Tommy Randall: Longhorn Drive-in

Drive-in movie theatres were popular destinations for people of all ages from the 1940s to the 1970s. Tommy Randall’s dad owned the Longhorn, north of Anderson Lane, one of four that once were in our area. (More about local drive-ins.) Thanks, Tommy, for sharing your story of what it was like growing up there. —Susan Burneson

Here’s a photo of the Longhorn Drive-in Theatre. Looks like just after it opened in 1954. My family moved here in the fall of 1954, so my Dad could manage the new theatre.

I started first grade at Brentwood Elementary. My siblings and I were literally raised at the theatre. Mom would often run the ticket office. When that happened, us three kids would sleep in the car until she got off from work.

At age 8, I talked my Dad into giving me a chance to work with the big kids, who were around 14. Dad let me work for two weeks free to see if I could keep up with the intermission crowd sacking popcorn. I passed and was paid the big kids’ salary of $1.50 per night.

At age 12 I became the projectionist, and at 17 I was bouncer and manager on Dad’s weekly night off. During college, I commuted to SWTSC, now Texas State, in San Marcos. I was janitor at the drive-in in the daytime and projectionist at night. The first speech I ever gave was over the speaker system: “Our snack-bar closes in 5 minutes. Last call for hotdogs, popcorn, and cold drinks. Our snack-bar closes in 5 minutes.”

I have great memories from that theatre. During the day when Dad was making repairs, I drove scooters and cars, shot bottles and tin cans at the trash dump in the back, and hunted birds on the treeline at the back.

For 60 cents a carload, we offered a lot of fun for families of all ages. One of my favorite events was the Dusk-to-Dawn all-night shows: 6 movies for the price of 60 cents a carload. Dad had all-nighters about 3 times a year, including New Year’s Eve.

About when I was in the fifth grade, I worked the late shift in the snack bar by myself during the scary shows. I had to keep a lookout in the front as well as in the storage area in the back room, to make sure no space monsters or werewolves were sneaking up on me.

What a charmed life.

—Tommy Randall

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