Tower Drive-In

E. Bird Street at N. Florida Avenue,
Tampa, FL 33604

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Showing 1 - 25 of 61 comments

Juan1941
Juan1941 on January 13, 2013 at 9:40 am

Thanks, tampapix. I moved from Sulphur Springs to near downtown Tampa in 1964, so the 1966 opening explains why I didn’t remember it.

tampapix
tampapix on January 13, 2013 at 9:06 am

Sorry, meant to include that the Shakey’s radio ad is from 1966, when it just opened.

tampapix
tampapix on January 13, 2013 at 9:01 am

Shakey’s Pizza Parlor was on the west side of Fla. Ave. at Bird St. Hear this radio ad I posted a while back. I think you’ll need to be a Facebook member to hear it, since I posted it at Tampa Natives facebook page. http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=405216566157221&set=o.144613012277765&type=3&permPage=1

Juan1941
Juan1941 on January 12, 2013 at 8:30 pm

I don’t recall a Shakey’s Pizza there, but my experience is limited to the 1960s. What time period are you talking about?

Thomas_Rogers
Thomas_Rogers on January 12, 2013 at 2:57 pm

the shakes pizzaria use to be across the street eat there and hurry over to catch the attack of the killer tomatoes and the return of the killer tomatoes with very young george cloony! Thomas Rogers

Juan1941
Juan1941 on April 20, 2012 at 3:39 pm

Thanks, Dan, for enhancing the Tower signage photo. I did, indeed, come across a poor-quality version of the photo at another site. This is great. Too bad there isn’t a shot of the concession stand, or of all the cars in the theater. I guess we should feel lucky to have the signage.

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on April 20, 2012 at 3:36 pm

redjayd if any one knows about TAMPA theatres it is Nick.He did a book on THE Ritz that would drive you crazy if you like old theatres during the 60’s.

Juan1941
Juan1941 on April 20, 2012 at 3:35 pm

I left the Tower at the end of 1963, USF diploma in hand. Ernie Plitz was still manager. Regrettably, I lost touch with the Tower gang after I started my career, so I can’t tell you when she came along.

redjayd
redjayd on April 20, 2012 at 12:11 pm

Did any one know Lois McLeod? Not sure when she became manager of the Tower Drive Inn but I use to help her with concessions in the mid 70’s. Before that she managed the Skyway Drive Inn.

landolutz
landolutz on April 20, 2012 at 6:24 am

Hello Juan, this is Dan Perez of Tampapix. Nick is correct, the photo came from Johnny Cinchett’s book. I think it also may be online somewhere, but not at this quality. I also did a little enhancing with the brightness and contrast to bring out the shadows. The only others I have are aerials.

Nick DiMaggio
Nick DiMaggio on April 19, 2012 at 7:40 am

Tampapix (Dan P.) is a friend of the son of John Chinchett. John was the owner of Chinchett Neon Signs, the company that created the signage for the Tower as well as many other businesses in the Tampa area years ago. The Tower photo came from the photo book titled “Vintage Tampa Signs & Scenes” which was published last year I believe. The book is loaded with many photos of signs created by Mr. Chinchett. I can’t say for certain but this may be the only photo of the Tower sign that appears in the book. Hopefully Tampapix will see this and comment

Juan1941
Juan1941 on April 19, 2012 at 6:00 am

Thanks, Tampapix for the Tower photos. Do you have any more?

Juan1941
Juan1941 on April 18, 2012 at 7:56 pm

That’s a great picture of the marquee of the Tower. It brings back memories of when I would change the letters late at night (in the early 1960s), after the last showing of the current picture had started and the box office had closed. Where did it come from?

Juan1941
Juan1941 on April 7, 2012 at 5:48 pm

I am impressed with your knowledge of theater ownerships, Nick. I had no idea when I worked at the Tower who owned it. And yes, I was very fortunate to have Mr. Plitz as a manager. I wish I could talk to him today and thank him, but he passed away many years ago.

Nick DiMaggio
Nick DiMaggio on April 6, 2012 at 7:54 pm

Juan, The manager at the Tower really knew how to throw a Christmas party! We never had anything like that at the Dale Mabry. I’ve been thinking why the difference from one drive-in to the other (Christmas bonus, free passes for employees) if both theatres were owned by the same company. But I had forgotten that the Tower and Dale Mabry were under different ownerships in 1960. So that would explain the difference as far as management style. By the mid-1960’s all drive-ins in Tampa (as well as the Ritz Theatre in Ybor City) were under the ownership of Tampa Bay Theatres, Inc. The one exception was the Hillsboro Drive-In which was owned by Florida State Theatres. Tampa Bay Theatres later sold all their drive-ins in Tampa to Floyd Theatres out of Lakeland.

You were lucky to have a manager like Mr. Plitz. He obviously cared enough about your studies and saw to it that you were not left in the cold without a job. That’s not something you see very often today.

Juan1941
Juan1941 on April 4, 2012 at 7:15 pm

Nick, don’t sell your stories short. I liked the one about the friends pulling away without removing the speaker. I bet your friends had had a few drinks.

Juan1941
Juan1941 on April 4, 2012 at 7:12 pm

We didn’t get any Christmas bonus, but the manager did throw a great Christmas party with booze and lots of food. It’s where I met my future wife. She had come along with a neighbor friend of hers who worked at the concession stand. The manager was pretty good about letting employees bring friends and relatives along in the employee’s car, but I don’t think we ever received any passes to hand out.

The manager, Ernie Plitz, was a retired Navy officer who had a gruff exterior but a heart of gold. He knew I was going to college on a shoestring budget, and when the theatre closed for the winter he offered me the same number of hours. But it was sort of a handyman’s job. I remember repairing and re-painting the marquee letters and doing other odd jobs around the place. He helped me stay in school, and I am forever grateful.

Nick DiMaggio
Nick DiMaggio on April 4, 2012 at 6:50 pm

Hey Mike, Haven’t seen you on CT in ages! Miss reading your comments. Great to see you back on. One day I just might surprise you on FB.

Nick DiMaggio
Nick DiMaggio on April 4, 2012 at 6:43 pm

Juan, You poor guy. Too bad there wasn’t a way of voiding the tickets. That certainly would have put a crimp in her plans. And afterwards making you aware of what a great time she had was spiteful. I wonder if the Tower management ever become suspicious of how she won the tickets!

I’m afraid my stories about the Dale Mabry would probably bore you and anyone else as well. I never had any unique problems/experiences. It was my second job and my first time dealing with the public so most are just general stories about problem customers, complaints, and various duties I had to perform. Luckily I managed to stay out of harm’s way the entire time I was there.

Here’s one example: Lady comes in with a more-than-half-eaten corn dog complaining corn dog is raw, and demanding a full refund which is denied by manager. Customer yells and threatens to tell friends and everyone else never to come to this drive-in. There are several others of this nature but you probably get the general picture.

Now this incident happened at the 20th Century Drive-In to a couple friends of mine. I was supposed to go with them that evening but couldn’t make it. They forgot to place the speaker back on the pole before leaving and they and yanked the entire pole out of the ground along with the cement base, and pulled the window completely out of the car parked next to them. Not sure what the outcome was but as I recall somehow my friends didn’t have to pay for any damages but received a stern lecture by the manager and driver of the other car.

As you can see my stories are generally tame and non-unique in comparison to yours and others I’ve heard. By the way, we received a Christmas bonus of an extra $5.00 with our regular pay at the Dale Mabry. And every payday two free passes were included with our pay (for family and friends.) Do you recall if the Tower did the same?

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on April 3, 2012 at 8:48 pm

and it was Pantry Pride…

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on April 3, 2012 at 8:47 pm

Wow, SNAKES in the booth.Hope the operators got time and a half.I guess you told me this,If I could only get Nick on Facebook.lol.

Juan1941
Juan1941 on April 3, 2012 at 7:54 pm

Nick, that’s a scary thought about snakes coming up through the toilet. I’d love to hear some of your stories about your time at the Dale Mabry Drive-In.

I have another one about the Tower to share. I’m not proud of it, but at the time I thought it would be cute to enhance my girlfriend’s chances of winning a Caribbean cruise—a Tower promotion—by “enhancing” her number of entries in the bowl. If she won, I thought, we could enjoy a nice getaway at no cost.

Well, she did win the trip, and shortly afterwards dumped me and left town. She took a girlfriend on the trip, and let me know what a great time she had. I was devastated, but I decided I deserved it. A good lesson about life’s unexpected twists and turns.

Nick DiMaggio
Nick DiMaggio on April 3, 2012 at 3:54 pm

I think it’s pretty much the same feeling people have here as they do in Virginia regarding trailer park residents. The trailer park image has changed from what it once was years ago and unfortunately not for the better. I’ve heard about this area being the winter home of Barnum & Bailey folks for many years with most employees/performers residing around the Mango/Seffner areas. But it’s interesting to hear some performers resided in Tampa. The fat lady in a skimpy outfit must’ve been an unforgetable sight. I guess the carneys were probably keeping a low profile so as to stay out of jail.

Snakes and water moccasins were a big problem at the Auto Park Drive-In. The theatre was located next to the bay off 22nd Street Causeway, and the open sewage pipe from the booth drained right into the bay. The projectionist had to carefully check the toilet before sitting down as snakes and water moccasins were known to occasionally surface in the bowl. Not to mention the mosquitoes here were the absolute worst. Every car that entered the lot automatically received a free Pic coil at the box office.

Juan1941
Juan1941 on April 2, 2012 at 8:17 pm

We never had any trouble with alligators when I was at the Tower Drive-In. There was a fence that kept all of us, including our customers, from wandering down to the river, but I don’t remember what type. We did, however, have a few incidents with snakes wandering into the bathrooms or projection booth. I managed to be somewhere else when it came time to clear them out.

Juan1941
Juan1941 on April 2, 2012 at 8:12 pm

Thanks, Nick. As I recall, the Hilltop was right on the corner of Florida and Waters (there might have been a gas station there as well). It sounds like the steahouse and grocery store were built on the original Hilltop property.

It’s interesting to think about the fact that both trailer parks and drive-in theatres were victims of the rising cost of land in developing areas. Trailer parks back then were more acceptable to a wider range of residents that they are today. Maybe Florida is different, but here in Virginia people are very wary of people who live in trailer parks. I still have a warm place in my heart for them, just as I do drive-in theatres.

The Hilltop was an interesting place. It was the winter home of a lot of Barnum & Bailey employees, including some of the performers (the circus itself wintered in Sarasota). I remember the Fat Lady sitting out in front of her trailer with a skimpy outfit trying to get a suntan, while eating a bunch of bananas to keep up her weight. We also had a sword swallower, who used to give impromptu performances to the kids in the park. I suspect some of the roustabouts had a police record, but we never had any trouble with them.