East Texas Throwback: Redlands Drive-In once provided family-fri - KTRE.com | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

East Texas Throwback: Redlands Drive-In once provided family-friendly movies

Redlands Drive-In Theater, circa 2015. (Source: KTRE Staff) Redlands Drive-In Theater, circa 2015. (Source: KTRE Staff)
Pictured is a close-up of the neon tubing at the Redland Drive-in (Source: KTRE Staff) Pictured is a close-up of the neon tubing at the Redland Drive-in (Source: KTRE Staff)
Redland Drive-in Theater, circa 2000 (Source: panoramio.com) Redland Drive-in Theater, circa 2000 (Source: panoramio.com)
Panther Drive-In. (Source: Delton McGuire) Panther Drive-In. (Source: Delton McGuire)
Pictured is a typical drive-in theater, circa 1950s. (Source: Associated Press) Pictured is a typical drive-in theater, circa 1950s. (Source: Associated Press)
ANGELINA COUNTY, TX (KTRE) -

Driving off Highway 59 North from Lufkin to Nacogdoches it's tough to miss the Redland Drive-In Theater.

What remains - the “screen tower,” the neon sign tubing, and the marquee - stand as a reminder of a once-thriving business, the drive-in theater.

"It started in the 50s, the early part of the 50s, families would come here bring a big bag of popcorn, some Kool-Aid and Coke and watch the movies,” said Lloyd Gillespie, an East Texas business owner.

The Redland Drive-in Theater was built 65 years ago when classic cars ruled the Pineywoods roads, and the drive-in was king.

It cost East Texans about $1 a carload, not including concessions, to watch the latest flicks.

"Oh John Wayne in ‘The Cowboys.' It was a family affair,” Gillespie said.

The way the Redland Drive-In worked was that around dusk, you'd pull up, pay for your entry, park your car next to a speaker on a wedge to prop from your car towards the screen. The speaker would allow you and your family to listen to the movie.”

You'd grab your snacks and you'd be ready for the feature presentation.

However, as Lufkin native Rickey Barley remembers, sometimes you'd had to battle the elements.

"It was fun getting out, but the mosquitos would get bad at times,” Barley said. “That's what a drive-in is for - going out having a good time and putting up with nature."

The Redland Drive-In stayed busy for about two decades, moving away from the family-friendly flicks to showing monster and B-movies until a piece of technology came along.

"VCR. The video cassette recorder; people watching movies at home really caused the decline of the drive-in theatres,” said Scott Sosebee, an associate professor of history at Stephen F. Austin State University.

The other drive-in in Lufkin, the "Panther Drive-In" off Timberland, also faced the same dilemma. It was eventually replaced in the 70s by a shopping center.

However, the Redland Drive-In tried one more thing to keep afloat.

"By the time you got to the 80's a lot of them became pornographic houses,” Sosebee said.

East Texas News confirmed that in a photo from americanclassicimages.com from 1984.

After it showed its last movie, the Redland Theater was abandoned and then turned into a scrapyard. It remained a scrapyard until Gillespie decided to buy the property.

"You could say memories, but it was a business decision,” Gillespie said.

Gillespie was one of the many East Texans, who enjoyed the drive-in, but now his oil tanking business has taken over the property that use to be the Redland Drive-In.

Even though many towns have come together to restore their drive-ins in recent years, that won't be the case for the only standing drive-in theater in the Pineywoods.

"We think we right now, we may put in a manufacturing plant,” Gillespie said. “The screen maybe coming down after 65 years."

Gillespie added they're just in the planning stages of bringing down the drive-in, giving East Texans a chance to see the strides we've taken from a tap of a screen to a trip in the car.

By chance, if you'd like to see a movie at the drive-in there are two close to the Pineywoods in Tyler.

A day you might want to consider doing it is June 6th, National Drive-In Movie Day.

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