For over 50 years, the Porterville Drive-In Theater had entertained many residents from Porterville and surrounding areas. Originally developed and constructed in 1950, by Verne and Maymie Schwin, it now resembles a landfill instead of a landmark.
So what happened and why is it this terrible condition … and better yet, what can be done to repair or restore it as a “Historic Landmark” – one that we can all be proud of.
According to the Drive In theater’s web site, www.portervilledriveintheatre.com the drive-in was doing quite well, up until 2004, the date it finally closed.
Here’s what the Schwin’s say happened : “ … In the 80’s, Verne’s son, Jeff took over the management position of the theatre until 1987 when Verne passed away. The family and the theatre industry lost a great man that year ! The theatre was still doing well then, but Maymie decided to give her interest to her kids, Janet and Jeff. Jeff and family bought Janet’s interest. It was 1990 that Jeff decided to put in a second screen and radio sound. He also decided to lease out the theatre. He did so for 6 years. Unfortunately the lessee mismanaged the property and got behind in the maintenance aspect. The business went downhill and the lessee gave it back to Schwin's in disrepair.”
It’s in terrible condition : The Post, recently contacted Porterville’s code enforcement office regarding the condition of the Drive-In and asked if they were aware of it’s condition. We also asked if the city had plans were regarding it’s condition and it being a fire hazard. They told the Post they notified the owners by letter informing them of the properties condition and if they did not clean up the city would come in and have it cleaned up. Next the city will then request payment for these “clean-up-services” and if they do not pay in a timely manner, the city will be forced to collect by confiscating the property in lieu of payment.
And the neighborhood : Well, the Post surveyed the neighbors surrounding the theater and the older generation said they’d like to see it cleaned up and possibly restored to is past glory. Some of the younger neighbors, simple said … “ clean it up or tear it down”. One even suggested that the city find a way to purchase the property, obtain some federal grant money and then turn it into a new little park for the neighborhood. That sounded like the best and quickest plan.
So what can the neighbors say and do ? It was suggested that the neighbors form a committee and then take an extensive survey. Then take the notes from their committee meetings and present them to the city council to petition the city to purchase to property from the owners. But that's merely the beginning. What to do with it - after that - is the bigger question. If this new committee is serious, they should bring to the city council some ideas of what the residence of that area want the city to do with that parcel of land. As important, what should the police do about the gangs and crack-heads who virtually destroyed the snack bar, and have literally walked off with large sections of the fence.
Basically at this point, the process of cleaning it up belongs to the owners, the city told the Post. If they don’t comply with the order, that will trigger another letter being sent to pay for the cleaning of the property. If they still don’t comply, then the city will confiscate it for payment.
Will the owners simply let the city clean it up ? It looks like it. Will they let the city take it for re-payment ? I doubt it. Will they sell if at a loss ? They might have to.
What a tremendous tragedy ! In 1950, right after WWII Verne and Maymie Schwin made a choice to come to Porterville to start a new life and a new business. Their goal was to start a business the local folks would enjoy and give them a little more time to spend at home with their children and their family.
How shall we pray …
“Dear LORD, please help the owners of the Porterville Drive-In theatre know what they should do. We ask that You guide them and we ask that You protect the neighbors surrounding this theater. We also ask if it’s Your Will to have the city of Porterville intervene, please allow the process to be smooth and without animosity. In JESUS Name”
For more info please contact Post Editor – A. L. “LUCKY” Lucketta