History with Holly: Days of the drive-in

By Scherra Casandra Wallace Flood
My parents moved to Beaufort when I was a baby in 1948. Dad opened a drive-in restaurant on Ribaut Road called the Beacon Drive-In. We had so much fun working at the drive-in as a family. Dad later opened another one on Ribaut Road closer to Port Royal called the Tower Drive-In. It was called the Tower because of a little glass room Dad built on the roof for the local radio DJ to come play records. Customers came to get the best hamburgers, hot dogs and milkshakes in town and to enjoy the DJ.
The DJ was Bill Breland. Since the Beaufort radio station, WBEU, went off the air at 6 p.m. every night, he was available to come to the drive-in and play records. Yes, that’s right, the radio shut down at 6 p.m.! The only way we teenagers could listen to music on the radio after 6 p.m. was to tune in WOWO or one of the other northern stations and tolerate the static from the poor signal.
Of course, if your parents felt like going out to the drive-in for dinner, you could pay a dime and the curb hop at the Tower would take your request up to the DJ. He had two built-in turn tables up there, and sound went out on big speakers at each corner of the roof. A ladder went up to the roof and a lot of times I would end up being the runner; it was great fun for a 10-year-old! The DJ didn’t just play the records; he danced and pantomimed to the music. He was very entertaining, to say the least! Customers danced on the concrete patio Dad had built in front of the drive-in. Things were just so relaxed and care-free in those days. People in Beaufort really enjoyed themselves.
There were lots of other fun things to do when I was at the drive-in. We had three horses and sold pony rides right there in the vacant lot beside the drive-in. You could ride for a quarter. Across the street was a drive-in movie theater, a putt-putt golf course, and a place with trampolines in the ground where you could pay a quarter and jump to your heart’s content. I used to ride my horse to the drive-in theater and hook the “speaker” on my saddle to watch the movie. Sounds crazy to me now, but in those days it was OK. Mr. Bazemore always greeted me and my horse, Silver Dollar, at the entrance and told me to enjoy the movie. The best swings in the world and the tallest sliding board anywhere around were on the playground at the drive-in theater! You could soar 15 feet into the air on the swings and the slide was 12 feet tall. There were even outdoor theater seats on the roof of the concession stand where you could watch the drive-in movie. Now that was fun! Movies were only a half dollar, and no, you didn’t have to tear your dollar in half; we actually had coins that were called half dollars. You may still see one or two of these coins around nowadays.
Beaufort had a real hometown, family feel to it. I remember stories my mother and dad told about the dances every Friday and Saturday nights on the waterfront on Bay Street in front of the old court house. If you’ll notice, you will see a concrete wall where the locals sat to enjoy the music. The bands played music from a gazebo at the end of a dock out in the Beaufort River. If you look at low tide, you can still see a couple of stumps out in the bay where the dock used to be. Mom and Dad had fond memories of those days dancing on the bay. You know how sound carries on the river; well, it must have been amazing!

This moment in Beaufort’s history is an excerpt from the book “Beaufort … Then and Now,” an anthology of memories compiled by Holly Kearns Lambert. Copies of this book may be purchased at Beaufort Book Store. For information or to contribute your memory, contact Holly at lowcountrymemories@hotmail.com or beaufortmemories@gmail.com.

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