GOOD TIMES: Former Scottish Drive-in owner Mick Venardos at the old site at Monkland.
GOOD TIMES: Former Scottish Drive-in owner Mick Venardos at the old site at Monkland. Contributed

Those were the days at the Gympie drive-in

A SAD shell of a screen, an overgrown paddock and an abandoned kiosk are the only reminders that one of Gympie's entertainment meccas once existed at Monkland.

If you were on the same sloping paddock on Noosa Rd five decades ago you would have been at the Scottish Drive-In Theatre where, on any night of the week cars loaded with eager faces lined up to watch the latest releases beamed from the 45-foot long screen at $2 a pop.

Jaws, Grease, Star Wars, The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Titanic all screened at Gympie's drive-in, but the movies were not the only thing that attracted people.

Mick Venardos, former Gympie mayor, who opened the drive-in 1968, and ran it with wife Tina before making his mark in local politics, said the drive-in was well-loved for many reasons.

"It was a tremendous form of community social interaction because the people who came out to the drive-in came out as families," Mr Venardos said.

"It was a social event- we didn't have the advancement of the TV, beer gardens or other forms of entertainment."

The scene was vibrant and carefree, Mr Venardos said.

 

Young people backed their station wagons up to the screen, setting up deck chairs and eskies brimming with BYO soft drinks, children (who cost 20c to admit) ran barefoot on the grass and the kiosk was the hub of made-from-scratch meals and gidday catch-ups.

Mrs Venardos ran the kitchen, serving well-remembered doughnuts, burgers and toasted sandwiches in high turnover - peeling at least 1000 pounds of potatoes to make the hot chips for the Saturday night sessions, he said.

Movies played every night of the year, despite fog or flood, Mr Venardos said.

"If people were brave enough to venture out we put it on."

The screen, which stood atop the hill near the road, was built from 40 pounds of railway line from the Gympie Railway Station.

It stood 45 foot long, 30 foot high and projected 250 foot.

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Mr Venardos remembers the volume of patronage - up to 308 cars could tune in to the 308 speakers, he said.

But he said no matter how full the drive-in got, the theatre on the hill maintained its family-friendly small town atmosphere.

Mr Venardos said in the decade his family ran the business "there was not one skerrick of real trouble."

"The patrons that attended were loyal and most respectful of each other and people's property," he said.

He said he and Tina aimed to foster goodwill, which they did in big ways by running biannual charity nights, and in small ways by letting the extra children of big families in for free with a wink.

"The young people who didn't have motor cars or were down on their luck used to cut the fences to get in," Mr Venardos said.

"But we used to say to them, 'If you're broke- come and talk to us' and we can see how we can help'.

"We wanted to make sure we gave back to the community like they gave to us."

The drive-in changed hands several times before it finally folded in the 1990s, it is believed, loosely around the time Gympie got its first twin cinema in Nash St.

Despite its much-loved presence in Gympie, time and technology took it away, and secured its place on the list of Gympie memorable greats.

Gympie Times


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