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Del Mar Drive-In, Del Mar, CA (other)

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Name:Del Mar Drive-In
Street:Via de la Valle
City:Del Mar

Years ago, I had read online about a Drive-In in Del Mar that had tiki signage. It was a one sentence description on an old website. About once a year I would search online, never to find a thing. I started to think maybe someone misremembered. Then I found this site a year ago.


This was only the second time I heard someone mention the tiki sign. I emailed the Del Mar historical society, and the had no info. I tried it again this year.... finally photographic proof! (yes I know it's a small pic, it's all they have)

Here is the part of the website that describes this drive-in.

THE DEL MAR Drive-In on Via de la Valle, across the street from the Del Mar Fairgrounds, opened in 1953 with space for 700 cars. Operated independently for its first two years, it was eventually run by William Oldknow and Sero Amusements, a company that hired him as president but which he'd come to own. "The Del Mar had a giant tiki sign on the entranceway that went right across the driveway," recalls Teri Oldknow, "with a giant catamaran painted with sort of tiki hatching. It was really cool."

From the start, the Del Mar decided to remain open seven nights a week, since many film studios at the time refused to provide new first-run films to theaters open weekends only. During most of the '50s, admission was $1 per carload on weekdays and 50 cents per person on weekends (children were free) -- the real profits, as at most ozones, were in the concession stand.

As patron perks, they offered free baby-bottle warmers, and for a time, a "live monkey house" was advertised as being on the playground.

Sero was operating so many drive-ins that the speakers at the Del Mar and elsewhere were actually manufactured specifically for Sero and carried the company's imprint on the front of their metal casings. "We made them in Pomona with a company called Bevelite from the mid-'50s through about the late '60s," recalls Teri Oldknow. "They made the speakers for the Pacific Theatres, too."

She says few of those audio relics remain in the company's possession, though they frequently turn up on eBay and elsewhere (fetching anywhere from $10 to $100 and up for wired kits, including stand-alone poles). "You'd think, of all companies, we would have realized how just plain cool the speakers were and would have kept them, but I guess nobody ever thought something like that would end up rare and valuable."

In the early ‘70s, the Del Mar was managed by Dixie Burton, who’d moved to San Diego in 1967 to live on lot at the Midway Drive-in, which was being run by her then-husband. Burton earned national headlines in 1974, when she successfully campaigned to get her 12-year-old daughter Robyn on the Solana Beach Little League team, an almost unheard-of achievement for a girl at the time. She later became prominent in local theater by heading up San Diego Playgoers (beginning in 1978), and also helping to spearhead the campaign to save downtown’s historic Balboa Theater.

A San Diego Reader reader named MoHansen emailed to say “Dixie Burton was the mother of my friends, Laurie, Barbara, Brent and Robyn, and she used to let me in to practice driving at the drive-in on the weekend days when no one was around. The inclines were great for practicing how to go up a hill from a stop in a car with a clutch.”

After being closed for awhile, the Del Mar underwent remodeling in early 1979, reopening on Memorial Day weekend with a free open house featuring High Ballin’ and Stingray. However, despite spending over $15,000 on improvements, business failed to pick up.

In late 1979, the Oldknows announced they were selling the Del Mar Drive-In lot for commercial use. "Developers came in and built a huge sea of condominiums... it was too much money to turn down at the time," says Teri Oldknow.

In August 1984, McKellar Development of La Jolla (ranked that year at number 25 among the nation's largest developers by Building Design & Construction Magazine) began building condos on the old drive-in site.

[ Edited by: Tiki Shaker 2016-03-03 19:08 ]

Great post
Moved there in 1978 as a kid
Dont remember a drive in

Great photo

Edit: funny, it just hit me
I do remember a drive in


[ Edited by: hang10tiki 2016-03-03 22:44 ]

Found this photo list on a different site

Great photo!

Love the fact that "Beneath the Planet of the Apes" was playing. Wonder if it got the "live monkey house" riled up?

[ Edited by: Tiki Shaker 2016-03-04 09:22 ]


Here is a clear shot showing the details of the sign and outriggers.

You’re efforts are what make T C such a wonderful site. Mahalo Gents.


Wow, I never knew about that place

Trav- great pic

I asked my older brother if he remembered it

He said "yep, we use to sit on a hill and watch the movies for free"

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