A welcome sign from a nostalgic time returns home
On a brisk Friday morning, the City of Prescott got a piece of its history back.
A team effort brought the Senator Drive-In sign from the scrap heap to the highway, to the delight of a small group of people.
Some might remember the roughly 13-by-20 sign falling into dry brush, and a crew cutting it into pieces in October 2008. People like Stephen Rogers and Jane Orr decided to do something about it.
The day after it fell, Rogers got a part of it in his backyard and helped orchestrate its revival.
About 80 people gave money and about 20 people gave a hand in the restoration project that took hundreds of man-hours to finish, according to Rogers.
"I think it's an important historical landmark of Prescott, the small town that it was," he said. "Prescott's lost so much of its historical nature."
The sign is now 16 feet closer to the road and sits on city land, according to Rogers, who added that a crew will add overhead floodlights but it doesn't have electricity right now.
Orr said she got a call from Rogers asking her to help with donations, 95 percent of which came from Prescott High School graduates.
"It was our childhood," she said. "Now to have it back is so wonderful and it's heartwarming that so many people were involved."
Nancy Burgess, outgoing historic preservation specialist for the city, said she was "incensed" when she heard the sign was down.
She said it was a situation where the city got a zoning complaint and a lack of understanding of the sign's significance led to its downfall.
Burgess said the city covered the permit costs for putting the sign back up. A community development department staffer said the permits cost $252.
The city also donated the sign's letter strips and letters, according to Burgess.
"It just shows what Prescott can do when it has a goal to get something done," she said.
In its heyday, the theater was a huge draw for residents and remains a fond memory for Prescott youths of days past who grew up watching movies there.
In a January 1981 interview with The Daily Courier, Claude Cline spoke about owning and running the Elks Theater and the drive-in. Cline bought the drive-in in 1954 and he said in the interview that yearly maintenance, security, taxes and other costs kept him from turning a profit on it.
He sold it to a theater chain in late 1980.
The sign sat on George Thomsen's property for years when he got a letter from the city in late 2008 ordering him to repair the dilapidated sign or take it down.
Hinton Boom Service owner Tim Hinton said he helped install the sign's new frame and lower it to its new home.
"I'm glad to see it up," he said. "It's part of Prescott's history."