Derby Drive-In

Route 66,
McLean, TX 79057

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MichaelKilgore on July 14, 2019 at 9:42 am

After spending a lot of time with back issues of the McLean News, I feel confident in saying that this drive-in was always known as the Derby. Its final ad in that newspaper was July 19, 1973.

A few years later, the Cowboy Drive-In restaurant opened in a different part of McLean, which might have confused some drive-in historians here.

Circle25 on March 19, 2019 at 2:16 am

I used to unwittingly drive past this theatre on my way to the TX panhandle from Oklahoma City, back when I serviced projection equipment in the early 90s. For the longest time, I thought the old, deteriorating booth and concession building was a chicken coop, until one trip when I realized it was a drive-in!

The rickety building was so small amongst the tall weeds, and there was no screen tower remaining. No ramps or speaker poles were visible, either (judging from the old aerial photo, it looks as though they may have used a central speaker system, since I don’t see any poles).

Also, one thing that kept me from recognizing this as a theatre for so long was the booth portholes were placed the opposite of standard practice – like this: .° .° Looking from the outside, there was a low small port, then a large high port to its right… and repeat for the second projector. Which later led me to believe this may have been a 16mm drive-in (with left-hand threading projectors). If 35mm, the projector would have to be on a riser to warrant such low observation portholes. Or, maybe they were just cut wrong from the start?

One day, I stopped to have a look inside. I got about halfway to the building and heard a rattlesnake, so I decided to retreat and come back in the winter. By then, however, the building had been demolished (what timing!) I did get some VHS footage of the building, and if I ever get another player, I’ll search for it and take a screen shot.

MichaelKilgore on February 21, 2019 at 9:07 pm

The Pampa Daily News reported that the Derby opened on Sept. 11, 1952. “The new drive-in is located about 1 mile east of town on highway 66. (Amos) Page will continue to operated his downtown show the same as in the past.”

Billboard wrote on Oct. 4, 1952 that “Amos Page has opened the 125-car capacity Derby Drive-In Theater at McLean, Tex.” In August 1953, Billboard added that McLean is where Page “also operates the Avalon Theater.”

Despite those mentions, the Derby didn’t show up in the Motion Picture Almanac until the 1955 edition.

Motion Picture Almanac drive-in list mentions:

  • 1955-59: (no capacity), Owner Madge Page
  • 1960-66: Capacity 200, Owner Amos Page
  • 1969-76: Capacity 200, (no owner info)
  • 1977: off the list

As of this typing, I can just make out the suggestion of ramps covered in green along old Route 66, now the north outer road to I-40. Historic Aerials shows it clearly in 1962 but obliterated by 1996. The 1978 topo map still included it. As Kenmore discovered, it’s very difficult to come up with an address that Google Maps likes, but the coordinates are 35.227036, -100.576634.

Kenmore on January 17, 2019 at 10:22 am

Because the street the property is next to is unnamed, I could not get any Google address that was close. The property is on the east side of town where I-40/Route 66 and I-40 Business merge.

It’s on the north side of the road, just to the west of a farm and Co 29. It was not a large drive-in, perhaps 100 cars or so. But today it is gone save for the faint remnants of the ramps.