Sherryl Major, daughter of Bill and Louise Wilson who opened the Tiger Drive In Theatre April 1954, treasures her childhood memories (and her 1957 Corvette)! When the Theater re-opened in 2004 this is how Sherryl described her memories of the Tiger Drive In:
“On the first of April, 1954 . . . “is the beginning of the Ballad of Thunder Road, a hit movie of the 1950’s, because of its plot of running “moonshine” in the mountains which was North Georgia’s main industry at the time. It was also the date of another important event in Rabun County, GA. That was the day of the grand opening of the Tiger Drive-In in Tiger GA on the land my great grandfather, Jesse Shirley, had won in a poker game from the Indians in 1816.
The proud new owners of the Drive In were cousin Larry (Satch) McClure, uncle Clyde Cannon and Bill Wilson, my daddy. This was a time when the popularity of Drive In movies began to rise, which provided family entertainment for years. In time, Bill Wilson bought the other two owners’s shares of the Drive In, and that is where I learned to cook . . . popcorn, hot dogs and pizzas . . . 365 days a year.
Then came daylight savings time, which meant movie time started almost at 10:00 at night. In many small communities, drive in owners protested loud and clear. Many of their clientele had shift jobs and the 11:00-7:00 shift workers couldn’t see the ending of the movies anymore.
While drive ins were still able to attract many customers, the movie companies became greedy and began to take up to 95% of the proceeds. At the same time, video rentals became the rage, and the death of the drive ins were at epidemic levels.
In the mid 1980’s my Dad closed the Tiger Drive In. It was a sad time, but we knew the interest level was decreasing, and he was at an age that he felt this was the best decision. The excitement of watching movies from your car had run its course. About two years ago I read of several drive ins reopening, since the new generation had never experienced going to a ”Drive In” and older generations missed the some of the best times of their youth. Home Video rentals had filled the place of going to a movie but the “experience” of a family outing is just not the same.
I searched the internet under drive-in theater and the Tiger Drive-In was listed as “dead”. That made me cry.
I often returned to the vacant property, once the heart beat of Tiger, where people met for entertainment,family outings, and where relationships began and ended. Although it seemed so empty, it was filled with so many memories from the past.
Recently someone approached me to buy the terraced land that has been vacant for almost twenty years, to build a cemetery. How could a place, once so full of life be used to bury the dead??? It was almost sacrilegious!!!
Without hesitation, I knew the time had come to reopen the “Tiger Drive In.” It was exactly 50 years ago that it had opened originally, and 100th year birthday of Tiger. Sadly, none of the original owners are still with us to enjoy the opening day this April, but their heritage will always be remembered as their inspiration and unique personalities will live forever.
This time the “Tiger Drive In” will not only be used to show the latest movies, but will have Saturday “Drive In” Flea Markets, Vegetable Markets, Sunday afternoon antique Car Shows, and Art Festivals etc.. Any organizations and charities may participate for sponsorships, with a percentage of the proceeds going to their cause.
Now my children and grandchildren will see what my life was like back in the good old days….which was really great. As we hurry to reopen on April, 2004, our temporary marquee now reads:
REOPENING, APRIL 2004
50 YEARS LATER
Now that really makes me cry.