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Iconic Drive-In sign comes down

 

By Heather Walters

Drive-In silhouette stands no more.

Drive-In silhouette stands no more.

 

The decision that tore down a beloved Walterboro landmark came down from a local judicial ruling, but many are still in shock that such a significant piece of the city’s property was removed.

The old drive-in silhouette sign, which was created in the 1940’s from a silhouette by Colleton County artist Carew Rice, was removed last week by a demolition crew. The removal was ordered on May 8th by a city judge after the sign’s owner – Keith Kinard – had not refurbished the damaged sign. Kinard has been ill, yet he did attend two of the city’s three court hearings on the matter. According to city officials, the May 8th hearing was the third and final hearing held on the condition of the property. Kinard could not attend the final hearing. “The situation sat idle for two years. It was unsafe and dilapidated, and was deemed unsafe for the public,” said city official David Dodd. “The owner chose to remove it rather than have it repaired,” he said.

According to Kinard, the city told him he had to either tear it down or a lien would be placed on his property.

“We certainly didn’t want to do it, but it did look bad,” said Kinard, who added that there was not any public uproar over the sign’s removal during the entire process. “I would loved to have seen it saved,” he said.  “The city wanted it down.”                                                                drive-in 3 web

An effort to save the beloved landmark began three years ago in an ad-hoc effort led by local artist Tex Roberts.

According to Roberts, he had more than 25 people actively involved in trying to save the landmark sign. He also had monetary pledges from residents and businesses that would have easily raised the $60,000 he estimated that it would take to properly repair and refurbish the sign. Roberts had been in close contact with property owner Kinard, who Roberts says pledged to donate the sign and the tract of property that it sat on. The plan between Kinard and Roberts was to turn the land around the sign into a public park, with the to-be-restored sign as the park’s centerpiece. That plan fell to the ground last week when the badly-torn sign was abruptly destroyed and removed.

“I was just as shocked as everyone else,” said Roberts. “Completely, and utterly shocked. And sad. I had no idea this was going to happen.” According to Roberts, he and Kinard had been in communication for the last three years. Then, communication abruptly stopped and he could no longer reach the family. “Then, I received a call that the sign was coming down. And I was stunned,” he said.  “I have talked to many citizens in Walterboro and Colleton County over the past couple of years about trying to save this ‘Lowcountry Landmark,’” Roberts said. “This screen has both been used, and greatly appreciated, by a large number of people over the years, and has been a landmark to help tourists relate to where they were during their journeys going north and south.”

Rice, the famed local artist, cut out the original design, which was later painted in the original landscape scene by Colleton County painter Foch Headden. It is unclear what has happened to the pieces of the torn down silhouette sign.

Roberts also said that the close proximity of former radio station WALD also enhanced times at the theater. “The old drive-in was so close to the former WALD radio station, which was on Benson Street at the time. They had a small building constructed at the drive-in where people could request songs. Bill Breland was a disc jockey, and named on-air the people who had requested the songs he played … the classic cars were there. It’s just an iconic memory that most of us have of the city from a different time,” said Roberts.

Heather Walters (1738 Posts)