Joy Drive-In Theatre
Minden, LA

The Joy Drive-In Theatre on Shreveport Rd. in Minden, LA - c.1952
Photo courtesy Peggy Cheshire Baldwin
and the Dorcheat Museum

The Joy Drive-In Theatre in Minden, LA was located on the right of Shreveport Road (U.S. 80) as you head East into Minden after Dixie Inn, Dorcheat Bayou and Roosevelt park.  It abutted the Oak Ridge subdivision.  It was built, owned and operated by Ruth (Cheshire) Lowe and her brother William Cobb around 1951 on property leased from (old maid) Mary Babb.

The Joy Theatre on Pearl St. in Minden - c.1951
Photo courtesy Peggy Cheshire Baldwin and Minden Memories

Edgar Hand originally owned the Rex Theater located on Pearl Street in Minden and Ruth Cheshire got her start in the theater business after William Cobb partnered with Joy Houck and bought it in the early '40s.  Houck owned Joy Theaters, Inc. based in New Orleans which owned theaters across the south.  The Rex became the Joy, Ruth was brought in to manage and Hand relocated the Rex to around the corner on Main Street.  Several years later, Ruth's 16 year-old-son was accidentally killed on Shreveport Road way out near (Edgar) Hand's Drive-In.  At the insistence of her husband Douglas, who was of ill health himself, she purchased a third interest in the Joy theater on Pearl with the insurance settlement.

The snackbar/projection booth at the Joy Drive-In in Minden, LA - c.1952
Photo courtesy Peggy Cheshire Baldwin
and the Dorcheat Museum

When Ruth and William built their Drive-In on Shreveport Road they called it the Joy to keep it consistent with their business interests, though it had nothing to do with Houck or his chain. The Drive-In was managed by John Cobb, their brother, who lived in the "manager's" house on the property.  Ruth's daughter, Peggy, who was 6 at the time of her brothers accident, worked at the Drive-In from her teens through adulthood. She remembers,  I could bring anyone I wanted in for free but it was more fun for us to sneak in. I remember once some of us walked through a field of briars just to prove to my uncle, John Cobb, that we could sneak in because he was always bragging how NO ONE could do that. We came in through the back of the screen and went straight to the concession stand to brag.

Ad for Joy Drive-In in the Minden Press-Herald - July 14, 1955
courtesy the Dorcheat Museum

On July 15, 1955, Elvis, Scotty and Bill performed at the Drive-In.  They were booked by John Cobb who regularly attended the Louisiana Hayride and had first seen them perform there. For a stage, Cobb borrowed a flatbed truck from Almond's Feed & Seed Co. in Minden and parked it in front of the snack bar (concession stand).  They were said to have been booked for two appearances but only did the one and paid $25 for it.*

Scotty, Elvis and Bill at the Joy Drive-In Theatre in Minden - July 15, 1955
Photo by David Madalozzo courtesy Peggy Cheshire Baldwin
and the Dorcheat Museum

Earlier that week, on the 11th, they had recorded Mystery Train, Trying To Get To You and I Forgot To Remember To Forget at Sun so its quite possible that they performed these songs in addition to others at this appearance.  This was also likely to have been one of the first appearances outside of the Hayride that Scotty performed with his new Gibson L5 that he had only acquired the week before.

Scotty, Elvis and Bill at the Joy Drive-In Theatre in Minden - July 15, 1955
Photo by David Madalozzo courtesy Peggy Cheshire Baldwin
and the Dorcheat Museum

Peggy also recalled, when I was 13 or 14, my future husband worked for 6 months at the theater running the projector when he first came out of the Navy. Of course I didn't notice him nor him me but through the years, he would come over to Minden and visit with the help at the theater.

Elvis in the Manager's house at the Drive-In - July 15, 1955
Photo by David Madalozzo courtesy Peggy Cheshire Baldwin
and the Dorcheat Museum

At 16, Peggy Cheshire was dating David Madalozzo, a serviceman from Pekin, Illinois stationed nearby at Barksdale AFB.  On the night of the show he took photos of the performance. She said Elvis was the only act that evening and afterwards we went over to the  manager's little house located on the Drive-in property and visited with him for a few minutes. That is when my boyfriend took more pictures.

Peggy Cheshire at 16 with Elvis in the Manager's house at the Drive-In - July 15, 1955
Photo by David Madalozzo courtesy Peggy Cheshire Baldwin
and the Dorcheat Museum

David also took a picture of one of the local residents of Minden who wanted his picture taken with Elvis.  He just happened to bear a striking resemblance to Tibby Edwards, another young Hayride performer at the time.  Peggy though, maintains it wasn't him.

A local fan and Elvis behind the Drive-In Manager's house - July 15, 1955
Photo by David Madalozzo courtesy Jim Curtin's Candid of The King

Interestingly enough, aside from recording at Sun and his commitments to the Hayride, Elvis was supposed to be on vacation during this time.  Billboard** had reported in the July 9th issue:

Bob Neal, manager of Elvis Presley, reports that his charge this week begins a fortnight's vacation before embarking on a busy summer and fall schedule being arranged by Col. Tom Parker, of Jamboree Attractions, Madison, Tenn.  The package, which will make Florida dates the last week in July, will include Presley, Andy Griffith and Ferlin Husky . . .

Billboard Magazine - July 9, 1955

Peggy Cheshire Baldwin and her husband on right at a recent Shriners' luncheon
Photo courtesy Peggy Cheshire Baldwin

David Madalozzo eventually returned to Illinois, married and settled in Tarboro, North Carolina.  He passed away in January of 2009 at the age of 74. At her mother's encouragement, Thomas Baldwin started courting Peggy Cheshire, would eventually raise five children and today they have been happily married for 53 years. They now reside in Shreveport.

Aerial view of the  Joy Drive-In in Minden - 1976
Photo courtesy CinemaTreasures/NYozoner

Satellite view of 1506 Shreveport Rd in Minden - 2010
Photo courtesy Google

The units on the property that was the Joy Drive-In in Minden - 2010
Photo courtesy Google Streetview

In 1959 Douglas Cheshire was found unconscious and later died after an apparent robbery, the case of which was never solved.  Ruth later married Prentiss Lowe.  She eventually bought out her brother William's interests and operated the Drive-In until it closed around 1983. The Joy Theater on Pearl Street is now occupied by the Dorcheat Historical Association Museum, while several small units currently occupy the site of the former Joy Drive-In on Shreveport Road.

page added December 10, 2010 (**Billboard note appended December 11, 2010)

* According to Ann Harlan, an additional appearance on July 22, 1955 at 9:21 p.m. was advertised  in the Joy Drive-In section in the Minden Herald and Webster Review on July, 21, 1955.  It is not clear if they actually made both appearances, or if as originally stated missed one, and if so, which one.  - added June 26, 2012

Special thanks to Peggy Cheshire Baldwin of Shreveport, Schelley Brown and Ann Harlan of the Dorcheat Historical Association Museum and Sherry Gresham Gritzbaugh of Minden Memories for their assistance with this page.  Special thanks also to Scott Hayward for the initial lead. The history of Joy Houck and Joy Theaters Inc. of New Orleans is courtesy Cinema Treasures.


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