Saanich man designs reflections of a bygone era

T-shirts capture memories of classic cars and Tillicum drive-in

Jeffrey Fritz

Jeffrey Fritz

Jeffrey Fritz paid little attention when the Tillicum Outdoor Theatre came down in 1982 to make way for Tillicum Centre.

But now, the 57-year-old would love to have it back. In fact, he’s pretty ticked off it isn’t around. And he’s got the shirts to prove it.

The Esquimalt resident grew up in Victoria and like most people, took in movies at the Tillicum drive-in.

Two summers ago he came up with the idea to put an image of the old theatre on a T-shirt. It’s turned into an ongoing adventure that evokes the happiest of memories from everyone who recognizes it.

“Every time I talked to people about it they’d get excited, everyone loves it,” Fritz said. “I was getting nostalgic for things, I got thinking about, geez, I’m not employed, I can’t have any fun in the summer, and I can’t even go to a summer movie.”

Funnily enough, making the T-shirts wasn’t as easy as it sounds. To start, the history on the theatre is scattered. Most of the searchable images online are aerials. There is a 1970s shot of the Outdoor’s iconic ‘skylon’ that rose 60 feet high on Saanich Archives, but even that is from a ways down the road.

After 25 hours of searching, Fritz finally found a photo of an old matchbook that has the graphic of the theatre’s skylon, screen and marquee. It was on an American blog about drive-in theatres.

“It had this cheesy silver printing, it took a couple weeks to get it to a point it could go on a T-shirt,” he said.

On his first shirt design, Fritz put a 1971 Riviera in front of the theatre image. Sales were slow until he met a classic car owner from the Cadillac Car Club.

“This fella told me to put a ’55 Cadillac on there and he’d buy three, so I did, and I sold a pile of them, I made $355,” Fritz said.

Since then Fritz has produced shirts with a classic Thunderbird, Chevy, Corvette and Mustang.

According to trusted Gorge-Tillicum historian Dennis Minnaker, the Outdoor opened in June 1951 and accommodated 620 cars. There was outdoor seating in Cape Cod-style chairs, plus an indoor viewing room.

Seventy-year-old Bob Painton still lives in the Tillicum Road house he grew up in and remembers sneaking into the theatre and taking shelter in the viewing room.

“Taking your gal to the Outdoor was about the coolest thing you could do,” said Painton, the proud owner of a Fritz Outdoor Theatre T-shirt and a hot rod collector. “When I was about 14 or 15, we would take boards out of the fence behind the screen to sneak in. Once we were a little older and we had cars, two or three of us would hide in the trunk to sneak in.”

Painton recalls waking up in the early morning, in the last car at the theatre.

“That would have been on a really good night.”

For Fritz, the energy and excitement created by the T-shirts has him dreaming of bringing back another outdoor theatre. If he can get the financial backing necessary to start a Kickstarter campaign, he will, all in the name of creating another drive-in theatre.

“I’d say Bullett was one of my favourite movies there, with Steve McQueen, but everyone has their favourites,” Fritz said. “When people see the T-shirts, they applaud it, they love to talk about it. I’ve met a lot of cool people [because of it].

“People say there isn’t a demand for drive-ins but Mayfair mall just held a weekly drive-in night for six years, and there was a drive-in night in Esquimalt.”

Fritz T-Shirts available online at tillicumshirts.com or at Style ’N’ Print, 2639 Quadra St. Other Tillicum T-Shirts are also available at Style ‘N’ Print, as well as Cavity Curiosity Shop (556B Pandora St.) and TurnTable Records in 107-3 Fan Tan Alley.

 

Just Posted

Mural artist Paul Archer will soon begin work on a piece on the rear of a building at 100 Burnside Road West. (Gorge Tillicum Community Association)
Back of Burnside building in Saanich to feature mural of hope and positivity

Artist Paul Archer says subject will inspire memories, depict children’s future, sunshine, flowers

Victoria Truth Centre and Long-term Inmates Now in the Community (L.I.N.C.) Society are hoping to replicate in Langford the format used on Emma’s Farm in Mission, pictured here. (Patrick Penner/Black Press Media)
Victoria Truth Centre hopes to grow transformative justice in Langford

Purchase proposal would see offenders, survivors and families work on organic vegetable farm

Tyson Muzzillo, regional manager of BC Cannabis Store, welcomes shoppers to their Uptown location, opening on June 16. (Megan Atkins-Baker/News Staff)
Government-run cannabis store opening at Saanich’s Uptown

BC Cannabis Store the first for government in Greater Victoria, 27th in province

The stretch of trail north of Royal Bay Secondary connecting to Painters Trail at Murray’s Pond will be closed temporarily this week for invasive species removal. (Black Press Media file photo)
Colwood trail behind Royal Bay Secondary temporarily closed for invasive species removal

Cloure in effect from 9 a.m. Wednesday to 10 a.m. Friday this week

Proposed design for the Topaz Park bike and skate park elements. (Courtesy City of Victoria)
Victoria requesting feedback on Topaz Park redesign

Public input now being taken for proposed skate, bike park ideas

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

(Black Press Media file)
Dirty money: Canadian currency the most germ-filled in the world, survey suggests

Canadian plastic currency was found to contain 209 bacterial cultures

(pixabay file shot)
B.C. ombudsperson labels youth confinement in jail ‘unsafe,’ calls for changes

Review states a maximum of 22 hours for youth, aged 12 from to 17, to be placed in solitary

Eleonore Alamillo-Laberge, 6, reads a book in Ottawa on Monday, June 12, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Parents will need to fight ‘COVID learning slump’ over summer: B.C. literacy experts

Parents who play an active role in educating their children this summer can reverse the slump by nearly 80%, says Janet Mort

The border crossing on Highway 11 in Abbotsford heading south (file)
Western premiers call for clarity, timelines on international travel, reopening rules

Trudeau has called Thursday meeting, premiers say they expect to leave that meeting with a plan

The B.C. government’s vaccine booking website is busy processing second-dose appointments, with more than 76 per cent of adults having received a first dose. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations stable for Tuesday

108 new confirmed cases, 139 in hospital, 39 in intensive care

Cowichan Tribes man Adrian Sylvester is worried that he was targetted by a trailer hitch thrown from a vehicle. (Facebook photo)
Cowichan Tribes man worried he was target of trailer hitch

Adrian Sylvester says no one has reported a missing hitch after one nearly hit him

Graeme Roberts, who was mayor of Nanaimo from 1984-86, died this month at age 89. (Photo courtesy Nanaimo Community Archives)
City of Nanaimo flags at half-mast as former mayor Graeme Roberts dies at 89

‘Giant-killer’ beat out Frank Ney in mayoral election in 1984

Most Read