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For may years I drove past the marquee for this theater sitting on Highway 45.
1974 aerial photograph
A couple of sites about The Saengar.
This may have also been know as The Oasis.
While searching for information on The Air Show Drive In, I have found that this theater was owned by Giddens and Rester in 1955.
This was a steel-frame building on the north side of the Cloverleaf Plaza parking lot, and the area it occupied has been leveled and paved over.
I almost got a job at this theater. They advertised for a commercial artist do do paste-ups and typography for the newspaper ads, so I applied. It turned out that the manager wanted someone to put on an alien costume and hitch-hike around the city with a sign that said “Tillman’s Corner”… and maybe do a little paste-up and typography every once in awhile. I was never offered the job, but sometimes I wonder…
A couple of other notes: the street labeled Hurtell above is now called Duvall (re-routed some streets), and the street labeled Washington is now called South Broad. The place where the railroad and Broad cross is a railroad trestle familiar to locals. Babe Ruth played a practice game at the ball field in 1922.
New picture above. Found a couple of additional pictures of this theater. The one with the people was dated 1906. I have found a couple of other pictures in and around the park that show what might be the theater seats, and it does look as though north is toward the screen. I have found a reference to an open air theater in Frascatti Park (apparently Oscar Wilde spoke there), which was adjacent to Monroe Park, so that may be what is in the illustration. 1938 aerial photography shows little evidence of the park having been there, and I have seen it said that the park was closed in 1940. Hurricanes may have been responsible, at least in part, for the closing of the park (last one was in 1938). The Alabama State Docks ended up owning the area. It was converted to industrial use.
From al.com, written by Kelly Kazek
“Alabama’s fly-in theater
“In 1948 a New Jersey man, a former Navy pilot, had the idea to open a fly-n theater. Ed Brown’s Drive-In Theater opened in Asbury Park, offering parking space for 500 cars and 25 planes. The planes would fly in and taxi to speakers in a manner similar to the cars. In the 1950s, the Air-Sho Fly-In opened in Mobile, according to driveintheater.com. It was one of only five ever built.”
While the Auto Show and Bama were much closer, occasionally something my mother wanted to see (my father hated all theaters) would be at The Do or The Air Show, so I did go there in the ‘60s. I never heard of airplanes flying into it. I just don’t see how they could. Maybe they took the name and everything got all confused.
Now, in this picture that looks like the river in the background, which would make this picture looking north, instead of the projector facing south like it looks in the illustration. This pic makes it look more like the map I posted previously.
Above is an illustration, intended to display the attractions of Monroe Park instead of being in perspective. The open air theater is on the left.
I had a picture on a hard drive that died that showed the theater better. You can barely see the projection booth on top of a tower in the middle of the seats.
This is a map of the Monroe Park area. It shows the theater in the middle of the picture near Bay Shell Road. The teardrop shaped loop below the base ball diamond is the trolley car track. There is a similar looking trolley car loop in the upper left corner in Arlington Park. This would mean that the pier jutting out into the river adjacent to the park is Arlington Pier (home to the Mobile Yacht Club, and later the USCG), which can be seen in the illustrated view closest to the viewer. Maps and diagrams of this park are often conflicting, leading me to believe that there were many changes over the years.
For short names, there was “The Drive-In”. I’ve seen references to one in Prichard and other cities in Alabama.
Just uploaded an aerial picture from 1960. I don’t know what the driveway was paved with; in those days a lot of oyster and clam shell were used in this area (even the asphalt had oyster shell instead of gravel), and that would bleach out “white” in the sun. As you can see, the driveway into the theater itself can’t look like the picture of the marquee. If you look at the far right side of the aerial pic, I tried to be sure to include the suspicious shadow at the corner of Chieftain and Craft Highway. It’s been too long, and I just don’t remember if this was where the sign is or not, but I THINK it was. Chieftain was more or less a residential road, and would not have had much traffic, but Craft Highway/Highway 43 was the north end of Wilson Avenue, the main street through the heart of Prichard connecting that city with Chickasaw and points north.
It looks as if religious services could have been held there on Sundays. I have heard of sermons being given from the top of concession stands.
Referencing Kenmore’s comment: I don’t remember exactly what the sign looked like, but I think it was similar. I do remember that the drive-in there in Chickasaw was named The Air Show. The shadows of the power poles would agree with the existence of the high power lines, and, since this looks nothing like the entrance to the theater should have looked, I wonder if this sign was up on the intersection of Chieftain and Craft Highway. For what it’s worth, there is a raised manhole on that corner similar to the one in the picture here. This would mean that the building on the left is the school that is there now, since it bears a resemblance to Kate Shepherd and and E.R. Dickson before they were modernized. On some aerial photographs it shows that Craft Highway did have a median, and the houses on the right would have been on Chickasaw Circle.
There is a fast food restaurant on this location at present.
As Kenmore says, maps dating back to WWII do not show a landing field. As a matter of fact, they show a high power transmission line on the south side of Chieftain Way which is still there.
The image Google shows is a little too far south; the theater was literally right behind what is now Wendy’s. The drive-way and parking lot are still there; you could cut through to the Mall through it. After the building was demolished, you could see a pile of dirt where the lobby had been.
While looking up information on another theater, I found that Kenneth R. Giddens designed this one. According to an article in the Mobie newspaper, he was in the Navy at the time, and his designs were executed by his partner T. J. Rester.
While seeking information on a different theater, I discovered that Mr. King’s son-in-law, Raymond G. Ward, designed this one. I had known that he supervised the construction, but not that he designed it.
I’m not certain, but I believe this entry is being confused with the Pike Theater that was at 856 Martin Luther King Avenue. MLK used to be named Davis Avenue. There has been a school on this property since at least 1952
The street side of the screen was dark colored, and the name was in neon with neon decorations on either side. The whole thing sat slightly downhill from the Azalea/90 intersection and at night it REALLY looked impressive.
One of Charles King’s family told me once that it was called The Crown because every king needed a crown. in the late ‘60s throughout the '70s this was The Midtown Cinema, and they showed adult films. It had been changed quite a bit by then, but one of the renovations in recent years tried to restore it to an appearance closer to the photo above.
In the 1960s (and I imagine before) this theater had Saturday specials that you could get into with a certain number of Golden Flake Potato Chip bags. There was a small stage in front of the screen where they had events and such, announced contest winners, and other things I have forgotten. Sadly, I missed all this because I lived way out away from Downtown. I knew what was going on, because these specials were advertised on WKRG-TV, which was, of course, owned by Kenneth R. Giddens. Giddens was one half of Giddens and Rester, who owned the Downtown Theater, as well as a lot of others.
The picture is taken from the sidewalk by The Admiral Semmes Motor Hotel (now a parking lot), and the building in the foreground is WALA-TV. The building to the right of the theater is the Elks Lodge, and the one on the left is the Greyhound Bus Depot.
I love this. I had little information on this drive in, but knew where it was and could find it on an old topo map. Now, here are two people who can add to my knowledge. Thank you both.