NATURITA – It once stood as the gem of the community, a place where families and friends could gather for an evening of entertainment and fun. Now, the Town of Naturita hopes to restore the original Uranium Drive-In sign and mount it at its original location as a monument to the region’s past boom-days of uranium mining and milling.
Backed by the Naturita Board of Trustees, a fundraising campaign is underway to raise the $10,000 needed to restore and remount the sign. The board’s decision to revive the historic sign is based on its belief that the sign is a large part of Naturita’s history, and would bring back memories of a simpler time – when John Wayne ruled the screen, pre-movie cartoons were always a hit and sneaking into the Drive-In in the trunk of a car wasn’t uncommon.
“I think it brings back the days of our mining and milling boom,” Naturita Mayor Tami Lowrance says. “We have been in a long 40-year bust, and it has been something of a dream to bring the sign back. Back in the 50s it was a great place to go and get in touch with people and have a good time with one another.”
Growing up in Naturita, Lowrance says she has fond memories of the Drive-In.
“When I was very little, it was one of the places that my mother would allow me to have a pop,” she says. “It was nice to go to the concession and have candy bars and then watch cartoons. It was one of the only times, besides Saturday morning, we could watch cartoons. As a teen, it was a place where we could get outside and hang out. After I got married, it was a nice place to go and have a nice evening and enjoy a movie.”
“Everybody has some kind of memory of the Drive-In,” Town Clerk Debbie Lear says. “Back then, there were a lot of things to do, but dollar night at the Drive-In was a big one. You would pay a buck for a whole carload – it was something that my parents could afford. All the children could sit in the back of the pick-up and watch the movie together. It was affordable, and a great family thing to do.”
Of course, teens will be teens and both Lear and Lowrance said they may have snuck in at least once in the trunk of someone’s car.
“I may have snuck in as a teenager,” Lear says, “I think everyone did it at least once. I owe somebody a buck.”
The Uranium Drive-In was opened in 1950 by Bill Moore with funding assistance from Union-Carbide, and remained open until 1984, when many of the area’s uranium mines closed down. Both Lear and Lowrance agree that the most memorable film to screen at the Drive-In was North to Alaska, starring John Wayne.
“I guess there were cars lined up clear to the grocery store in the middle of town,” Lowrance says. “It was completely packed.”
The Uranium Drive-In sign was purchased and installed in 1952, and stood at its original location until 2001, when it was relocated for a few years at the intersection of DD Road and Hwy. 97.
In 2007, the board approved purchasing the sign; it is now working to raise the funds needed to resurrect the sign at its original location. As of Tuesday, the town had received just over $4,000; it has set a May 18 deadline for the $10,000 goal. Once the campaign is over, the funds raised will go directly to the project, and the town will hire local contractors to refurbish and remount the sign. Hopefully, the work will be completed by June 1, followed by an unveiling and barbecue for the community.
Donations can be made at indiegogo.com/Uranium-Drive-In-Sign-Restoration or by check payable to: Uranium Drive-In Sign Restoration, c/o Debbie Lear, Naturita Town Hall, P.O. Box 505, Naturita, CO. 81422.
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