54 Drive-In

601 US-54,
Guymon, OK 73942

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Additional Info

Styles: Streamline Moderne

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Cars lind up to get in to the drive in

The 54 Drive-In was opened October 28, 1948 with Errol Flynn in “Silver River”. In the advertising section of the Guymon High School El Tigre yearbook is a large display advertisement for the 54 Drive-In, along with a sharp focus photo of the Moderne style screen tower.

Since the 54 Drive-In advertisement ran seperately from the downtown American Theatre and Royal Theatre, it can probably be safely assumed that they were independent of one another.

Contributed by Kewpie

Recent comments (view all 6 comments)

jwmovies
jwmovies on August 30, 2012 at 6:10 am

This drive-in was located where the Best Western Plus is now. The screen faced away from the highway (where the actual suites are located now). If you look closely at aerial maps, you can still see a partial imprint behind the motel. Approx. address is 1102 NE 6th Street.

MichaelKilgore
MichaelKilgore on February 23, 2017 at 1:04 pm

Its first appearance in the Theatre Catalogs was the 1949-50 edition, which lists it as a 430-car theater, nine-month season, seven days a week. By the 1984 International Motion Picture Almanac, it was gone.

bwellsok
bwellsok on July 15, 2018 at 1:58 pm

Since many were interested in the story yesterday about the Long Theatre, I found this story from 2007 about the drive-in in Guymon.

Editor’s Note: The following article was taken from the memories of Ferol Riggs, Betty Aaron and Billie Grabeal, daughters of the late Lewis and Sylvia Long.

Written by Kristi (Grabeal) Hayes

Lewis W. (Bill) and Sylvia Long brought a little piece of Hollywood to the small Oklahoma town of Guymon by building a drive-in theatre. The theatre may no longer exist but the memories entrenched in the lives of their families and community will live on forever. During the year 1929, Bill Reese, who lived in Plains, Kan., bought a farm at Eva, Okla. He asked Lewis and Sylvia Long to move on the farm and they continued to reside there until 1939 when they purchased five quarters of land a few miles west on the Texas, Cimarron county line.
The couple engaged in farming and ranching and Bill got the idea to build a movie theatre in Keyes. The opening date was May 31, 1947. Lewis heard about the “new thing” happening across the country in the form of drive-in theaters and thus the 54 Drive-In Theatre was built. It was almost unthinkable that you could come to a place where you watched a movie in your car and even wore what you wanted to. Lewis purchased 13 acres of land from Henry Hitch on Highway 54 in Guymon (behind Standard Supply today) and construction began in 1948. The area was large enough to accommodate 600 cars, a solid concrete screen tower of 100 feet tall, ticket booth, projection room and concession stand. As with most construction projects, there was still some things that needed to be finalized when the theatre was opened for business on Oct. 28, 1948.
The 54 Drive-In Theatre was the first drive-in to be built west of Oklahoma City. Opening night was a tremendous success as people drove from all over the Oklahoma Panhandle, Texas Panhandle and southwest Kansas. Free popcorn was given to the movie goers that night. When all was said and done that night a 100-pound sack of corn was used to accommodate all the popcorn requests. In the beginning, admission for adults was $1 and $.25 for children. Popcorn sold for $.10 and soft drinks were $.25. Popular soft drinks during the era included six-ounce bottles of Coca-Cola, 7 Up, Dr. Pepper, Grape, Strawberry, Orange and Root Beer. The theatre was also well-known for its food at the concession stand. Some of the most popular items included barbecue, which was homemade for years, grilled ham and cheese sandwiches, hot dogs, chili dogs and grilled cheese sandwiches. It was nothing unusual for families to come out, especially on Sundays, to eat supper at the drive-in. The bigger movies were played Sunday through Wednesday. Double features were shown on the weekends. Thursdays were set aside for $1 car night. Anywhere from 12 to 15 people would pack into a car, including the hood and trunk, to get into the theatre. Lewis always said that the lost admission prices were made up from the concession stand. Regardless of the low ticket prices some people would try and sneak in from the side and back. Most of them were usually caught by an usher, typically from Charles Rogers, and he would take them to Lewis. Most of the time Lewis would go ahead and let them stay and watch the remainder of the movie. Saturday and Sunday nights were also big attractions at the theatre. It was no surprise to see cars lined up as far as what is now the Townsman Motel. One of the largest crowds was at the showing of “Prince of Peace.” Each night the program at the drive-in consisted of a news reel, cartoons, coming attractions and the main feature. Westerns were some of the most popular movies shown at the time. Other favorites included “The Ten Commandments,” “Greatest Show on Earth,” “Gone With the Wind,” “Giant,” and “From Here to Eternity.” The 54 Drive-In Theatre played host to massive fireworks displays every Fourth of July. The display was set up between the projection booth and screen tower. Expansion Needed When cinemascope began in approximately 1952, it was necessary to widen the screen tower. At this time the concession stand was also remodeled to twice its original size. A sno-cone machine was also purchased. Blocks of ice were purchased from the ice plant and wrapped in burlap sacks. The ice would stay frozen through much of the evening. It was nothing each night to grind some 300 pounds of ice. Sno-cone prices were $.25 and best-sellers included blueberry, strawberry, orange, grape, lime and a “suicide” which included all flavors. To enable the theatre to stay open during winter, a glassed-front building was constructed to accommodate about 200 people. Lewis always referred to this building as “the bullpen.” A few years later this building caught fire and was totally demolished. It was suspected that some college kids were trying to smoke and consequently caused the fire. People also had a hard time occasionally when they would start their cars before leaving. Lewis rigged up a small tractor with a big metal guard on the front and would give the cars a starter push. Countless speakers were also stolen or damaged as many people stole the speakers to use in their cars. Robbery Victims Owning a successful business, however, also meant Lewis and Sylvia also had to deal with crime.
During the summer of 1953, Lewis and Leonard Matzek were visiting in the ticket booth when a lone gunman opened the door and pulled out a German pistol. After taking their money, he made the two get into the car and took them hostage. He took them out on a road east of the cemetery. He used duct tape on their legs, hands and mouth and made them lie down on the road. He then got into the car, backed it up about 100 feet and drove towards the two hostages, intending to run over them. Getting within 10 feet of them, he slammed on the brakes and drove around the two men. He got out of his car and said, “Bill, I can’t do it. You will find your car near the drive-in.” The car was eventually found at the Knutson Elevator. Little did the gunman know that Betty, the middle child of Lewis and Sylvia, was sitting in her car and witnessed the event. As soon as they drove off she went inside the booth and called the police. They searched several hours in the area before finally locating the hostages, who had managed to remove the duct tape and started walking back towards the drive-in.
Although both men escaped without injury, the robber was never found. Sylvia also had a string of back luck. A few years later, another gunman robbed Sylvia as she was selling tickets. She was not taken as a hostage, but had to be taken to the hospital for stress and shock. The robber was never found and Sylvia refused to sit in the ticket booth afterwards. One summer night after a rain shower, Sylvia was sitting in the car watching a movie. Unaware, she laid her arm on top of the speaker when lighting struck the speaker post and went through her. She was hospitalized for three days but luckily suffered no lasting effects. Lewis said when the lightning hit he thought the car was going to explode because it was so bright. Change of Times In 1957, the drive-in was leased for five years to Everette Mahaney until 1962. During 1965 it was reopened and Rex and Billie Grabeal managed it. Both were working full-time jobs at the time at the Coca-Cola Bottling Plant and at First National Bank and would run the theatre at night. In 1968, Lewis purchased the American Theatre in downtown Guymon from Clem Funk. John McConnell eventually leased the downtown theatre and immediately made it into a double screen. After the theatre purchase on Main Street, the drive-in closed down during the winter months. By this time televisions were in almost every home in Guymon and the movie business declined because people started staying home and watching shows like “Gunsmoke,” “Bonanza,” “Rawhide,” “I Love Lucy,” “Jackie Gleeson,” “Red Skelton,” “Dragnet,” “Ed Sullivan,” “Andy Griffith” and more. At the end of the lease at the downtown theatre, the front part of the building was converted into “The Sweet Shop,” which served several flavors of ice cream, malts, shakes, sundaes, sandwiches and broasted chicken in January 1976. After the business was closed in 1982 the building was sold to the Guymon Community Theatre group.
Lewis and Sylvia continued to operate the Long Theatre in Keyes until his death in April of 1973 from stroke and aneurysm complications. Lewis spent some 26 years in the theatre business and left a legacy in Guymon. Following his death, the drive-in was completely shut down in 1974. Shortly thereafter the screen tower and concession stand were demolished, with plans for future building of an apartment complex. Later, the land was sold to a development company out of Kansas. The Long Theatre in Keyes continued to run until 1978-79. Sylvia’s health eventually forced her to move to Cheyenne, Wy. with her daughter, Betty. She eventually moved back to Guymon and had an apartment at Hotel Dale and took care of her youngest granddaughter, Kristi. She died in January of 1980 from congestive heart failure. Today, nothing remains to indicate the property was once the location of a drive-in theatre, but it was a part of the early days in the development of Statehood and the Oklahoma Panhandle. Over the years many people have remembered the good times they shared, how they used to sneak in, how they stole speakers and watched movies in their pajamas. As Lewis used to always say, “Rain, snow, sleet or shine … the show must go on.” ————— It is difficult to remember the many people who worked in the drive-in but a few of them were Leonard Matzek, Charles and Nell Rogers, Cleo and Joan Sturdivan, Acey Bridges, Dud and Kappy Smith, Dean and Nida Huckins, Ronnie and Shirley Huckins, Juanita Quesenbury-Quinn, Linda Quesenbury, Kenny Huckins (who was eight to nine years old at the time), Jo Unruh, Shirley Talcott, Wynona Greer, Dalton Freeman, Darrell Gann and Bryon Holder.

jwmovies
jwmovies on February 20, 2019 at 4:43 am

A more accurate address for this theater is 601 US-54, Guymon, OK 73942. This points directly to the entrance road. Behind the Best Western (which is where the screen was located), part of the actual entrance road still exists. Some ramps though barely visible are also there.

Please update.

Kenmore
Kenmore on February 20, 2019 at 8:13 am

After looking at a 1995 aerial photo and a 1970 topo map, the entrance road for the drive-in did not extend to what is now the rear of the Best Western. It was considerably shorter and most of it is now paved over with the rest covered by the hotel. The dirt area on the east side of the hotel was never a road.

What is interesting from looking at the topo map is that it marks what appears to be the ticket booth, concession stand, and projector booth. But there is a fourth building on the south side of the drive-in that has no immediate explanation. It was still present in the 1995 photo.

davidcoppock
davidcoppock on April 29, 2020 at 4:19 am

Originally susposed to open on 25/9/1948, but delayed to 28/10/1948 because the screen wasn’t painted yet. Opened with “Silver River”.

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