Joy Drive-In

521 US-281,
Johnson City, TX 78636

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The Joy Drive-In opened in 1950, per a note in the July 22, 1950 issue of BoxOffice: “Mr. and Mrs. M. B. Barrow … have opened the new Joy Drive-In on Highway 281 outside the city limits. The new drive-in has a capacity for only 42 cars”.

The Billboard of September 26, 1953 gave us the owner’s first name. “Martin Barrow has taken over operation of the Jaycee Theater, Johnson City, TX. … Barlow owns and operates the Joy Drive-In, Johnson City”.

The 1952 Theatre Catalog listed the Joy Drive-In, owner H. B. Barrow, with a capacity of 460. By the 1955-56 edition, the Catalog corrected that number to 44.

The first appearance of the Joy Drive-In in the Motion Picture Almanac wasn’t until the 1960 edition, where it said the Joy Drive-In held 30 cars. That changed to 300 in the 1963 edition, and the MPA continued to list the Joy Drive-In with a capacity of 300 though its final appearance in the 1976 edition.

My guess of 521 US-281 for the address is based on the BoxOffice description and a 1966 aerial photo, but it’s not easy to spot a drive-in that held fewer than 50 cars. A 7-Eleven occupies that site now.

Contributed by Michael Kilgore

Recent comments (view all 1 comments)

Kenmore on June 10, 2019 at 6:27 am

After looking at the 1966 aerial, there is no trace of anything at the location you cited.

I might believe that a drive-in would be totally demolished without a building being put up, but the trees at the location indicate that nothing was built there at the time.

Plus, I cannot find anything resembling a drive-in along HWY281, be it 30 or 300 cars anywhere near Johnson City. Now, it may be hiding in plain sight, so I’m not discounting anything, but I’ve seen nothing close so far.

Whatever the case, more information is needed about it’s location.

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