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Free Citizen

This writer espouses individual liberty, free markets, and limited government.

Location: Jackson, Mississippi, United States

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Iuka Drive-In Theatre

This piece by Jebb Johnston of the Daily Corinthian ran in The Clarion-Ledger on October 20, 2003.


The screen is backed by a curtain of evergreens, and the ceiling is awash with stars. On an autumn evening, a mostly teenage crowd motors into the open-air auditorium that is the Iuka [eye-you-kuh] Drive-In Theatre, a relic of another era that lives on in spite of mulitplexes and stadium seating.

Movie start times here aren't carved in stone. The projectionist waits for just the right moment when the day gives way to night.

As a vampires-vs.-werewolves shocker plays, Mars rises in the sky above the screen.

"We used to advertise dusk," said Earl Curtis, who has run the drive-in for the past 14 years. "People don't understand what dusk is, so I started putting times."

The old speaker poles, no longer needed to hold speakers, function as rough parking guides.

About five years ago, the drive-in began broadcasting the movie soundtracks by FM-radio signal. It provides better sound for the audience and means less hassle for the staff.

"It was getting to be where people were taking (the speakers) for nostalgia," Curtis said. For years, people would say, 'We've got to go to the drive-in, because it probably won't be there next year.' They wanted to take a piece of it."

That nostalgia is likely the major appeal of the drive-in experience, which is hard to come by these days.

In Mississippi, drive-ins continue to operate at Guntown and Hattiesburg, and Curtis said one reopened in Amory last year. Some sources still list Pontotoc's as active, while others say it has gone dark.

"There are four drive-ins that I know of, and for a long time, it was just us," Curtis said.[1]

He said the drive-in is a great bargain for families and offers people conveniences such as smoking and a little more freedom with the kids' behavior.

For Curtis, drive-in management has been a family business.

The Iuka Drive-In, which went dark for about eight years at one point, was in his family in the 1970s. He also runs the Pink Cadillac Drive-In in Centerville, Tennessee.

Local residents will recall other screens that went dark through the years. Booneville had the Scenic on Mississippi 145, and Belmont had the Starlite. There was the Corinth Drive-In across the state line in Guys, Tennessee, and Corinth's Skylark, which closed and was removed from U. S. 72 in 1986.

"We ran on through most of June '86," said Alan Simmons, who managed the Skylark, which had a house under the screen tower, from 1982 until the closing.

Eventually, cable TV and VCRs cut into business.

The Iuka Drive-In shows movies on Friday, Saturday and Monday, which is family night. During the last five years, business has picked up, growing by as much as 10 percent to 20 percent this year, Curtis said.

The industry has started to see its fortunes improving, with 40 drive-ins reopening and 20 new ones built since 1990.

Fast Facts: (1) The number of drive-ins peaked in 1958, when there were 4,063 across America; (2) that was also the peak year for Mississippi, when there were 69 across the state, and is also the year the Iuka Drive-In is believed to have opened; and (3) some 384 drive-ins remained in the U. S. at the end of 2008.


[1] The Iuka and Guntown drive-ins are now the only two left in the Magnolia State. Iuka is located in Tishomingo County, in the northeast corner of the state. Guntown is about 15 miles north of Tupelo in Lee County, which is also in northeast Mississippi. Three good Web sites on drive-ins are Drive-Ins.com, DriveInMovie.com, and DriveInTheater.com.

Here's a good article on the history of drive-ins, with some great comments.

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Beverly Drive-In

This Associated Press article appeared in The Clarion-Ledger on Sunday, May 6, 2001. The Beverly has since closed again.


HATTIESBURG-- The landmark - and long-closed - Beverly Drive-In in Hattiesburg [Mississippi] will reopen Friday after 15 years of gathering dust.

Jim Norton and Barbara Suick, owners of seven drive-in theaters in Florida and Wisconsin, will make the Beverly their eighth theater. The couple operates N&S Theater Drive-Ins. The Beverly... according to experts... will be among 600 of the businesses still operating in the country.

Jackson resident Lillian Loggans said she's driving to Hattiesburg [some 90 miles south of Jackson] when the Beverly opens.

"I remember the first time I ever went to the Beverly," Loggans said. "It was the year it opened and a group of us went in a hearse. I can remember that to this day. I also remember seeing Gone With the Wind there for the first time and Singin' in the Rain."

Suick said she plans showing first-run pictures. The theater will be open seven days a week.

The Beverly's reopening is part of a small trend that many see as a backlash to today's complex culture, said Jennifer Sherer, founder of Drive-On-In Inc., a business dedicated to preserving the drive-in movie.

In the 1990s, 17 new drive-ins were built and 49 were reburbished and reopened, she said.

"The drive-in represents a simpler time," said Rhonda Coulter of Hattiesburg. Coulter, 43, remembers playing Goofy Golf at the theater when she was in high school. "It was fun to me. It may not be as much fun to youths today as it was to us. We didn't have as many things to do then as they do now."

Neighbors welcome the return of the drive-in.

Wallace Bolton, of Hattiesburg, remembers when he used to pass by the drive-in, wishing he had the money to go inside. He plans to take his five children.

"It seems a little too good to be true," Bolton said. "I can let them see how it is and tell them how it used to be."

Bolton, 39, lives in Palmers Crossing, near the theater on U. S. 49 South.

The drive-in will have 500 spaces for viewers to park and view two big screens, one 100 feet by 75 feet and another 80 feet by 40 feet.

The technology has changed. Instead of parking by speakers, moviegoers will have to tune their radios to a low power radio transmitter.

At the Beverly, repairs have been made to its roof, a new wastewater system has been installed, and walls have been painted.

Suzette Hargroder, of Hattiesburg, the daughter of the theater's first owners, lives inside a house built into the theater [screen]. She is leasing the facility to Norton and Suick.

"It's real exciting to see it light up again," Hargroder said. "It has such a historical perspective and is a landmark that's been closed and is coming back again."

Herby and Sue Hargroder, Suzette's parents, opened the drive-in May 29, 1948. The first movie shown there was Swell Guy, and admission was 39 cents a person. The drive-in operated for 31 years without interruption, until it was hit by Hurricane Frederic in 1979. It closed in 1987 after Herby Hargroder's death.

In the interim, Suzette Hargroder leased the theater for private events.

"We're trying to keep as much of the atmosphere as there was originally," Suick said. "There are funky colors, a lot of signage that will remain the same and a cafeteria-style concession. It's going to be real cool and a lot of fun."


There are now only two drive-in theaters left in Mississippi. One is located in Guntown, some 15 miles north of Tupelo; this is in Lee County in northeast Mississippi. The other one is in Iuka, which is in the northeast corner of the state, in Tishomingo County. Three good Web sites on drive-in theaters are Drive-ins.com, DriveinMovie.com, and DriveinTheater.com.

This interesting article on the history of drive-ins says that there were 384 of them left in the U. S. at the end of 2008.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Graham Slams GOP Open Primary Lawsuit

Click here for the 19-page PDF of the complaint in the suit.


Republican U. S. senator Lindsey Graham has criticized the Greenville County Republican Party's lawsuit against South Carolina's mandated open primaries. State law requires a party holding a primary to let any registered voter participate in that primary.

"The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court by attorney and GOP chair Samuel Harms, seeks to block Democrats from voting in Republican primary elections."

If the state law is ultimately found to be unconstitutional, each of the state's parties will be able to determine which voters are eligible to participate in its primaries.

"Graham spokesman Kevin Bishop said the senator was surprised to hear the county party wants 'an un-elected federal judge to legislate from the bench.'

"'As a conservative, he believes this is an issue that should be decided by our elected state Legislature and governor,' Bishop said."

Graham, in jumping onto the popular side of this issue, sounds like his good friend, Senator John McCain, who strongly favors open primaries. As a lawyer, however, Graham surely must know that the courts have issued numerous decisions on state election laws. The U. S. Supreme Court has not yet heard a case challenging an open primary law, but when it does, the high court may well hand down a landmark ruling.

"If the lawsuit succeeds, state election law would have to be changed to require South Carolinians to disclose their party affiliation when registering to vote, Harms said."

That would certainly be likely, as party registration is the most practical way of identifying voters' party preferences. But it's not the only way.

Only one court has ever ordered a state to register voters by party, and that ruling was dismissed on appeal.[1] The courts' proper role is to decide the constitutionality of laws, and it's up to each state as to whether party registration is enacted.


[1] Mississippi Democratic Party v. Barbour (2008)

Hawaii Republicans Oppose Open Primary

On March 21, the Hawaii County Republican Convention passed a resolution for a semi-closed primary system, in which independents would be the only non-Republicans invited to participate. The resolution also asks the state Republican Party, which will convene on May 15-17, to instruct the GOP state executive committee to (1) adopt a rule for a semi-closed primary, and (2) file suit against Hawaii's state-mandated open primary, which requires any party holding a primary to let any registered voter participate.

The state constitution was amended in 1978 to provide for the open primary system. Hawaii is now one of eight states with "open primary, private choice," in which each primary voter picks a party in the secrecy of the voting booth.[1]

"Any shift to a [semi]-closed primary system would require party-preference voter registration."

While party registration is certainly the most practical way of identifying voters' party preferences, it's not the only way.

"Hawaii Democrats--under pressure from [U. S.] Sen. [Daniel] Inouye and the AFL-CIO--in January, 2008 abandoned their 2006 convention decision to seek a [semi]-closed primary system."

This action was taken by the state Democratic Executive Committee.

It should be noted that Hawaii County is far less populous than the county which includes Oahu Island.


[1] The other "open primary, private choice" states are Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Vermont. Mississippi is one of the 13 states with "open primary, public declaration," in which each primary voter publicly selects a party's ballot.

Monday, April 20, 2009

What Would Jefferson Think...

... about the explosion of government debt during the BushObama regime(s)? Here's what:

"We must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt. We must make our election between economy and liberty or profusion and servitude. If we run into such debt, as that we must be taxed in our meat and in our drink, in our necessaries and our comforts, in our labors and our amusements, for our calling and our creeds . . . [we will] have no time to think, no means of calling our mis-managers to account to rivet their chains on the necks of our fellow-sufferers . . . . And this is the tendency of all human governments. A departure from principle in one instance becomes a precedent for [another] till the bulk of society is reduced to be mere automotons of misery . . . . And the fore-horse of this frightful team is public debt. Taxation follows that, and in its train wretchedness and oppression."

--July 12, 1816 letter from Thomas Jefferson to Samuel Kercheval

(From the Lew Rockwell blog)

South Carolina GOP Sues to Close Primaries to Dems

UPDATE: Ballot Access News reports that the case is named Harms v. Hudgens, 6:09-1022-HFF. The judge is Henry Floyd, who was appointed by George W. Bush. Click here for the 19-page PDF of the complaint.


For several years, there has been a movement among South Carolina Republicans against their state-mandated open primary, which forces them to let Democrats and other non-Republicans vote in GOP primaries. The Greenville County Republican Party on April 16 brought suit against the state election law in federal district court.

"A lawsuit [Republican county chairman Samuel] Harms filed in U.S. District Court in Greenville claims the South Carolina State Election Commission is violating his constitutional rights to free association and equal protection under the law.

"In the [2007] ruling, [the 4th U. S. Circuit Court of Appeals] held that Virginia’s open-primary law wasn’t unconstitutional on its face because it allowed political parties to pick candidates in ways other than by a state-funded, open primary.

"That’s true, too, about South Carolina’s law, which allows political parties to nominate candidates by convention or open primary.

"Under South Carolina’s law, however, political parties can’t nominate candidates by convention unless three-fourths of the people at the convention vote to do that, according to Harms’ lawsuit."

In Virginia, incumbents decide whether they will be renominated by primary or some other method. The 4th Circuit said that, when an incumbent forces the party to hold a primary, the party, not the state, decides which voters are eligible to participate in that primary (Miller v. Cunningham).

It's my understanding that, for offices other than president, neither of South Carolina's two major parties has nominated by convention in years.

As in South Carolina, a local unit of the Virginia Republican Party filed the suit there. This insulates the state party against the expected anger and criticism (interestingly, 14 of the first 15 comments on the above-linked piece are negative to the lawsuit).

South Carolina is also part of the 4th Circuit.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Susan Boyle

In case you haven't seen this YouTube video clip yet... you'll never spend a more inspiring five minutes and 49 seconds.


by Jill Lawless | Associated Press writer

A middle-aged volunteer church worker with the voice of an angel is Britain's latest unlikely showbiz star.

Susan Boyle, 47, wowed judges and audience alike when she performed on the television contest "Britain's Got Talent."

By Thursday, a video clip of Boyle's performance on Internet site YouTube has been watched more than 11.7 million times.

The unemployed Scot who said she'd "never been kissed" drew titters when she told the judges her ambition was to be a professional singer.

But her soaring rendition of "I Dreamed a Dream" from the musical "Les Miserables" astonished the show's hard-to-please judges.

They were captivated by the singer from Blackburn in western Scotland. Usually acerbic judge Simon Cowell dubbed her singing "extraordinary." Fellow judge Piers Morgan said her "stunning" performance was... Read more>>>>

Friday, April 17, 2009

Democrats Fail to Keep Mayoral Candidate Off The Ballot

Ballot Access News is reporting that U. S. district Judge Allen Pepper has blocked the Democratic Party in its effort to keep James Lowe off the Democratic primary ballot for mayor of the Washington County city of Leland. The Democrats' motivation is that Lowe had recently been a member of the Republican Municipal Executive Committee.

Pepper said that there is no basis in either state law or Democratic Party rules to deny Lowe a place on the May 5 primary ballot. The Democrats had adopted a rule that anyone who had served on another party's municipal executive committee could not run as a Democrat, but they did not do so until after Lowe had filed for mayor.

It remains to be seen whether the Democrats will appeal to the 5th U. S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.

Pepper is the same judge who, in June 2007, ruled that Mississippi's primary election law[1] is unconstitutional. He went further and also ordered party registration and voter ID. In May 2008, however, the 5th Circuit dismissed the case on the ground that the Democratic Party had not adopted a bylaw prohibiting non-members from voting in Democratic primaries. Mississippi Democratic Party v. Barbour

Here are Judge Pepper's judgment and his opinion. Thanks to Rick Hasen for the links.

Mississippi could, of course, avoid situations like the one in Leland by changing to the system now used by the big majority of U. S. municipalities: nonpartisan elections ("open primaries"), in which there are no party primaries, and all candidates run in the same election.

Leland is the former home of Jim Henson and is the birthplace of Kermit the Frog ("It's not easy being green!").


[1] The state law mandates that any party holding a primary must permit any registered voter to participate in that primary.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Government and Health Care

"Some politicians say that the government can 'bring down the costs' of... health care in general. But they won't bring down the costs by one cent. What they can do is impose price controls -- and price controls have a centuries-long track record of creating worse problems than they solve."


by Thomas Sowell | June 17, 2003

In the midst of a bipartisan stampede toward "prescription drug benefits for the elderly," someone needs to ask the question: Why should seniors be singled out to be subsidized by the taxpayers, except that their votes are being sought by both parties?

We have all heard the terrible stories about people stricken with diseases requiring costly medications that they cannot afford. If we wish to do something to help such people, fine. But let's help them based on the predicament that they are in, whether they are nineteen or ninety.

Health problems are of course more common among the elderly. But if you know it and I know it, so do others -- including insurance companies, who are in the business of selling protection against all sorts of risks. Again, if there are people who cannot afford insurance and we want to help them, then the criterion should be their economic condition, not their age.

The most affluent segment of the American population has consistently been those from middle age on up. Even if people of above-average income and wealth were unable to afford to pay for health insurance or prescription drugs, how could others afford to pay their bills for them?

Arithmetic cannot be evaded by political rhetoric. We do not have any more money collectively than the sum of what we have individually. Even if it were true that we could not afford the kind of medical care... Read more>>>>

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Latest on Voter ID

Here's a six-page PDF showing the current status of voter ID in various states, including Mississippi.

There are links featured in the coverage of each state. The Mississippi section, for example, has five links.

From the Commercial Appeal article: "... [Senator Merle] Flowers [R-Southaven] said supporters plan a campaign to place the matter before the voters in a ballot initiative. Before a vote could be held, supporters would have to collect signatures from 12 percent of voters who voted in the last gubernatorial election, about 99,000 names."

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Illinois "Open Primary, Private Choice" Bill Defeated

The Illinois Senate, which is controlled by the Democrats, has defeated,[1] 37-17, the bill for "open primary, private choice." Illinois, like Mississippi, is now one of the 13 states with "open primary, public record," in which the voter's choice of party on primary day is publicly recorded. Eight states, on the other hand, now have "open primary, private choice," in which the primary voter picks a party in the secrecy of the voting booth.

"Critics have long argued that Illinois’ [current] primary system is used by party leaders to intimidate public employees, since anyone can look up the record and see if an employee of a Democratic elected official has pulled a Republican ballot, or vice versa."

The above-linked blog post also says that many Illinois journalists skip voting in party primaries, since they don't want the politicians whom they cover to be able to discover their party preferences.

Sometimes a voter who is able to choose either party's primary ballot makes this selection based on the fact that all or most of the contests are in one party's primary. There are other reasons, besides party loyalty, why a voter might pick a certain party's primary (I, for example, have voted in many Democratic primaries, but I've definitely never been a Democrat).

In 42 states and the District of Columbia, it's possible to find out any voter's party preference. The purpose of party primaries, of course, is to nominate the parties' candidates, so what's the big deal about the parties knowing which voters participate in their candidate-selection process?

States started in the early 1900s requiring parties to hold primaries. Prior to that, the parties in almost all states nominated by convention, and grassroots citizens could only vote directly in the general election. Keeping primary voters' identities secret is a lot like having convention delegates wear disguises (personally, I would go for either a Zorro or a Batman costume).

Furthermore, the secret (or Australian) ballot was not used in the United States until the late 1800s. In 1880, Louisville, Kentucky, became the first place in the U. S. to have the secret ballot.


[1] Mine is the second comment on this blog post.