Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Worshiping at the Sunset Drive-in, Shelby, NC Circa 1950s

Sunset Drive-in, Shelby, NC
 In Cleveland County recently, I saw that the old Sunset Drive-in Theater on Highway 74 is still in business.  It is geared more to families and open only on weekends these days.  But in the late 1950s the drive-in was popular among teenagers with access to automobiles.  It was ideal for dates.  The old drive-in evoked memories of my college days at Gardner-Webb College. 

The screen and the parking area for the drive-in.

Gardner-Webb then a two-year Baptist college in Boiling Springs, NC was just down the road from the Sunset Drive-in. Rules for girls on campus were strict.  Girls living on campus and dating on Sunday nights were required to attend, with their dates, the Sunday night service at the campus Baptist Church.  Since we had to be back in the dorm by 10:30 there was barely enough time after church to drive into Shelby for barbecue at Red Bridges's BBQ Lodge before returning to the dorm.

Cars drove through the entrance and paid for each person in the car.  Often people would hide in the trunks of the car to avoid paying.  Now I think they charge by the car and not by the person.

We usually managed to get around that rule.  Dating couples, including my roommate and me, would often meet our boyfriends at their cars in back of the church at the Hamrick Building, jump in the car, hide until we were off campus and head to the Sunset Drive-in, skipping church altogether. We referred to it as "worshiping" at the drive-in on Sunday nights. 

Cars would park by one of these stations where there was a speaker that would hang from the window of the car.  Now sound is acquired through the car radio, I think.

My roommate and I were never caught skipping church, but on one occasion many of our friends were.  College students, including dating couples, always sat in the balcony of the church.  The Dean of Women was on the program for the evening and was seated on the dais where she had a commanding view of the balcony.  She noticed only three or four couples in the balcony, but when she returned to the dorm she found that a dozen or more girls had signed out saying they were dating and were attending church. (Yes, when we left campus we had to sign out).  Many of my friends were campused for a few weeks because of this incident.  I was lucky, because I just happened not to be dating on that particular Sunday night.

Gardner-Webb is now a thriving university, and I'm not sure about the rules for female students, but I doubt that many spend their Sunday nights at the Sunset Drive-in Theater.

1 comment:

  1. I remember the Sunset with fond memories.