Midway Drive-In Theatre, Thomasville, NC

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Midway Drive-In, Thomasville, NC, 1992 by Dean Jeffrey

One of the reasons I love Flickr, part 2:

Way back in 1992 I shot a few slides of what was left of the Midway Drive-In in Thomasville, NC. At that point, there wasn’t much there except for the sign and the vacant land where the theater had been. When I went to post those images on Flickr nearly twenty years later, I couldn’t find any info online about the theater. Nothing on Cinema Treasures; nothing on any of the other drive-in sites. So I went ahead and stuck the pictures up there, hoping that some day I’d find out more about the Midway.

About a year after I posted them, I got a Flickr message from the grandson of the owner:

“Hi, my grandfather was the general manager and later owner of the Midway Drive-In. I have searched for years for a photo of our marquee sign and I just found it on your Flickr page. My grandparents both worked their entire lives at the Midway. My grandmother died last year. My grandfather is still alive, and I would love to get a large copy of your photo framed and matted for his birthday.”

Really? Hell, yes. Of course you can print that image for your grandfather! I asked him for a little more info about the Midway, and he replied with:

“My grandfather is Jack Malphurs. He worked as a general manager for Consolidated Theaters from 1951 to 1956 at a drive-in in Charlotte N.C. He was very successful at the Charlotte location. In 1957, Consolidated wanted to open one of the largest drive-ins in N.C. (the Midway held 500 cars) on National Hwy (1400 National Hwy) so they offered to relocate my grandfather and grandmother and they built the Midway. My grandfather managed it for Consolidated until 1976, at which time Consolidated wanted to close the Midway so my Grandfather purchased the name (Midway), all the buildings, the screen, and all rights to the name, and he leased the land and kept the drive-in open until 1986.

“In 1986 the land was sold and the Midway was closed. I worked at the Midway from 10 yrs old until 18 yrs old when it closed.”

He went on to tell this sad story: “A local business owner wanted to decorate his restaurant with photos of the Midway, and my grandparents were very excited. They gathered every photo we owned (93 photos) and gave them to the man to make copies for his restaurant. Two weeks later he contacted my grandmother and told us that all the photos were stolen when his car was broken into. We now only have photos we can find on the internet (like the ones you took).

“Sorry this is such a long email. I could talk about the Midway all day. I still have dreams every now and again that I’m driving down the road and I see the Midway just like it never closed. For 2 or 3 years after it closed I couldn’t even drive by where it had stood because it made me feel sick.”

Since then, there’s been a little bit of info about the Midway added to, including the fact that the site of the Midway is now a shopping center.

The only other shot I took of the Midway back then was what used to be the ticket booth and the land behind it. Wish I’d gotten there sooner, when there was more of the theater still left.

Midway Drive-In, Thomasville, NC, 1992 by Dean Jeffrey


Written by Dean Jeffrey

November 9, 2011 at 6:42 pm

Winway Apartments, Blacksburg, VA, circa 1957

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More from my Dad’s 8mm home movies. My parents and I lived in the Winway Apartments in Blacksburg from 1956 to 1958 while my dad went to grad school at Virginia Tech. The name of the apartments derived from the combination of the first names of the owners, Winifred and Conway. Conway Strickler built the apartments after World War II. There were five separate buildings. We lived in Building C; Conway and Winifred and their three kids lived in Building A. The apartment buildings are still there, in the 700 block of South Main Street. In the ’90s, they were called Maple Tree Court. Don’t know what they’re called now.

Conway Strickler also built the smaller Strickler Apartments in 1948 at 403-405 Progress Street. There’s a PDF of a Blacksburg Historic Resources Survey from 1996 that provides a little bit of info on the architectural details of that building.

My Mom remembers that the girl on the far left in the last scene was named Ginny and that the girl in the middle was her sister Marian. Ginny and Marian had a brother named David and their parents were Suzanne and Floyd. No recollection of their last name, unfortunately, or of the other girl’s name.

Written by Dean Jeffrey

October 26, 2011 at 5:04 pm

Virginia Tech Homecoming Parade, Blacksburg, VA, 1957

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My dad shot a lot of 8mm film in the fifties and sixties. Vacation stuff, Christmas morning, things like that. In the early eighties, he had all those films transferred to Betamax and then, to the best of my knowledge, got rid of all the original films (because, after all, he’d preserved them to videotape, right?)

Two reels of film escaped the trip to the dumpster, however, and my mom gave them to me a couple years ago. I took them down to Home Movie Day in Raleigh, where they were projected, and I was able to see just what was on them. There was footage of my parents and me in Paris in 1956 (where my dad was stationed in the army), footage from Christmas back in the states in 1957, and lots of footage from Virginia Tech (where my dad went to grad school from 1956 to 1958).

My friend Jerry was working at Home Movie Day as a film inspector and offered to transfer them to DVD, allowing me to be able to rip clips and post them on YouTube. This bit of film is from the Virginia Tech Homecoming Parade in 1957. It looks like my dad was standing on N. Main St. near the corner of Main and College Ave. I especially like the part where the guy in the turkey suit appears to lose his way, and dig the cats rockin’ out at the end. That part really makes me wish this had sound.

Written by Dean Jeffrey

October 1, 2011 at 7:53 pm

Holloway’s Barbecue, Goldsboro, NC

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Holloway's Barbecue, Goldsboro, NC, 2000 by Dean Jeffrey

One of the reasons I love Flickr:

In 2000 I shot a roll of slide film while driving around Goldsboro, Rocky Mount, and Wilson, NC. I did a lousy (i.e., zero) job of labeling the slides, and years later, when I scanned them and put them up on Flickr, I didn’t really know which slides came from which town. I tagged this shot of Holloway’s Barbecue as Goldsboro but wasn’t ever really sure that that’s where it was from. To compound things, I couldn’t find any info anywhere online about Holloway’s Barbecue. None. Nothing.

About a year later, Flickr member BODYMAN505 posted a comment that said: “The best barbecue in town. And that skillet cooked cornbread! Wow!”

Whoah! Someone who’d been there! I immediately sent him a message, saying “Hey, thanks for the comment! I was beginning to doubt that I even took this picture in Goldsboro, because I’ve never been able to find this place again. I assume it’s been torn down. Can you tell me anything else about Holloway’s? Would really appreciate any info.”

He replied with “The Holloway BBQ building is still there. It looks like it’s been renovated and used as a church or meeting place. It has no signage. It is located on West Pine Street just off N. George St. It’s about 1/2 block east of the old Guy Parker BBQ building, which is at the corner of George and Pine Streets. I used Google Maps street view.”

In 2000, the building looked like this:

Holloway's Barbecue, Goldsboro, NC

I punched up the address on Google Maps, and sure enough, it was the same place:

Not too long after that, I got a Flickr message from Holly Harper at the Goldsboro Development Corporation, asking if she could print my image of the Holloway’s Barbecue sign for the granddaughter of John Holloway, the late owner. She added that “We plan to place a historical marker on the building to commemorate the BBQ’s existence there (and we would love to find the sign!!!).”

I (of course) told her to go ahead and make the print, and asked her if she could tell me any more about the place. She replied, “I know it opened in the 1920s or 1930s and closed in 1981, a few years after Mr. Holloway, Sr. died (1977). I will keep you on my list if we end up getting an article pulled together about Holloway (& Sons) Barbecue. I really wish we could find the sign! Fingers crossed that it’s in a garage somewhere.”

Written by Dean Jeffrey

September 23, 2011 at 8:17 pm

Posted in Roadside

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Andy Warhol in Best in Children’s Books

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Best in Children's Books #15 table of contents

Thanks to the Atlantic, I now know that one of the children’s books I’ve been hanging onto for what seems like forever has illustrations by Andy Warhol. In the 1950s, a series of collected stories for kids called Best in Children’s Books had six volumes with Warhol illustrations. Numbers 5, 7, 15, 21, 27, and 33, to be exact. I have a bunch of these books—around 25 or so—but only one with Warhol art. I’m the proud owner of number 15.

The article in the Atlantic notes that these books are pretty easy to find and are fairly inexpensive, and it includes a preview of what you’ll get if you buy Best in Children’s Books #27. If you want to see the much more colorful illustrations that are in #15, check out the scans below.

Best in Children's Books #15 p. 77

Best in Children's Books #15 pp. 78-79

Best in Children's Books #15 pp. 80-81

Best in Children's Books #15 pp. 82-83

Best in Children's Books #15 p. 84

Written by Dean Jeffrey

August 13, 2011 at 9:42 pm

Posted in Read

Horace T. Pentecost and the Hoppi-Copter

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Horace T. Pentecost and the Hoppi-Copter HX-1

I’d completely forgotten about this little piece of family history until my brother Wade reminded me of it. In the 1940s, our great Uncle Penny invented a backpack helicopter called the Hoppi-Copter, and one of his prototypes is in the Smithsonian.

Horace T. Pentecost’s first attempt, the HX-1, never actually flew as intended, but that’s the model I see most often in pictures of Uncle Penny. It’s also the model that’s in the Smithsonian (and which is currently on loan to the Pima Air & Space Museum in Tucson.) Evidently, the initial version of the Hoppi-Copter was doomed by the fact that landing on one’s feet and keeping one’s balance might be difficult while wearing a contraption made of spinning blades that could easily splinter if they struck the ground. The placard near the Hoppi-Copter at the Pima Air & Space Museum reads:

“The Hoppi-Copter is part of the long quest for a truly low cost personal flying machine. It was designed by Horace Pentecost of Seattle, Washington during World War II. He marketed it to the U.S. military as a replacement for the parachutes used by paratroops. The design consists of a small 20 horsepower motor powering two counter-rotating set of rotor blades, strapped to the back of the pilot. The greatest weakness of the design was its use of the pilot’s legs as landing gear. If he stumbled during landing or take-off the blades would quickly turn into thousands of potentially lethal splinters as they pounded themselves into the ground. This was, quite correctly, seen as ridiculously hazardous and the idea was quickly abandoned.

“Built by Horace Pentecost in 1945 and briefly tested by the U.S. military. It made about 20 flights with the pilot tethered by safety cable to prevent him from falling down. It was donated to the National Air & Space Museum in 1951 and was placed on loan to the Pima Air & Space Museum in 1996.”

The next model of the Hoppi-Copter featured a seat and wheels.

Hoppi-Copter 101

Version 2 also merited a mention in the April 7, 1947 issue of Time magazine:

“Ever since Icarus, and in spite of what happened to him, men have dreamed of strapping wings on themselves and taking off like the birds. Airplanes have never completely satisfied this desire. The plane itself does the flying; the man only rides and steers. Gliders are only half the ticket.

“Last week the ancient dream showed headline-hitting signs of coming true. At a Philadelphia meeting of the American Helicopter Society, Horace T. Pentecost told about the “Hoppi-copter” (see cut), which he has been developing in Seattle. It is a helicopter stripped to essentials: little more than a seat, landing wheels and two horizontal rotors revolving in opposite directions. The power source is a 35 h.p. engine with two opposed cylinders like an outboard motor. According to Mr. Pentecost, ‘the required blade adjustments to render typical three dimensional helicopter flight have been coordinated into a single control handle placed conveniently in front of the operator.’

“Total weight (not counting Mr. Pentecost): 173 lbs. The Hoppi-copter should ‘retail for little more than the better modern motorcycle.’ Helicopter experts would be more enthusiastic if they had seen it flying, but no performance records have been made available.

“But the designers have incorporated one important safety feature. Icarus made the mistake of flying too near the sun, which melted the wax that held his wings together. The Hoppicopter’s announced ceiling is a modest 12,000 ft.”

The third version of the Hoppi-Copter put the engine under the pilot’s seat and became the subject of an article in the January, 1951 issue of Mechanix Illustrated (along with some rather fanciful illustrations.)

"Hellicopters for Everbody," Mechanix Illustrated, Jan. 1951

"Hellicopters for Everybody," Mechanix Illustrated, Jan. 1951

"Hellicopters for Everybody," Mechanix Illustrated, Jan. 1951

According to the Smithsonian, after ultimately failing to get any interest from the military, Pentecost later tried to market the Hoppi-Copter as “sport aircraft,” and that “just as the company was ready to place the Hoppi-Copter into production, Pentecost’s ex-wife forced him out of the company when she managed to become a majority shareholder.” Tim McAdams’ AOPA blog says that Pentecost’s ex-wife (aka my great Aunt Charlotte) owned 45% of the company (per her divorce settlement with Horace) and became a majority shareholder by teaming up with Uncle Penny’s lawyer, who owned 10%.

After that, nothing much happened until 1956, when investors tried to revive the company, but that didn’t work out either, and the Hoppi-Copter seems to have faded into ancient family history and an exhibit that the Smithsonian loans out to other museums. I have no idea what happened to Uncle Penny or the later incarnations of his machine. Wish I knew more.

Written by Dean Jeffrey

August 3, 2011 at 12:09 am

Posted in Relatives

Carolyn Court Motel, Selma, NC

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Carolyn Court Motel, Selma, NC by Dean Jeffrey

The sign for Carolyn Court seems to appear out of nowhere on a rural stretch of US 301 just north of Selma, NC, with no accompanying buildings in sight. There are, in fact, a couple of crumbling brick walls of the main office in the woods near the sign, but they’re pretty hard to see because the area is so overgrown. But besides those remains and the sign next to the road, any other trace of Carolyn Court is long gone.

I wish I knew more about this place, but the only other info I’ve been able to find is a couple of vintage postcards posted on Flickr and eBay.

Carolyn Court postcard front

Carolyn Court postcard back

Carolyn Court postcard

In addition to the big sign, there used to be another smaller sign here. Originally, it said “Carolyn Court,” as can be seen in the first postcard above. Later it was flipped over and repainted to say “Dining Room,” as can be seen, just barely, in the second postcard (next to the “C” in “Court” in the big sign.)

Carolyn Court, Selma, NC by Dean Jeffrey

Sadly, that sign disappeared somewhere between late 2010 and early 2011.

Carolyn Court Motel, Selma, NC by Dean Jeffrey

I wonder if it’s become part of someone’s private collection, or if it’s going to turn up for sale somewhere…

Written by Dean Jeffrey

July 17, 2011 at 12:30 am