The Stardust Drive-In

In July 2005, Rick Stivers was finally able to secure suitable employment in the San Antonio area. Barely two weeks later, I found myself joining him on a trip to Uvalde.

The primary purpose of this trip was to visit a fellow "Willys" enthusiast who had offered to provide Rick with an emergency brake control assembly. Why would Rick want such a thing? The answer to that question is sitting next to his shed. It's an ancient Jeep much in need of restoration. This Jeep, long neglected in the backwoods of the Appalachian mountains, has no emergency break control assembly. It's the one part that Rick has never been able to find.

That's an interesting story but you wouldn't be reading it here unless it had something to do with a drive-in theater. It does. Uvalde was the home of a drive-in named the Stardust. Annecdotal reports suggested that significant remains were still located at the site.

This is how the property looked in 1995.

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At this time, the bulk of the drive-in was still intact. Would we find it that way in 2005? Only time would tell!

It was a perfect day for a road trip. The air was clear and dry. Traffic on Highway 90 was minimal and we managed to avoid stopping at every interesting location along the way!

Two hours after leaving San Antonio, we reached Uvalde. Detailed instructions soon led us to the home of Rick's fellow "Willys" fanatic. Rick accepted the offer of tools and went to work removing the emergency break assembly from a dead Jeep. What's a dead Jeep? It's a Jeep that is too far gone to save without heroic, and expensive, intervention.

Watching Rick work on the dead Jeep, I pictured his as a post-industrial Dr. Frankenstein harvesting parts from dead Jeeps so that he could bring another Jeep back to life. If you know that Rick has a fondness for electrical experiments, you'll know how apt this description of him is!

Completing the removal of the long sought assembly, Rick mentioned the Stardust to our host. He had never been there but he knew exactly were it was located. He offered to take us there although he warned us that nothing was left at the site. That was a disappointment; however, we've heard before that "nothing was left" only to discover hidden remains or undiscovered artifacts.

Our host drove us to the site in, appropriately enough, a Jeep. We made a quick loop through the property before returning to his home.

We thanked him for the ride and then departed. As we were heading out of town, Rick decided that we needed to go back to the Stardust for another look.

The Stardust wasn't hard to find and we soon found ourselves walking the property in search of not-so-ancient mysteries!

Below you'll find the results of our expedition. I hope you enjoy them!


Pictures With Commentary
06 August 2005


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My first impression of the remains at the Stardust was that this theater had been built to last.

The site was extensively curbed with cement on both the entrance and exit lanes. There are enough remains to suggest that there was also a curbed traffic island between the two lanes to allow cars to turn around without entering the lot.

Light fixtures, like this one, lined the entrance and exit lanes. If you look towards the bottom right of the picture, you'll see some of the concrete curbing.

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This fence post is located on the Uvalde side of the entrance lane. It may, or may not, have been part of the drive-in. There were no other obvious remains of any fence surrounding the sides of the property although there was a chain-link fence around the outer perimeter.

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Moving further down the entrance lane, I discovered this concrete slab. Given it's location, it was almost certainly the foundation of the theater's ticket booth.

My examination of the foundation was interrupted by a frenzied call from Rick. From the sound of his voice, he had made a major discovery.

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Many drive-ins used landscaping around the outside of the theater to reduce light pollution and to improve the look of the property. This landscaping can provide vital clues to the layout of a dead drive-in. In this case, Rick had used a stand of trees to locate the foundation of the Stardust's screen.

The foundation was very large. I was standing on the other side of it when I took this picture of Rick.

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In this picture, you can see one of the screen's support posts. This would have been the back of the screen, facing towards the road. Let's look closer at this discovery.

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Moving in closer, several key elements become obvious to the viewer.

After the screen tower was demolished, it appears that someone trimmed off the supports. The stumps were cut off level and low to the ground. This suggests someone planned to mow the property after the demolition.

Notice those rows of red bricks along the outer edge of the foundation? One of the towns near Uvalde, D'Hanis, is famed as source of red brick of this type. Yet more evidence that the Stardust had a screen tower and not just a screen!

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