Dean-O-Matic

Midway Drive-In Theatre, Thomasville, NC

with 19 comments

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 Drive-Ins.com, 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

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Written by Dean Jeffrey

November 9, 2011 at 6:42 pm

19 Responses

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  1. i know were the ticket both is .and i have the picture of the first day it open

    drive in

    December 28, 2011 at 4:24 am

  2. the ticket both now is at a used car lot in Thomasville n.c if u have any pictures of the movie screen .there was another drive not to far called Grubb’s drive in it opened may 19, 1950, 40 cent’s got you in “lady luck ” played that night with three cartoons.they have the listing for the midway starting date wrong on most the drive in site’s it was July the 4 1948 the manager then was Huge M Gibbs he was a veteran 20 years in the theater business he was all so an employee of the B&L. the movie was “Blondies big Moment” three stooges played 2 cartoons an the Louis / Walcott fight was played that night 12 years an under as long as the were with an adult were free admission was 33 cents 7 cents tax total was 40cents.Then the theater was built to hold 480 automobiles the back of the movie screen at the time had in very large print was MIDWAY DRIVE-IN THEATER THE DRIVEIN PART WAS ALOT LARGER THAN THE REST OF THE LETTERS I HAVE THE PICTURE.PLEASE LET US NOW IF U HAVE ANY THING ON THIS GRAND THEATER OF THE PAST, P.S MY THEATER, I REALLY MISS IT!

    drive in

    December 28, 2011 at 5:02 am

  3. IF ANYONE HAS PICTURE LET US NO OR JUST PUT Midway back together.I REMEMBER at in of the movie u could win a free ticket to see the next show!Man i miss the drive -n $5.00 car load an I do mean a car load 4 in the back 3 in the front and 3 more in the very back if u were lucky an owned a station wagon.Then there was the van no not a minnie van a real shag rug from ceiling to the floor.and three tree’s from the mirror just because!and don’t forget that 1958 Chev convertible bobby socks and dice alway’s nice!Please dim your lights. no horse playing no horn blowing in theater u no? Or may u don’t and that’s whats so sad! lets see a food— shopping mall or a giant screen Midway drive-in YEP movie theater win out every time. oh ya before i go the Tar Heel drive-in highway 311 Archdale High Point n.c first movie was “fiesta also cartoon Tom & Jerry “Little Orphan” 40 cents opening July the ,12,1950 IF u have have any pic’s of these drive-iin or more please post or email thanks( drive n man)

    drive in

    December 28, 2011 at 5:47 am

  4. Jackson Moto Malphurs Jr. and I Ronald Fletcher worked for his dad for years Jack worked in the consession stand and I took care of the box office , popcorn, yes fresh poped nitely , marque , and posters of comeing events. Elvis was a real worker , 498 cars I put in befor the movie started. It was work but we had a good time none the less.Mrs Blair was the cashier.,I hated to see it close but it had run it’s course No one would believe the stories and things that went on at that Drive -in. I saw this and had to replyI can close my eyes now and still see the old girl standing theirin all her glory.

    Ronald Fletcher

    September 15, 2012 at 1:56 pm

    • I HAVE TO ASK DO U HAVE ANY PICTURES OF THE SCREEN

      drive in

      September 26, 2012 at 3:34 am

  5. I wish I had pictures. All I have is fabulous memories of the best days of my life. I am proud to call Jack Malphurs my good friend. I had some of the best conversations and experiences with him and the crew at the Midway. I was a projectionist there during my teens and was a member of the Projectionists union #790 With all the old guys that build the theater industry. The Midway had some of the greatest summer nights with 500 cars watching some of the greatest American International Picture movies that were created and best suited for drive-in viewing. Jack was the most animated and talented balihoo promoters I ever met. It is with great pride that I can say how much the Midway Drive-In Theater; the South’s Family Theater on High Point Road made an incredible difference in my life. I can still taste the steak sandwiches and french fries. I can still smell the carbon-arc lamps burning and I can still remember when I showed “Night of the Living Dead.” It was the last reel. But, the movie didn’t end. The film ran out and, still, no end. Lot was packed. Horns started blowing. The phone rang: “Jimbo! What the hell is happening?” I said that I showed all I have. In a few minutes, Jack showed up with another film shipping container. He said it must have slid under the box office desk when it was delivered. I threaded it up in the old Century Head Projector and showed the last 7 minutes. All was good. Wow! What a night. Full moon. Summer. Life was good. I will take those memories to my special place forever.

    Jimbo

    November 13, 2012 at 3:35 am

  6. On a cold March night in 1968, I went to work for Jack Malphurs at the Midway. The picture on the screen was Raquel Welch in “! Million Years B. C.” First thing I learned to do was pop popcorn on the old Cretors Gas fired popper. Later, I learned to “Car Hop” which as a little different from what you had always heard. You took the money from the car, and gave it to Mrs. Blair, who then punched the tickets, which you tore and deposited the stubs in a little can hanging on the side of the box-office.

    Good thing I learned my responsibilities quickly since “Bonnie and Clyde would arrive the following Friday night! Over 600 chairs that night in a 498 car drive in! We had them park along the fence, and told them by the time they visited the concession stand that would probably be able to park since the first feature would be over. We promised that “Bonnie and Clyde” would be repeated entirely after the second feature.

    Funny story that night. First rule was to get the money in your hand first after saying “good evening” to the driver of the car. Person handed me a $20.00 bill. The Midway had a long winding driveway that curved around with yellow lights and shrubs all the way back out to National Highway. Cars were backed up all the way out and into the highway. That $20.00 bill blew out of my hand and everytime I got close enough to pick it up, it would blow again. Probably 2 car lengths from the highway, I had the sense to step on it first and then pick it up. Mrs. Blair, God rest her sole, got a good laugh about that.

    Little did I know at age 16 that this business would become my career. I eventually, just like Jimbo, learned to run projectors at this theatre. From 1972 through 1984, I managed theatres. From 1985 until 2002, I sold theatre equipment, which involved upfitting new theatres and servicing old theatres. In 2002, I started selling just seats, and now represent Irwin Seating Company in the Cinema Market for the U. S. and Canada. So, my career has certainly been an outgrowth of my first partime job at the Midway Drive In Theatre.

    Jack Malphurs was quite the Mentor in my early career, “Jimbo” , who I first met at the Midway, remains my longest and most cherished friend. Pictures? Just maybe. If I do they would be probably a Polaroid.

    Bill Moore

    November 13, 2012 at 1:22 pm

    • Bill and Jimbo, I’d like to thank both you guys for dropping by and adding your recollections of working at the Midway. Much appreciated!

      Dean Jeffrey

      November 13, 2012 at 6:51 pm

      • Keep us on your contact list, Dean. We’d love to see if anyone else has some Midway stories or especially some pictures!

        Jimbo

        November 14, 2012 at 6:14 pm

      • I worked there from around 1973 to about 1975 or so For Mr Malphurs and his wife, And I knew the family well for a while. It brings back fond memories. I too popped corn, made slaw, cooked burgers and sold tickets for Mrs. Blair as a car hop. I did lots of painting and field clean up and speaker repair. That marquee was a tough one to paint but easy to change the lettering on. Even now, I look for places that sell chuck wagon steak sandwiches just for the memories, and that good old drive in theater style of food that i loved so much. I really was just thinking about the place and ran across your photo. on a search.

        Kenneth Lee

        April 22, 2016 at 11:07 pm

    • bill moore its drive in here about those polaroids could u get them scaned maybe on a computer and post them here would love to see the old girl again i have the news paper from day 1 but its not real clear but does show the screen/car hop/food bar

      drive in

      March 5, 2013 at 7:30 am

  7. I found a lady on Facebook’s “High Points Remeber When” page who said she had loads of pictures of this drive in, and I immediately remembered this article I’d read. I told her the story listed here, and she said she would be very glad to share all that she has!!

    Amanda Rogers Sellars

    July 29, 2013 at 3:23 am

    • That’s way cool, Amanda. If there’s anything I can do to help to get her pix online, don’t hesitate to get in touch!

      Dean Jeffrey

      August 1, 2013 at 12:04 am

  8. Does anybody know what kind of speakers were used?

    Thomas

    January 18, 2015 at 2:47 am

    • Probably a Projected Sound speaker post model.

      Jackie Pearce,jr.

      October 8, 2015 at 9:42 pm

    • Speakers; Projected sound model; 40V of Plainsfield, Indiana. 4 inch square, 4 ohm.

      The field wiring voltage was usually around 70 volts going out to the concrete teardrop stands from the projection booth, A transformer on the teardrop stand pipe top reduced it to speaker volume, and fed two speakers, one on either side. The volume control was 50 K ohms pot to adjust the volume to a four inch square 4 ohm speaker made by projected sound.

      The older speakers were Drivein Theater MFC Co. made for Universal, and rather boxy in appearance. The later speakers used the same innards and were also made by Projected sound and were more recent and better looking. A 1/8th inch hole filled grid was mounted over the speaker opening to help keep wasps out. But they often managed to make it into the pole’s top box anyway. a rounded cone shaped white plastic or Bakelite push on knob went on the volume control which covered the mounting nut.

      I never saw a heater unit but heard they were also once used there. And that some single speaker teardrops had once been located across the street for the neighbors to sit in their front yards and watch the show from there in their lawn chairs.. I never saw or had to repair these.

      The stand pipes were about 2 inches across and regular steel painted silver. The concrete tear drops were usually painted white to aid in visibility. A screw acted as a clamp on the top box which locked or attached the top box to the pole.
      The speaker cables were regular black vinyl covered two wire conductors about 14 gauge, one black and one white in color. i remember stretching out both arms and measuring the replacement cables for length. but i also remember them using pre-cut cables with plug on connectors inside the speaker enclosure end. The underground wiring was larger and solid for the most part with fabric wrapping over a rubber interior. Yellow wire nuts covered the connections in the speaker top boxes and blue ones were used under the teardrops .

      A tear drop, when it turned over by someone driving off with the speaker still in their window usually took out the remainder of the row outwards and had to be fixed immediately. Later they had changed to a steel cable enforced inner wire along with the black and white wires.

      The before show sound came from a standard reel to reel player and was recorded or made by the local radio station in Thomasville. The projectors were mighty 90’s or mighty 88’s. Perhaps one of each?.

      i had wired two of the top boxes to accept a 1/4 inch mono phone jack to jumper or to plug the sound directly into my 65 Olds dash board speaker using my own cord, larger speaker and volume control. (I used the rear speakers for the AM radio anyway.)
      Speakers were replaced when torn, worn or rattly sounding.
      I made 8 dollars a day for car hop and concessions, and more if i cleaned the field and did maintenance. In 1974 it was all i needed. You could start at the north end of town, buy the best that all the burger joints had to offer, and enjoy a movie on your day off, or get a free pass to the other movies in High Point or Archdale to see their movies. It was a reciprocal agreement between the other two local drive ins, the Thunderbird, and the Tar-heel.
      I ran across 2 speakers long later at an antique store and got them for the memories.

      Kenneth Lee

      April 23, 2016 at 12:31 am

  9. My dad ran the Consolidated theater in Asheboro, Jack Pearce, and my family would drive over on Thursday evenings and meet with Jack, Joeanne (If I remember his wifes name), and family for a night of cards and playing. We had so much fun. I have not thought of the Midway in years. I miss the place. I guess that the last time I saw Jack was at my dads funeral in 1988. That is when that drive in closed.

    IF JACK or his family is out there I just wanted to say thanks for the memories at your split level home. HOPE ALL IS WELL.

    Jackie Pearce,jr.

    October 8, 2015 at 9:40 pm

  10. My grandmother was Ruth Blair, she was the cashier there at Midway Drive inn. I remember going to the movies there and met Mr Malphrus many times. Always a jokster. She also lived across the street from the drive inn. My dad tells stories of how cheap it was to date my mom because her mom ran the the ticket booth.

    Steve Loggins

    March 12, 2016 at 2:15 am

  11. That yellow band around the marquee was also once painted the same red as the over all red and white color style if I remember correctly.

    Kenneth Lee

    April 23, 2016 at 12:53 am


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