Sherryl Major, daughter
of Bill and Louise Wilson who opened the Tiger Drive In Theatre April 1954, treasures her childhood memories (and her 1957
When the Theater re-opened in 2004 this is how Sherryl described her memories of the Tiger
“On the first of April, 1954… “is the beginning of the Ballad of Thunder
Road, a hit movie of the 1950’s, because of its plot of running “moonshine” in the mountains which was North
Georgia’s main industry at the time. It was also the date of another important event in Rabun County, GA. That was the
day of the Grand Opening of the “Tiger Drive In,” in Tiger GA. on the land my Great Grandfather, Jesse Shirley,
had won in a poker game from the Indians in 1816.
The proud new owners of the Drive In were cousin Larry (Satch)
McClure, uncle Clyde Cannon and Bill Wilson, my daddy. This was a time when the popularity of Drive In movies began to rise,
which provided family entertainment for years. In time, Bill Wilson bought the other two owners’s shares of the Drive
In, and that is where I learned to cook…popcorn, hot dogs and pizzas…365 days a year.
Then came daylight
savings time, which meant movie time started almost at 10:00 at night. In many small communities, drive in owners protested
loud and clear. Many of their clientele had shift jobs and the 11:00-7:00 shift workers couldn’t see the ending of the
While drive ins were still able to attract many customers, the movie companies became greedy and
began to take up to 95% of the proceeds. At the same time, video rentals became the rage, and the death of the drive ins were
at epidemic levels.
In the mid 1980’s my Dad closed the Tiger Drive In. It was a sad time, but we knew the
interest level was decreasing, and he was at an age that he felt this was the best decision. The excitement of watching movies
from your car had run its course. About two years ago I read of several drive ins reopening, since the new generation had
never experienced going to a ”Drive In” and older generations missed the some of the best times of their youth.
Home Video rentals had filled the place of going to a movie but the “experience” of a family outing is just not
I SEARCHED THE INTERNET UNDER DRIVE IN THEATER, AND THE TIGER DRIVE IN WAS LISTED AS “DEAD.” THAT
MADE ME CRY……
I often returned to the vacant property, once the heart beat of Tiger, where people
met for entertainment,family outings, and where relationships began and ended. Although it seemed so empty, it was filled
with so many memories from the past.
Recently someone approached me to buy the terraced land that has been vacant
for almost twenty years, to build a cemetery. How could a place, once so full of life be used to bury the dead??? It was almost
Without hesitation, I knew the time had come to reopen the “Tiger Drive In.” It was
exactly 50 years ago that it had opened originally, and 100th year birthday of Tiger. Sadly, none of the original owners are
still with us to enjoy the opening day this April, but their heritage will always be remembered as their inspiration and unique
personalities will live forever.
This time the “Tiger Drive In” will not only be used to show the
latest movies, but will have Saturday “Drive In” Flea Markets, Vegetable Markets, Sunday afternoon antique Car
Shows, and Art Festivals etc.. Any organizations and charities may participate for sponsorships, with a percentage of the
proceeds going to their cause.
Now my children and grandchildren will see what my life was like back in the good
old days….which was really great. As we hurry to reopen on April, 2004, our temporary marquee now reads:
REOPENING, APRIL. 2004
50 YEARS LATER
Now that really makes me cry…."