Neighbors who were here beginning in the 1950s remember the freedom and friendship, going to drive-in movie theatres, and roller skating at Capitol Roll Arena. One person we interviewed, Anne Eagle Walker, worked at the rink when she was a teenager.
FUN & FREE
We interviewed Sylvia (Scooter) Rushing February 2008, and Wanda and Emory Muehlbrad, February 9, 2008. DVDs of their videotaped interviews are at the Austin History Center.
At one time, there were four drive-ins in our area: Burnet Drive-in (today’s Burnet Road Storage), Chief Drive-in (southeast corner of Lamar and Koenig), Eddie Joseph’s (later the North Austin) Drive-in (southwest corner of Justin and Lamar), and Longhorn Drive-in Theatre (near today’s Hobby Lobby on Anderson Lane).
In 1940, Eddie Joseph’s Drive-in, the first outdoor movie theatre in Austin, opened at today’s 6812 North Lamar (site of Walgreens), then outside the city limits. At the beginning, there was one large screen and only one speaker (later each car had its own speaker), which disturbed the peace at Frank Richcreek’s once-quiet farm nearby. At times, Richcreek let local teenagers watch the show from the top of his large dairy barn. Nearby Brentwood and Crestview neighbors remember sitting in their yards to see a movie. When the wind was right they could hear it, too. In 1947, Eddie Joseph’s became the North Austin Drive-in, and the Chief, which was larger and had more amenities, opened a mile south. The North Austin closed in 1960.
When it opened, the Chief cost 50 cents for adults and 5 cents for children. There were 800 speakers and seats outside near the screen, if you didn’t want to stay inside your car. (More about the Chief and Burnet here.)
The Longhorn Drive-in, just north of Crestview on Anderson Lane, opened in 1954 and still was in operation in the late 1960s. The original manager’s son remembers how much he enjoyed growing up at the theatre and working there until he graduated from college.
We interviewed Ronnie Prellop of Crestview Minimax IGA on March 9, 2008. A DVD of his videotaped interview is at the Austin History Center.
CAPITOL ROLL ARENA
Daniel Gay built the Capitol Roll Arena in 1954 at 821 Brentwood, across from the Violet Crown Shopping Center, which is on the northwest corner of Lamar and Brentwood. The only known roller skating rink in North Austin at the time, it was popular with children and adults for several decades. (It may have been constructed by stonemason and builder Frank B. Wright, based on information from his family matching the structure’s description, location, and year it was built.) Today, the white building with the unusual design, where the rink once was, houses a body shop. (Photo below by Brentwood neighbor Al Evans.)
We interviewed Kay Swenson Ramsey January 19, 2008. DVDs of her videotaped interview are at the Austin History Center.
As Anne Eagle Walker told us, she was “raised in the roller rink.” Her parents, Lillian and Calvin Blinton Palmer, owned rinks in South Texas and Colorado before purchasing the Capitol Roll Arena business from the original owners, Betty and Daniel Gay, in 1962. (More about Betty here and Daniel here.)
The Palmers and Gays lived across from each other on Daugherty, and Anne and the Gays’ daughter, Susan, became friends. The Palmers owned the rink for three years and then returned to Colorado. Anne remained in the Austin area, where she lives today.
From the time she was 6 until she graduated from Lanier High School in Austin, Anne mostly worked at the family’s roller rinks when she wasn’t attending school. She and her brother, Philip, also taught classes and skated competitively.
In the video clip below, Anne talks about lighter moments—living in Austin, going to the “mountains” near Austin with her friend Susan Gay, and doing the hokey pokey at Capitol Roll Arena. As Anne says in the clip about the hokey pokey, “That is what it’s all about.” (Read more excerpts from our oral history interview with Anne here.)
We interviewed Anne Eagle Walker September 4, 2011. A DVD of her videotaped interview is at the Austin History Center.
Tune in next time for Voices of the Violet Crown!