there were good movies," she said.

Scott Anderson, assistant archivist at Sharlot Hall Museum, said it was a huge draw for residents.

"It's a piece of history that shouldn't be destroyed," he said. "I mean how many local kids went to see movies there, it was part of growing up in Prescott."

Claude Cline owned and ran the Elks Theater and the drive-in, according to an interview with The Daily Courier in January 1981.

Cline ran the Elks Theater, the old Studio Theater and he bought the drive-in in 1954.

In the interview, Cline says yearly maintenance, security, taxes and other costs kept the theater from turning a profit.

Cline relinquished his lease on the Elks Theater and sold the drive-in to an out-of-state theater chain in late 1980.

Property owner George Thomsen, 90, said the sign's end came about after residents complained about it.

Thomsen said he got a letter from the city about a month ago ordering him to repair and refurbish the dilapidated sign or take it down

After contacting the sign company, Thomsen learned it was not practical to repair it.

"I hate for it go. I thought it was ... kind of almost a historical landmark," he said. "Newcomers that live up Senator Highway think that it's ugly and this and that and the other thing and they complained to the city. That's the name of the game."

Contact the reporter at jsoifer@prescottaz.com

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