Walake Drive-In - Michigandriveins.com

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Walake Drive-In Theater
Walled Lake Michigan
Michigan Drive-In Theaters - Michigandriveins.com
Name: Walake Drive-In
Address: 2150 E. West Maple Rd. Walled Lake, MI 48390
County: Oakland
Open Date: 7/20/56
Close Date: 1986
Status: Demolished, homes now on site
Car Capacity: 1,200
Screen Count: 1
Owners: Wisper & Wetsman
Submit: Info On This Drive-In
Notes: n/a
Walake Drive-In

Walake Drive-In Theater
History & Comments

News Article: Death Of A Drive-In - Passion pit succumbs to time, cable TV The fires at the Walake passion pit have burned out. The drive-in has closed for good. Like hundreds of drive-in theaters, the Walake in Commerce Township has succumbed to rising land values, VCRs, cable television and mosquitoes. The Walake opened in the late 1950s, when there were more than 4,000 drive-ins around the country. When it closed, the number of outdoor screens had dropped to fewer than 3,000. The property was sold to developers who may build a shopping center, township officials said. The speakers and projector were removed. Last spring, the screen came down. Tom Price, who worked at the drive-in for almost 30 years, sat across the street that day and watched. "It gave you an eerie feeling." he said. "They just unbolted it, and down it went."

Now the Walake is little more than a vacant lot marked by dusty tracks from long-gone cars. For years, said Price, this was the "Walake passion pit," a dark, protected spot for teen-agers seeking experience and adults seeking seclusion. Price had one rule of business as manager: "I never asked anybody their name," he said. "That way we never got any problems." In the early days, the Walake was a family attraction, drawing long lines for Snow White and Seven Dwarfs, West Side Story and One Hundred and One Dalmations. Parents brought coolers of pop and beer, and children clambered over the carousel and the monkey bars. But alcohol eventually was banned, and the playground was dismantled because of lawsuits. "People would dump their kids up there, and if kids got hurt they'd sue us," Price said.

Price, who now works as a superintendent with the Oakland County Road Commision, saw humanity's darler side after sunset. Cheating the drive-in was, after all, a national pastime. Parents regularly lied about their children's ages to get them in free. One person ran a sound wire underground so he could sit outside the drive-in and hear while he watched. Price always looked for cars that rode low. "All kinds of people - it didn't make a difference what walk of life - they were all in the trunk." he said. Yet they were characters and Price said he will miss them. There was a guy who dressed up like a sea monster and rapped on people's windows during the horror movie. "Boy, that sucker scared some people," Price said. There was the young man who served as a volunteer in the Big Brother program. He'd bring a camper full of kids and set up a telescope in the back row.

And there was the man in his 60s who showed up every Saturday night no matter what movie was showing. "He was the nicest old guy," said Price's wife, Wanda, who often helped out at the drive-in. "I think he just wanted to be out with people." "Then," said Price, "there was the night that two people were in a car naked, and a cow stuck its head through the window. Whoosh! That car tore down the ramp with both of them still naked." In the darkness of the drive-in, people lost their inhibitions - and other things, too. After the show, the lot would be littered with plastic cups, wrist watches, wallets and underwear. In the '80s, Price started finding needles. By then, said Wanda Price, the customers had changed. "years ago, if you catch somebody making out in the car, the girl would get embarrassed and try to cover up," she said. "In the last few years, the girl would tell you, 'Get lost, buster. Come back when we're done'" Now, said her husband, people will have to find safe haven elsewhere. "I have no idea where they'll go," he said. (Detroit News 9/13/87)


Update: The marquee for the Walake Drive-In in Walled Lake stood for several years after the theater was torn down. I remember my school bus going past it every morning (1984-1985) and one morning, we were all shocked to see the marquee was lit up! It never happened again, though, and soon after it was removed.(Garrett Jamieson 1/23/03)

Update: Wanted: photo of the Walake marquee and/or screen tower. Someone in the Walled Lake area has to have photos of this joint! Can any former employees or managers help us preserve the history of the Walake Drive-In? Any photos would be acceptable, regardless of condition. (Michigandriveins.com 11/2/06)

Update: My whole family worked at the Walake Drive-In: Myself, my husband, my father, my In-Laws, my children, my brother. I have some pictures of my children in the projection booth, but nothing else. It was a happy time for all of us. We were terribly sad to see it go. (Waterwinterwonderland.com/Anonymous 8/9/08)


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