If this were any other school year, Gatesville High School principal Yancey Sanderson says he’d be spending a lot of face-to-face time with his senior class.
Back in March, no one at Gatesville High thought when they left for Spring Break they wouldn’t come back for the rest of the year.
“You go from being holistically involved in people’s families and their lives,” Sanderson said. “To being separated from that. And you miss that piece of it,” Sanderson said.
Gatesville is about 100 miles northwest of Austin. It’s a small town. The 180 kids graduating this year have likely been together since pre-K. Students, teachers and faculty are close-knit.
“If you asked me back in August what I was looking forward to most was graduation,” said Mason Edwards, Gatesville’s 2020 senior class president and salutatorian. “And walking across the stage and being in front of all of those people.”
Graduation night at Gatesville High is one of the biggest celebrations of the year for this small town. Family and friends usually pack the school’s 4,000-seat football stadium.
Edwards said his class was shocked when they found out their prom and graduation were going to be cancelled.
Prom couldn’t be saved. But Gatesville school leaders would not give up on graduation night. As luck would have it, Gatesville has its very own drive-in movie theatre just down the road from the high school.
“When I was growing up in San Saba there was a drive-in movie theater there,” Gatesville High School principal Sanderson said. “And they are kind of a relic of small-town Texas. And luckily there are [a] few that still exist and Gatesville is one of the places that still has one.”
Gatesville’s Last Drive-In Picture Show has been around for 70 years. The theater changed its name back in the late 80s to be reminiscent of that of the iconic Texas film: “The Last Picture Show.”
But unlike the Royal theater featured in that 1971 movie, Gatesville’s one-screen drive-in is still open seven days a week, year-round. It’s not a huge venue. The screen’s pretty big though. It looms in front of a huge gravel lot with about 200 parking spots.