One of four remaining
drive-in theaters in Georgia, the Swan offers first-run
movies year round.
651 Summit Street, Blue Ridge
Call - 706-632-5235
For Information - First-run Movies Showing Now -
HISTORY OF THE SWAN DRIVE IN THEATRE
In 1949, Jack Jones, Sr., Bernice Kiker Tilley,
and W.H. Tilley, Jr. (known as "H" Tilley)
purchased the Rialto and Royal
Theatres, Blue Ridge, Georgia,
from Willard and Betty Mowbray. Shortly after the purchase,
Bernice sold her interest to
Jack and "H". The Rialto
Theatre had been built in 1946 and 1947. Shortly after
it was completed, the old Royal Theatre
was closed and movies   were shown
only at the new Rialto. Mr. Mowbray had come to Blue
Ridge in the late twenties or
early thirties and had started   showing
movies in the brick building located on West Main Street
where the fire department
is now located.
Mr. Mowbray showed movies in the building
until he built the Royal Theatre on East Main Street.
This theatre was small and
could only seat around 200 people. As the
area grew, the seating capacity was too small and the
new Rialto was built to seat
500 people. The Rialto was built
on East Main Street in the same block where the old
Royal theatre was located. At the time,
Jack and "H" purchased the theatres,
the Royal had been closed and only the Rialto was in
operation. There was no television
in Blue Ridge at this time and
the movie going crowd was so large they opened the Royal
Theatre again and showed movies
at both places. The price of a ticket was
$.32 for adults and $.15 for children. At the Sunday
matinees, adult tickets were
$.25 and $.10 for children.
In 1955, Jack and
"H" built the Swan Drive In Theatre that is
located on 651 Summit Street, Blue Ridge, Georgia. Building
drive-in was a real challenge. Locating a
piece of property large enough that was suitable for
a drive-in theatre would turn into
a big problem. The first
property purchased for the drive-in was on East First
Street where Blue Ridge Supply and several
other buildings are now located. They would
be forced to build a tall fence on the street side of
this property to keep the car
lights from shining on the screen. They were
advised by engineers that the property was not suitable.
The City of Blue Ridge owned a large area
of property known as the William Cunningham Circle and
they were able to lease
several acres from the City, on which to
build the drive-in theatre.
The property they leased had large gullies,
hills, and valleys that had to be graded. The grading
was much more than had
been expected and several times they almost
gave up. They considered quitting as it was such a large
job. After they started
the grading, they hit slate rock
and dynamite was the only thing that could move it.
The grading was done by Mr. Raleigh
Hembree, a local man that was an expert at
his work who encouraged them to keep on trying. After
the land was graded,
wired for the speakers, paved, the
concession stand and box office built, there was
another LARGE problem.
The screen tower would have to be built on
the ground and then raised in parts. There was not a
crane any nearer than
Atlanta Steel Erectors. Many of the construction
workers and 'lookers-on' held their breath as the job
was completed. The
cost of the crane was $100.00. This
drive in Theatre was the beginning of the real growth
of Blue Ridge. People came
from miles around to see movies on a
THE DRIVE-IN WAS NAMED SWAN
During World War II, Mr. Tilley was stationed
in England part of the time before being sent into The
Omaha Beach Landing
in the Normandy Invasion. While in England,
he admired the Swans swimming in the lakes and ponds.
and peaceful he suggested this name "Swan"
for the new drive-in. Mr. Jones also liked the name
as it was short and would
be easy to use on a neon sign.
This is why the drive-in was named "SWAN".
Mr. Jones served in the Marines before World
War II. During the first part of World War
II, he was stationed in Panama helping build an Air
Force Base. He also helped in
the construction of an Air Force Base in
West Palm Beach, Florida.
Jack Jones, Sr., and W.H. Tilley, Jr., operated these theatres until 1959 when Mr. Tilley sold to Mr. Jones. The Swan Drive-In
is still operating and is one of four Drive-In
theatres left in the state of Georgia. The Old Royal
Theatre is still standing on
East Main Street, Blue Ridge, Georgia, and
has been converted into a Doctors' Office. The Rialto
Theatre was partially burned
in 1963 and has been rebuilt as a retail
Jack Jones, Sr., passed away in 1980. W.H. Tilley is retired and still
resides in the City of Blue Ridge, Georgia.