Among the press releases and spam filling my inbox, questions about the Corpus Christi story pop up every now and then. Most start with the same sentence, “Whatever happened …” and fill in the void with a restaurant or business from the person’s past. During the summer someone asked what happened to old Pick’s drive-ins.
While the name came from the original owner, he owned it for less than five years. JB Pickens opened Pick’s Drive-in (or Drive Inn as it was sometimes called) in March 2002 in Ayers across from Butter Krust Bakery. He sold to LM Simmons in around 1944 before Sam “Pop” took over Salvo’s family the following year.
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The Salvo family moved from Chicago to Corpus Christi and operated the drive-ins from 1945 to 1978. Pop managed the original location at Ayers near Six Points, then his two sons Buddy and Greg Salvo managed other locations. Downtown on South Water Street (formerly Zackie’s, another driveway); on South Staples Street and Gollihar Road near King High School; and on Ayers near South Padre Island Drive.
The drive-ins were a large part of the youth car culture that prevailed from the 1950s through the 1970s. A 1978 article describes a typical Saturday night on Ayers Street: flashy cars driving Ayers up and down from Staples to Horne. The parking lots at Wynn Seale Junior High and Del Mar College are filled with men and women looking at the cars and each other.
In an abandoned parking lot called a pit stop, 18-year-old Ralph Silva said to Caller Times reporter Felix Sanchez: “Look, we’re coming down here because our friends are here. After you’ve worked, you take yourself a day off and come down here and socialize. “
“Let me put it this way. Chicks who go to discos, like guys with nice hair, nice clothes. Here, girls like sleek cars. You see guys with long hair here and they like it, man.”
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But times change, and teenagers’ tastes can be moody. Fast food restaurants grew in popularity, and the clubs were fueled by drive-ins selling liquor. The Salvos lost their lease and the drive-in of the last pick, the Ayers and SPID site, was closed in December 1978.
“People’s habits have changed,” noted Greg Salvo. “They don’t eat and drink so much in their cars anymore.”
“It’s all changed. Do you know what changed? Dope. Some come in here so stoned that it takes them 20 minutes to order a hamburger,” Salvo said. “So we had to close the driveway at Staples. Customers couldn’t get in. And the kids became destructive. They practically destroyed the place.”
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But what about the original Pick’s on Ayers? The Salvos sold the building in 1970 and it became a Magic Curb Service that lasted another 15 years. When the mall replaced drive-ins as a hangout for teenagers in the early 1980s, business ceased and the drive-in closed. The site was destroyed in June 1984.
You can still get a glimpse of the drive-in culture in Corpus Christi – Snapka’s continues to operate at both locations on Leopard Street and Weber Road – but it’s not the same as the nightly teenage hangout at the drive-in Heyday.
Allison Ehrlich writes about activities in South Texas and has a weekly Throwback Thursday column on local history. In this way, help support local coverage by checking out our subscription options and specials at Caller.com/subscribe