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  • Arizona Contractor & Community

Back When: South Central’s Starlight Screen

The Silver Dollar Drive-In Theatre lived up to its name: the snack bar had silver dollars embedded in the floor and admission was $1 per car when it opened in 1950. Even at that affordable price, many patrons snuck in on foot or in car trunks to watch the movies for free. The drive-in owners knew what was going on, but weren't meticulous about policing the grounds.

“My folks did not expect to make money on the admissions but on all the stuff that we sold in the snack bar,” says Chris Wickersham, whose father, Woodrow Wickersham, owned the drive-in until 1956. “Cold drinks were 10 cents, hot dogs a quarter, and candy was 5 cents except for Mars Bars, which were 10 cents. We even made our own ice cream.”

Red River starring John Wayne was the first movie shown at the one-screen drive-in, which was located among citrus orchards just north of the Western Canal on South Central, north of Baseline Road. Neighbors also enjoyed watching the films for free from their backyards or house roofs. Even those distant from the drive-in kept an eye on its entertainment offerings. “I used to be able to watch the movies with binoculars, albeit no sound, from our house near Camelback Mountain,” Rosalind Hussong says.

The Silver Dollar closed in 1983. The drive-in, which had a capacity for 750 cars, was redeveloped into a Food City shopping center.

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