Astro Light Restoration

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The Astro Drive-in demolition began without warning. A friend called me at work one night after seeing the story of the "Demolition of Dallas-Fort Worth's last Drive-in" on the evening news. During our phone conversation we realized that "we had better get out there and save one of those crazy lights before the bulldozers flatten them." These photos still have my old Drive-ins Etc name on them from before the cosmicool days.

Astro main drive with light

This picture of the main drive into the Astro shows the light that we saved. The day we went to get the light the demolition crews were busy with the few remnants of the concession building. The 3 screens had been torn down and the ticket booth was already gone. Someone else had already taken all of the other lights you see in the picture. I think the reason this one was left behind was because the top was missing. I would really like to know what happened to the rest of the lights. I hope they came to as a happy a resting place as this one did.

Here are some pictures of the light during restoration. Scraping the paint off was the worst part of the job. I spent hours and hours with paint remover, scrapers and wire brushes getting the paint off. There was another badly battered light left behind (I could kick my self for not getting it too) at the Astro with 3 sides of the top pyramid left on it. I was able to remove the three top pieces so I just had to fabricate one new section for the top. In the picture on the left you can see the top pyramid sections stacked on top, along with the new steel mounting frames sitting next to one half of the light. The new steel mounting frames were fabricated by the AG-CAT FACTORY. The picture on the right shows the other half of the light in paint-removal mode.

Restored Light In 2009

Here is the final result as seen 7 or so years after I restored the light. The paint hasn't held up over the years but the sheetmetal is well galvanized so it doesn't really matter. I'll repaint it eventually. The Gemini Drive-in in Dallas had lights like this along it's drive as well. The Gemini lights had broken neon tubes in them when I looked them over back in 1987. The Gemini was torn down in '88 or '89. I assume the Astro lights had neon in them as well, because both drive-ins were built by the same owner. I wanted to put neon tubes back in the light, so I just decided to put the tubes in the way I wanted since there was no way to know how they were originally installed.

Inside of light

Here is the inside of the light showing the tube arrangement. There are 6 tubes of different colors. The top photo was taken shortly after the light was finished. The bottom 2 photos were taken in 2009 7 years later. The inside needs some cleaning but other than that everthing is still working great. I decided that it would be better to go with different colors to balance the light into an even glow. The tubes are powered by a 15,000 volt transformer (located under the top section) that we found on the ground next to the torn down main Astro screen. The transformer was thrown from the "O" of the huge ASTRO sign on the main screen when the screen was toppled. I am glad I was able to save this piece of classic Americana. It was well worth the effort and cost (minimal) to restore it.