3100 Eden Park Drive,
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The Egyptian Drive-In opened in 1948 in the small community of Energy, just outside of Herrin, in Illinois' Egypt region. It was built by Wayne and Alene Smith, and originally could accomodate about 400 cars (though parking was later increased to over 650). In 1955, the Smiths increased the size of the screen to 125 feet wide by 83 feet tall, the largest in the country at the time.
In addition to movies, the Smiths offered a kiddie park that offered mini-train rides and pony rides as well as a concession stand that served cafeteria-style food, and propane heaters for when the weather turned cool.
The Egyptian was sold to the Kerasotes chain in 1974, but in 1981, was returned to Alene Smith. Kerasotes didn’t feel the drive-in was profitable enough. In 1981, radio broadcast replaced window speakers, and a decade later, Smith opened up a restaurant on the drive-in’s property showcasing some of her culinary delights, such as her funnel cakes (“as good as any at the county fair”) and Charlie Burgers, named for a famous local outlaw. Also featured was Alene Smith’s popular alligator stew. Smith’s cooking became almost as big a draw to the Egyptian as the on-screen entertainment.
Sadly, Alene Smith passed away in early 2001, and her daughter ran the drive-in for a season or so before the nearby Williamson County Regional Airport made an offer to her, and, at the end of the 2002 season, the Egyptian was closed for good. Later, the property was cleared to make way for the airport’s expansion.
Though the region’s most beloved drive-in is no longer around, it continues to live in the hearts and memories of generations of southern Illinoisans.
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