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Latest Information Updates

2/24/2021 - Tawas Drive-In Theatre - East Tawas - Andy Gray
Today I'm featuring the Tawas Drive-In, a project that my grandfather Al Johnson's construction company completed in 1952.

The drive-in was located at 2005 N. US-23 in East Tawas, Michigan. Al's slides include one showing construction of the concession/projection building with what could be a flatbed well-drilling rig in front of it. This image was taken in March 1952.

The remaining slides were shot in July 1952. These show the project nearing its completion. Vertical tongue-and-groove knotty pine sheathes the concession/projection building doors and also covers the ticket booth. A Jeep, used to set the precast speaker stands, is shown in one slide.

A swing set can be seen in front of the screen. Child play areas, sometimes with benches or chairs from which their parents could watch over their children, were a common feature of drive-ins of the era. Two images show the drive-in on opening night. The marquee reads: "Gala Opening Tonight 'Thief of Bagdad' and Judy Canoya in 'Hit the Hay' Souvenirs to first 500 cars.

" .
2/23/2021 - Eastwood Theatre - Eastpointe - Andy Gray
The Eastwood Theatre was located at at 21145 Gratiot Avenue in Eastpointe, The June 1949 image below was shot by my grandfather Al Johnson, whose company, Johnson Construction Co., built or remodeled the theater. The new-looking bare block walls suggest that the project was new construction. The use of the word "Cool" painted in two places on the front of the theater highlight its air conditioning system.
2/23/2021 - Drayton Theatre - Drayton Plains - Andy Gray
The Drayton Theatre in Drayton Plains, Michigan was a 1941 project by Johnson Construction Co.

It's not clear whether this was a remodeling project or new construction, though the gabled roofline and brick chimney might indicate that an existing building was renovated into a movie theater at some point. The slide that Al shot seven years later in September 1948 shows an "art moderne" style incorporating tan brickwork and a cream and red color scheme typical of many of the Johnson projects. There's little online information available about this theater, other than that it was located *"on Dixie Highway between Sashabaw and the short little street, Monroe." * Two 1948 movies are listed on the marquee: "Jinx Money" (a Bowery Boys film) and "Carson City Raiders" (a Western).

2/22/2021 - Bagley Theatre - Detroit - Andy Gray
This shows the Bagley Theatre at 3327 Bagley Street.

This slide was taken in March 1949, and it shows street car tracks running in front of the theater. A.S. Jr.

's (Bud's) records show this as a 1947 project by my grandfather's company..
2/22/2021 - Liberty Theatre - Detroit - Andy Gray
This image is the Liberty Theatre, which was a 1941 Johnson new construction or remodel project.

Al shot the photo on August 1948, and it shows the theater in typical "art moderne" style with period-appropriate doors, marquee and accents. There is some question in my mind as to the location of the Liberty Theatre in my grandfather's 1948 slide. The CinemaTour website lists the address as 1020 Farmer Street, which is in the heart of downtown Detroit. Historic photos on the Cinema Treasures site show a three-story Liberty Theater in a former church.

The peak of the gabled roof parallels the street and the front of the theater. Al's 1948 slide appears to have been taken in a less dense area of the city, and it shows a flat-roofed two-story theater building. Also, the front of the Gibbs Lumber store to the left of the theater shows an address of "25135 Van Dyke," which is several miles to the north of the old Farmer Street Theater Row. I believe the Liberty Theatre that Grandad Johnson built or remodeled was at that location rather than downtown on Farmer Street.

Here are three websites with info on the Liberty Theatre:.
2/22/2021 - Carlton Theatre - Detroit - Andy Gray
This image is of the Carlton Theatre, at 13125-13135 Fenkell Avenue, and it was shot in June 1948.

Similar to the Graystone, this theater appears to be in an older building that had recently been renovated. Family records don't indicate when Johnson Construction Co. might have worked on the Carlton. The marquee is an older more ornate style - perhaps dating to the 1930's.

Two 1943 films "Sahara" (starring Humphrey Bogart) and "Destroyer" were playing when the photo was taken. The marquee also says: "De Luxe Pushback Seats" and "Academy of Proven Hits." On the right side of the photo you can see a worker standing on top of a Faygo Beverages truck which is parked in front of the soda shop next to the theater. Talk about Michigan history! The building has been demolished.

2/22/2021 - Kensington - Kensington - WinterWinterWonderland
Great info here: Kristina Scarcelli web site
2/22/2021 - Tunk - Tunk - WinterWinterWonderland
Source: Ghost Towns of Michigan Vol 1 by Larry Wakefield
2/22/2021 - Maxine Theatre - Croswell - Andy Gray
Another Michigan theater slide, shot by my grandfather A.

S. "Al" Johnson in August 1948, shows the Maxine Theatre located at 91 N. Howard Avenue** **in Crosswell, Michigan. I really like this image because the three bystanders in front of the theater almost look like they were posed.

Al's son Bud's theater job list does not include the Maxine, so if Johnson Construction Co. remodeled the theater, it's not clear what year it might have occurred. On the waterwinterwonderland.com website it says that the *Maxine Theatre *opened on July 5, 1920 and closed on October 31, 1964.

The theater was named after the builder, William Carter's daughter, Maxine. Google Maps indicates that an auto parts store currently occupies the building..
2/22/2021 - Town Theatre - Chesaning - Andy Gray
Today I'm sharing images of two Michigan theaters, taken in 1948 by my grandfather A.

S. "Al" Johnson. The first theatre is the Town Theatre at 135 N. Front Street in Chesaning.

Al's son listed this Johnson Construction Co. job as a 1948 project. Al's slide, below, shows the characteristic "art moderne" style "Johnson doors" in a natural color and with semi-round glass. "Angels' Alley," a film released in 1948, appears on the marquee.

The cinder block building construction suggests that the 1948 project was a new theater rather than a remodeling job.The waterwinterwonderland.com website suggests that the theater operated until the 1960's, after which the building housed a bowling alley and an auto parts store. A Google Maps search shows the building as a closed pizzeria with a "for sale" sign.

2/21/2021 - Hi-Road Drive-In - Kenton - Cinema Treasures
Opened June 11, 1949, the Hi-Road Drive-In originally had a screen that measured 40' by 80', but this was blown down by heavy winds in January 1952, and replaced by a screen about half the original’s size.

The Hi-Road Drive-In originally had a capacity for 400 cars.The Millers acquired the Hi-Road Drive-In in 1999, and found it needed a lot of work, having fallen into disrepair over the decades.The Millers remodeled the concession booth, cleaned and cleared the lot, and restored the Artcraft marquee to its original 1940’s appearance.The Millers are currently seeking to replace the present screen with one close to the original screen’s size as well as improve lighting around the parking area and driveway.

The Hi-Road Drive-In can accommodate over 600 cars in its lot, and now has two screens..
2/20/2021 - Maple City Drive-In Theatre - Charlotte - Andy Gray
Today I have a treat for Michigan drive-in aficionados: ten photos taken in the fall of 1952 during the construction of the Maple City Drive-In in Charlotte.

These 35 mm slides were shot by my grandfather A.S. "Al" Johnson, who owned the Johnson Construction Company and built dozens of Michigan theaters and drive-ins between 1934 and 1956.These images provide a rare look into the the early phases of a drive-in project: site clearing, layout, applying water-proofing tar to the lower blockwork of the concession/projection building, building the foundation for the tower, and tower framing and assembly.

One slide shows car speaker posts with precast concrete bases. These later will be interconnected and set in place, then the concrete bases will be covered with gravel prior to the final grading of the parking area.The same slide shows several timbers soaking in drums of creosote for protection against rot. Some of the timbers piled in the back will be cut to length and bolted together with steel gussets to form vertical trusses.

These will provide the primary structure of the tower.A series of slides shows the workers raising one of these tower trusses into place using ropes, block and tackle. Once in place, these vertical members will be connected to adjacent trusses with horizontal timbers to form a rigid framework.Though not shown in these slides, the final step of the tower construction involved sheathing the whole tower frame with plywood, applying one or more coats of paint, and then covering the whole tower with a final layer of panels.

Ron Gross, administrator of the Michigan Drive-ins.com Facebook page, says that asbestos panels typically were used for the final sheathing layer during this era. To see part of the tower sheathing process, please see my February 12 Michigan History post on the Starlight Drive-In.The waterwinterwonderland.

com site provides this history: "The Maple City Drive-In opened in June of 1953 and closed around 1990. This single screen drive-in had a capacity for 500 cars." The site also reveals that, as of 2013, the projection/concession building and a very damaged marquee were all that remained on the site.The Maple City Drive-In was located at 2812 S.

Cochran Avenue. I've been unable to find any contemporary photos of the completed drive-in. A current Google Maps view shows part of the parking area and the remains of the concession/projection building in the rear of the site.
2/17/2021 - Algiers Drive-In Theatre - Westland - Leah
Hello, I was born and raised in Garden City MI close to the Algiers, I remember we went to the drive in just about every weekend even in the winter months. My mom and dad would stay in the car and watch the movies while I was either at the playground our in the concession stand playing arcade games, Uncle Dave would give us kids free popcorn and credits for the games. I made lots of friends there and even worked there for a short time before the close of the Algiers drive in sometime in the early 80s. I remember a few people on this list below including Bud and his brother Gary, hope you are all doing well and keep the memories alive, thanks!!!
2/17/2021 - Cameo Theatre - Detroit - Bob Bell
I lived on Robinwood and attended Greenfield Union elementary school and later Nolen intermediate.

Cameo theater was a regular visit on Saturdays. So much has changed but the old neighborhood is still there IF...you look closely. Good memories last forever.
2/17/2021 - Owosso Speedway - Ovid - Jason
Hello All, Many years late to this page but I have some really good news.

...I have newspaper clippings of THE ROCKET MOTOR SPEEDWAY from 1951-1957 that my grandmother saved and dated.

A few people have asked about "WINDY DALEY" which I have to say he was mentioned a lot in these articles, also pictures. From what I have been told he was great friends with my grandfather BUD SHEPHERD. There are over 200 drivers mentioned in these articles. My intentions have been to put a book together with as much information as possible.

I have heard some interesting stories over the years that I would love to know more about and possibly add to the story. A story about a "PRISON CAR". If anyone would like to share some stories, pictures, information or direct me to any other websites or people, please advise.
2/17/2021 - Broadway Theatre - Detroit - Matthew Wilkinson
This is not the Broadway capital theater. Broadway capital is the Detroit opera house now. This theater must have been demolished years ago.
2/15/2021 - Westwood Cinemas - Jackson - Jim Twining
This like Stadium Cinema 1&2 in Midland was run by United Artists theater's.

I got to know Ron Haney and his assistant Jack well as I spoke to them nightly giving them my revenue numbers which they then passed on. This was before computers.1978 to 1985 time frame. There were road trips to Jackson to pick up my films for my late shows.

Enjoyed going with Ron to the Hunt Club for a Cold one and a Wiley Potato.Lost touch with most of my former theater manager friends. .
2/14/2021 - Memory Lane Drive-In Theater - Monroe - Owner
10 years ago we envisioned opening a Drive-In Theater that would provide a peaceful relaxing environment for the community to enjoy. We want to create a place where you can take your family, a date or a loved one to enjoy a wonderful memory making experience while having the feeling of getting away from the hustle of our daily lives. Our goal is to build it in a place that provides that setting while keeping it close enough to travel to and from.
2/14/2021 - Tibbits Opera House - Coldwater - Andy Gray
Between 1934 and 1956 my maternal grandfather, Albert S.

("Al") Johnson, built and remodeled theaters and drive-ins throughout Michigan. His company was called the Johnson Construction Co., and it was based out of Birmingham. His first theater job, according to records compiled by his son A.

S. Johnson Jr. (my "Uncle Bud"), was a remodel of the Tibbits Theatre, in Coldwater, which Johnson completed in 1934. The Tibbits, which opened originally as the Tibbits Opera House in 1882, later began showing silent films and eventually "talkies.

" This photo, taken by Al Johnson in June 1948 fourteen years after his remodel job, shows the theater still in its 1934 "art deco" or "art moderne" style. The theater has since been restored to its original opera house style and is open to this day. Johnson theater work became something of a family affair. My dad (Doug Gray) and paternal grandfather (Robie Gray) both worked for Johnson on theater and drive-in jobs for many years - as did Al's son Bud Johnson.

Dad related to me that during one theater renovation job, an old car (a Model T or earlier model) was discovered at the back of the original theater stage when an interior wall was removed. The car had been used as a prop for a theater production and had been left in place during an earlier renovation. When it was discovered, the theater owner assumed ownership and had the car delivered to his house. I'm almost certain that this story referred to the 1934 Tibbits Theatre project.

2/14/2021 - Main Theatre - Coldwater - Andy Gray
Between 1934 and 1956 my maternal grandfather, Albert S.

("Al") Johnson, built and remodeled theaters and drive-ins throughout Michigan. His company was called the Johnson Construction Co., and it was based out of Birmingham.His son A.

S. Johnson Jr. (Bud) compiled the Johnson theater projects and his list includes the 1943 "Main" theater project in Coldwater. The Cinema Treasures website says that the theater opened in 1942.

A slide that Al Johnson's shot in June 1948 shows the theater as an "art deco" or "art moderne" style, with three red double doors with half-octagonal glass. This style epitomizes the more than forty theaters that Johnson Construction Co. built or remodeled between the 1930s and late 1940s. The building survives but is no longer in use as a theater.

2/14/2021 - Bad Axe Theatre - Bad Axe - Andy Gray
This photo of the Bad Axe Theatre, was taken in September 1948 by my grandfather A.

S. “Al” Johnson, who remodeled the theater in 1935 and again in 1947. The theater is located in an old Knights of Columbus building at 309 E. Huron Avenue in Bad Axe, Michigan, and it’s still open.

The image of the theater shows four red "art moderne" style entrance doors with half-octagonal glass. These doors, or identical replacements, are seen in a 2020 view of the theater, and are typical of several theaters that Al built or remodeled in the 1940’s and ‘50s. The Cinema Treasures site says: "This classic small town movie theatre in Bad Axe, Michigan opened on February 21, 1916 with 500 seats.
2/14/2021 - Almont Theatre - Almont - Andy Gray
Here's a photo of the Almont Theatre at 219 S.

Main Street in Almont Township, Michigan. The 35mm slide was shot by my Grandfather A.S. "Al" Johnson in June 1948.

This theater isn't listed in the Johnson Construction Co. theater jobs that Al's son A.S. Johnson Jr.

compiled in the early 2000's, but the front of the theater resembles several other theaters that Al built or remodeled during that era.The image shows two sets of red "art moderne" style double doors with large half-round glass, which were a common feature of several theaters built or remodeled by Johnson Construction Co. in the 1940's and 50's. Family lore refers to them as "Johnson Doors.

"The waterwinterwonderland.com theater website indicates that the theater is closed. During the summer of 2020 the building, last used as a wildlife museum, was empty and available for lease. The marquee remains, although it's damaged.

Neither that site, nor the Cinema Treasures site indicate when the theater first opened..
2/14/2021 - Algonac Theatre - Algonac - Andy Gray
My Grandfather A.

S. “Al” Johnson built and remodeled theaters across Michigan between 1934 and 1956, including a job involving the Algonac Theater in Algonac, Michigan. His son A. Johnson Jr's (Bud's) list of Johnson theater projects includes the Algonac, but omits the date of the job. Al Johnson's theater slides include a single image of the theater taken in June 1948. The marquee, entrance doors and the finish of the front and side of the theater are of a style very similar to other Johnson Construction Co. remodeling jobs completed in the mid to late-1930s (for example the 1938 Tibbits Theatre job in Coldwater).

From the Cinema Treasures site: "The 'Classic Theatre' opened in 1914... Around the 30s, the theater was renamed the 'Algonac Theatre,' and operated through the 50s.

" The Algonac Theatre has been demolished..
2/14/2021 - Starlite Drive-In Theatre - Bay City - Andy Gray
My grandfather A.

S. “Al” Johnson owned Birmingham-based Johnson Construction Co. and built or remodeled between 40 and 50 theaters and drive-ins throughout Michigan between 1934 and 1956. The Starlight Drive-In in Bay City was one of these projects.

The four photos that Al Johnson shot in May 1949 show construction of the tower. All of the uprights that comprised the structure were built onsite by cutting and bolting together timbers into frames or vertical trusses. Each truss then was raised manually by the use of ropes and block-and-tackle. Once in place, carpenters joined these vertical members to the rest of the frame with horizontal timbers.

Perhaps some drive-ins were built with prefab wooden uprights or with steel trusses, but all of the slides in Al Johnson's collection show this onsite wooden truss construction.It's interesting to note that a scaffold at least eleven levels high has been erected on the screen side of the tower, and no apparent safety lines are used by any of the workers. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which governs worker safety standards, wasn't created until 1971.After the whole tower frame was constructed, plywood sheathing was attached.

In the slide images you can see that this is underway on the screen side of the tower. I'm not sure what the plywood was covered with (e.g. paint, concrete or some other material) because my grandfather's slides don't show any images of the finishing process.

2/14/2021 - Berkley Theatre - Berkley - Andy Gray
My grandfather’s company, Johnson Construction Co.

, built the Berkley Theatre, which opened in 1940 on Twelve Mile Road in Berkley. The image below was taken by A.S. "Al" Johnson in May 1949.

The film "Johnny Belinda" was being shown a the time..
2/14/2021 - Roxy Theatre - Bay City - Andy Gray
My uncle A.

S. Johnson Jr’s (Bud’s) list of Johnson Construction Co. theater jobs includes the Roxy in Bay City. My grandfather A.

S. “Al” Johnson took 35mm slides of most of the theaters that he worked on, but unfortunately there are no slides in his collection of this theater or project. Based on the following waterwinterwonderland.com description: "Operated at this location from 1906 - 1912 as the Alvarado.

Subsequent names were Lyric (1913), Grotto (1914) and Temple (1925). In 1942 the Roxy Theater opened here," I suspect that Johnson Construction Co. remodeled the Temple Theatre, which then reopened in 1942 as the Roxy.
2/14/2021 - Gem Theatre - Beaverton - Andy Gray
My uncle A.

S. Johnson Jr's (Bud's) list of Johnson Construction Company theater jobs shows a theater being built or remodeled in 1940 in Beaverton. I suspect that it was the Gem Theatre, although our family doesn’t have any surviving slides or pictures. On the Cinema Treasures website, a couple of early photos show red "art moderne" entrance doors with half-octagonal glass, identical to those on the Bad Axe Theatre and other theaters built by Johnson Construction Co.

during that era. .
2/14/2021 - Maple City Drive-In Theatre - Charlotte - Andy Gray
These four photos were taken by A.

S. “Al” Johnson in October 1951 and show the early stages of the Johnson Construction Co. Maple City Drive-In project. The fourth slide reveals some interesting aspects of a drive-in construction project.

You can see the precast speaker posts and bases ready to be set. Several timbers are being soaked in barrels of creosote in the background. The piles of timbers in the background shows that none of the tower framing was pre-fab. It was all cut and assembled on-site and then manually raised into place, as the next batch of slides will show.

8/1/2020 - Warren Theatre - Detroit - Edward K
The Warren Theatre opened on January 30. 1942.
7/23/2020 - Liberty Amusement Park - Battle Creek - Jack C Crofoot Jr
Please ignore my earlier posting as some of the info was incorrect.

Here is the corrected post: In 1864, R. W. Surby opened an Amusement Park on the north end of Goguac Lake. He owned the amusement Park until 1894.

Eventually the name of the park was changed to Liberty Park because of its popularity with the Soldiers at Camp Custer during WWI. It became known as Lakeview Park in 1927 when it reopened after a 4-year closure due to contract disputes with vendors. The Park was located at the northern most portion of Goguac Lake, where Bayview Apartments are located today. The Tolley Service to the Lake started in 1888 and an Electric Street Line opened in 1891.

J. L. Foster granted right-of-way to the Trolley Line, through his large Lakeview Farm at that time. Lakeview was sparely populated and very rural at that time.

Liberty Park had a Merry-go-Round, miniature train rides, Ferris Wheel, Rollercoaster, Two Bath Houses, Public Bathing (Swimming) and you could rent wool bathing suits, Water Slide into Goguac Lake, Dance Hall-Pavilion, Occasionally a Trapeze Artist performing from the bottom of a Hot Air Balloon, Roller Skating, Wresting-Boxing Arena with seating for 1,500 (later expanded to 3,000 seats), a Midway with several gaming attractions, Athletic Park, Horseshoe tossing, Boat and Canoe Rental, Steam Paddle Boat rides, Vaudeville Acts, and a Cabaret. There was also a Cottage Rental development located near the Park. The Men’s Athletic Club was located across Columbia where Highland Jr. HS later stood.

The Depression of 1929 began the decline of Liberty Park until it completely closed in 1932 making way for housing development..

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