Tag Archives: South Georgia Drive-Ins

Johnnie’s Drive In, 1945, Fitzgerald

Johnnies Drive In Parking Lot Fitzgerald GA Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

Upon learning that Johnnie’s Drive In would soon be a memory, I immediately felt the need to take my camera and record some of the energy that makes this place so special. It’s important to many people for many reasons. It’s an anchor of my memory, where I’ve spent many evenings with dear friends who worked and socialized here, and where I’ve always felt at home. But it represents more than sentiment. It’s among the last generation of roadside diners and beer joints that rose to popularity during World War II where kids hung out beside juke boxes and car hops came to you and took your order. The car hops at Johnnie’s were gone by the late 1990s but I remember them well. Many thanks to Phillip Joe Luke for sharing this wonderful history. His words are in italics.

Johnnies Drive In Restaurant Fitzgerald GA Landmark Denise Picking Up an Order Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

Johnnie Rochester Wise and Ollie Mae Roberts Luke Wise (Archival Images Courtesy of Phillip Joe Luke, unless otherwise noted). Johnnie and his family moved to Fitzgerald from Columbus in late 1930s.

Johnnie Wise Ollie May Roberts Luke Founders of Johnnies Drive In Photo Courtesy Phillip Joe Luke

The first family restaurant was in the 800 block of North Grant Street and it was called The Silver Moon. (It was opened by Johnnie’s father, John Franklin Wise).  About 1943 or so they opened Johnnie’s Drive In. The Johnnie scrambled hamburger  (better known as the Johnnie Burger) was his creation. The scrambled dog idea came from the Dinglewood Pharmacy in his native home of Columbus (it has a slightly different recipe).

Silver Moon business card from my collection.

Johnnies Drive In Before it was Johnnies The Silver Moon Grant Street Fitzgerald GA Late 1930s Collection of Brian Brown For Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

On the same lot of Johnnie’s Drive In was the old motel and the Princess Club. The Princess Club burned down many years ago and the remains of the motel are still there.

Abandoned Motel Beside Johnnies Drive In Fitzgerald GA Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

The name of the motel has been long forgotten.

Abandoned Motel Beside Johnnies Drive In Interior Fitzgerald GA Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

Here’s an image of Johnnie’s, in the early 1950s.

Johnnies Drive In Early 1950s Fitzgerald GA Archival Photograph Courtesy Phillip Joe Luke Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

Beer was served, along with fried shrimp and fried oysters on the short order menu. The Scramble (not Scrambled, as many call it today) Dog and the Dog Cicle were popular items from the start, but the Dog Cicle, akin to a corn dog, has been gone for many years.

Johnnie died in 1969 and my grandmother carried on the tradition for many years. All of my family members dedicated their lives to Johnnie’s until their health failed and could no longer operate the restaurant. Uncle Coot managed during the day, Uncle Carl at night.

Russel Cooter Luke Johnnie Wise Johnnies Drive In Fitzgerald GA 1950s Photograph Courtesy Phillip Joe Luke Vanishing South Georgia 2015

Russell (Coot) Luke, Jr., with Johnnie Wise (right).

Carl Luke at Johnnies Drive Photograph Courtesy Phillip Joe Luke Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

Carl Luke manning the register at Johnnies.

Uncle Flop scrubbed that exhaust hood every Monday until it sparkled. Aunt Betty worked there off and on through the years. Even my mother served as a carhop while I was inside in a play pen. Many of you will remember Mary McElroy as one of the finest cooks in the history of Johnnie’s. Mary left us way too soon. We are so thankful that Jimmy and Carolyn Puckett came along to manage the restaurant in the mid 1980s. Restaurant management is not an easy task and Carolyn succeeded and made it look easy. Thank you so much. And thanks to all of the faithful customers for 70+ years of business in Fitzgerald. We couldn’t have done it without you.

Johnnies Drive In Fitzgerald GA Carolyn Chambers Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

Carolyn Chambers has managed Johnnie’s for over 25 years and kept this landmark alive. Customers think of her as family and Johnnie’s a home away from home.

Johnnies Drive In Fitzgerald GA Landmark Estelle Stapleton Cooking Breakfast Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

Carolyn’s sister, Estelle Stapleton, has been cooking here for years. People love her as much as they love her food.

Johnnies Drive In Fitzgerald GA Landmark Ruby Chambers Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

Ruby Chambers, Carolyn’s sister-in-law, usually knows your order when you walk in the door. Love this lady!

Johnnies Drive In Fitzgerald GA Landmark Restaurant Carolyn Chambers Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

Denise Jordan helping Carolyn. I’ve known Denise all my life, too.

I want to thank Carolyn for giving me access for these photographs. I know she doesn’t really like to have her picture taken so it means a lot. I love all of you at Johnnie’s, past and present.

Johnnies Drive In Fitzgerald GA Landmark Soon to Close Patrons Having Breakfast Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

Johnnies Drive In Fitzgerald GA Homemade Breakfast Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

Johnnies Drive In Fitzgerald GA Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

Johnnies Drive In in 2012 Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

Johnnies Drive In Fitzgerald GA Dr Pepper Sign Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

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Filed under --BEN HILL COUNTY GA--, Fitzgerald GA

Jesup Drive-In, Valentine’s Day

Jesup Drive In Theatre Valentines Day Date Night Crowd Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

Valentine’s dates were bumper to bumper at Jesup Drive-In tonight. It’s one of the few places in Georgia where you could experience a tradition like this, and it’s the oldest drive-in in the state.

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Filed under --WAYNE COUNTY GA--, Jesup GA

Jesup Drive-In Theater, 1948

jesup drive in theatre photograph copyright brian brown vanishing south georgia usa 2014

Opened in 1948 by Ward Riggins, Sr., as the Family Drive-In, the Jesup Drive-In Theater is the oldest and one of just four remaining in the state of Georgia. It was briefly closed in the 1960s, reopened as the Jesup Twin Drive-In and has been going strong ever since. Today it’s owned by Ralph and Jamie Hickox, who have really improved it while keeping its nostalgic feel. It’s a real treasure for Southeast Georgia.

jesup drive in theatre theater movie wayne county ga marquee at night photograph copyright brian brown vanishing south georgia usa 2014

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Filed under --WAYNE COUNTY GA--, Jesup GA

Cordele Drive-In, 1960s, Crisp County

Cordele Drive-In Marquee Crisp County GA Abandoned Overgrown 1960s Picture Image Photograph Copyright © Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2013

Long abandoned, the Cordele Drive-In was once operated by R. T. Moody and was constructed in the mid-1960s. According to Fred Gleaton, another drive-in, which closed around 1960, was located south of town and later became the fairgrounds.

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Filed under --CRISP COUNTY GA--

56 Drive-In Theatre, 1952, Swainsboro

swainsboro ga 56 drive in theatre marquee photograph copyright brian brown vanishing south georgia usa 2010

This drive-in theatre on Highway 56 just outside Swainsboro was opened in 1952 by Tommy Bellamy, Sr. It operated until the 1970s when drive-ins all over the country were closing. Mr. Bellamy’s sons revived the theatre briefly in the late 1980s, but it didn’t stay open for long. This marquee stands as a reminder to a place full of memories for many local folk.

swainsboro ga 56 drive in ticket booth photograph copyright brian brown vanishing south georgia usa 2010

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Filed under --EMANUEL COUNTY GA--, Swainsboro GA

Shady Lane Drive-Inn, 1966, Tifton

“Bing” Hedge opened Shady Lane in 1966. Mark Redlinger purchased the business in 1971 and continues to operate it today. Many locals swear they have the best chili dogs to be found anywhere.

 

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Filed under --TIFT COUNTY GA--, Tifton GA