Tuesday, June 2

Grand Vue Drive-In (Part two)

According to Gene Combs, who bought out his partner, Dick Johnson, in the mid-60’s, Hazard's Grand Vue was the first drive-in this part of the country to play first-run movies. One of the first major features was “Samson and Delilah.” Traffic was backed up for several miles in each direction – as far as the Colonial Club on one end and past Combs on the other end – with people waiting to get in to see this film.

Other popular movies included: “The Ten Commandments,” which ran for five days; Walt Disney’s “The Shaggy Dog,” and “Gone With The Wind,” which ran several different times over the years. In the early '70s “Walking Tall,” drew a huge crowd.

On one occasion, a nearby auto accident knocked out a power pole that affected only the sound system at the drive-in. However, this caused no alarm, nor refunds because the film happened to be a silent one, Charlie Chaplin’s “City Lights.”

The Grand Vue offered the people a form of entertainment other than movies. Country music and western celebrities of the day came to Hazard to perform from the top of the concession stand. Among those bringing their stage shows to the Grand Vue were: Flatt & Scruggs, Johnny Mack Brown, Lash LaRue, Don Red Barry, the Carter Family, featuring June Carter Cash and Mother Maybelle, and the Carter Brothers. One Flatt & Scruggs show, which was taped by the NBC network drew 1,500 people. The Ink Spots, the Stanley Brothers, Bill Monroe, Actor - Fuzzy Knight, Smiley Burnett and Tim Holt also made personal appearances.

The Grand Vue owners were also community minded. They offered their facilities to the Perry County Ministerial Association and the public for the purpose of Easter Sunrise Services for many years. The annual fireworks display was an event people looked forward to each 4th of July. Some will remember their "dusk to dawn" shows when the public was treated to five different movies. Then there was a period where the drive-in was used as a race track for go-carts on weekends, known as the Grand Vue Speedway.

Every Walt Disney film ever produced was shown "first run" at the Grand Vue. Surprisingly, Disney films were the most expensive to obtain. One in particular, “The Shaggy Dog,” proved to be the most expensive of all because the distributors forced theaters to charge 50 cents for children and required 50 per cent of the gate.

The end of an era came in 1977 when the Grand Vue Drive Theater ended its long run of nearly 30 years. The fence, marquee, concession stand, screen, playground and speakers were all dismantled to make way for progress. The Grand Vue Plaza Shopping Center would be built here.In recounting his memories of the Grand Vue’s performance, Gene Combs stated that they, the management, “enjoyed seeing so many people and made a lot of acquaintances and friends over the years.” They employed an average of ten people during each of the March 1 – November 1 seasons. The employee of the longest tenure was Mrs. Emily Emeurer, who was the concession stand cashier for over 20 years.When the Grand Vue opened in 1949, the price of admission was 49 cents. Rising costs and inflation forced them to to increase the price of admission to $2.00 by the 1970s. Children under 12 were still admitted free.The last movies ever shown at the Grand Vue Drive In were seen on March 13th 1977, a double billing – Clint Eastwood starring in “Hang ‘em High,” and Max Baer’s production of “Ode to Billy Joe.”

1 comment:

  1. I visited the Drive In several times in 1951. We had a good routine. Two of us kids would take the car in and park. The other kids who got out of the car outside the theater, went around the back and sneaked in. One night one of the guys sat on the floor in the back and leaned against the door. When I paid the attendant for our two tickets he saw movement in the back seat, opened the door, Shorty fell out backwards on the ground but he had his fifty cents in his hand...