Comton Drive-In, Compton, CA, 1979

About 20 years ago, curiosity got the best of me and I decided that I just had to see the house that my mother grew up in in Compton, CA. My grandparents moved out of the house when I was 5-years-old and I hadn’t seen it since. So I looked up the address and headed over there.

I turned the corner and there it was, just as I had pictured only waaay smaller. As I sat in my idling car staring at the house, a rush of long forgotten childhood memories reran in my mind. I was spellbound.

But not nearly as spellbound as when I looked up at the end of the street and saw a gigantic framed mural of Viking ships sailing on a choppy sea and generously labeled with the handwritten name of the city. It was the Compton Drive-in towering over the entire neighborhood.

I didn’t have even the faintest childhood recollection of this mid-century marvel, shocking at it may seem. I thought I was dreaming. Researching as soon as I got home, I learned that it was beautifully built in 1949 by the largest local drive-in chain, Pacific Drive-in Theaters.

For the next couple of weeks I bragged all over town about my drive-in discovery. Finally I went back and take a closer look. Once again I turned up the old street and there was my grandparent’s former home… but no drive-in at the end of the street! My dream turned into a nightmare. The theater was gone.

I sped up and saw the screen tower had been freshly bulldozed to the ground and left lying on its side broken up in bits and pieces waiting to be hauled away. Everything is temporary.

Clearly, in no uncertain terms, the Compton Drive-in is, was, and shall always be a zeeenith of SoCal CARchitecture!

Here’s to the COMPTON DRIVE-IN and YOU!!
Charles Phoenix
Feb. 1, 2014