Sunday, February 07, 2010

Robert Schuller's Drive-In Church

I didn't know this, but before Robert Schuller occupied the Crystal Cathedral, he used to lead his congregation at a drive-in movie theater. A couple of OCThen readers share their memories...

Anonymous said...

Does anyone remember the old drive-in in Garden Grove where Dr. Schuller used to hold his church services on the roof of the snack bar? When you went into the drive-in you would stop a get one of the speakers for your car. I remember this being back in the late 40's.

Pat / pb said...
Old drive-in-church in Garden Grove. In the 60's we would walk through the orange grove across GG Blvd from where we lived and explore.Somewhere in the middle between gg blvd and chapman we came upon an old drive-in that looked like a ghost town. No signs of life and run down. I was 12 years old and went to Riverdale Elementary School. I think the entrance was off of Luis? Sometime around then and 1966 , Robert Shuller leased or bought the drive-in and turned it into his church. When we were in the 10th grade at Santigo High, we would drive to the church service sometimes on Sunday, grab a speaker for our window and listen and watch Shuller deliver his sermon standing on the roof of the snack bar with a single mike. Smoke and be in church at the same time, at a drive-in during the daytime. What a trip!


  1. Schuller's drive-in church was surrounded by an abandoned walnut orchard in the 60's. We used to go pick grocery bags full of walnuts there and then sit on the living room floor (in GG) and shell the walnuts. Great memories!

  2. My family were at services at the Orange Drive-in several times around 1955 to 1957 before Rev. Schuller moved to the present site. My grandparents from Ohio visited every summer and had such fun at a "typical" Southern California church. We continued to attend for a while after the move to the Neutra designed building. The ushers came with baskets on poles for the donations if you remained in your car. I remember my mom in her bathing suit ready for Huntington Beach right after the service.
    The Orange Drive-in was very popular. I remember seeing "High Noon" there on its first release.

  3. Yeah! The Orange Drive-In Theatre with the big orange logo on the side of the screen facing the freeway. And didn't they do a swap meet there? Seemed like every kid in school went to the swap meet.

  4. I think going to the old drive in theatre church was the first of the two times my parents ever took me to church!!

  5. The Orange Drive-In opened in 1941, as the county's first drive-in theatre, and was utilized by Dr. Schuller from the mid 50's through the early 60's. The drive-in closed in 1994, but the swap meet managed to hang on for a few more years. Today, an apartment (condo?) complex sits on the site. An interesting bit of trivia: Bruce Ogilvie, founder of the Wherehouse music retail chain, began his career selling records at the swap meet.

  6. We saw quite a few movies at the Orange Drive-In . . . I remember in particular "True Grit" in 1969.

    Rev. Schuller used the drive-in on Sunday mornings only in the 1950s. We attended a drive-in service at his Garden Grove location in the late sixties. A close friend of my mom's had just comitted suicide, and my mom wanted to attend church but have some privacy in doing so. The drive-in service fit her requirements to a T. Yes, I remember the offering baskets on poles! And a very nice bespectackled usher.

    Within the year we became members of the church. However, none of us were terribly enthusiastic about the then on-going construction for the "Tower of Power"--hadn't anyone thought about the Tower of Babel? I became permanently disenchanted when I was a ninth grader. I had been attending a youth group meeting on Sunday evenings. At one point the couple who lead the meeting informed us that we should never EVER date black people. And even worse, according to this couple? We should NEVER marry black people, because [low whisper] "Then you'd have black babies!" Although I was a "nice conservative girl" from a family that supported Richard Nixon, I remember thinking that what they said was . . . well, excrement from a male bovine.

  7. i've got a great photo of the orange drive-inn from 1945,interested/ i'll gladly put it online e mail

  8. Interesting Schueller fact. His wife used to be a kindergarten teacher at Clinton Elementary off of Westminster Blvd. My mom said she was me kindergarten teacher.


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