Where in Kingston can one find a movie trailer once used by Elvis, a 1932 Cadillac that belonged to R. Lee Ermey (Full Metal Jacket) and a Harley Davidson from the classic film Easy Rider?
The answer can be found next to Kingston Middle School where lies a hidden gem in Kitsap County that will take you back in time to the 1950s – My Girl Drive-In and Museum.
The authentic replica of a 1950’s drive-in restaurant was created by 82-year-old Kingston resident Bob Thompson, along with his two younger brothers Harlan and Steve.
The Thompsons began their project over 30 years ago, and it came to fruition about 10 years later in the late 1990s when they began to host private events. They have been adding vintage antiques from their family as well as donations of iconic pop culture items ever since.
The drive-in was originally called Ruby’s Drive-In, named after the Thompson brothers’ mother who passed away from cancer, but they had to change it to something else because many other diners across the country had already used that name. Thompson ended up choosing My Girl as he has an affinity for that song by The Temptations.
Thompson said he wouldn’t have been able to create this special place if he had started a family.
“This took the place of raising a family,” he said. “This was my baby. If you don’t have patience and you don’t have a dream, you’ll never get finished. This is what I’ll leave behind me to live on for people to enjoy when I’m gone.”
“Things have happened here that would have never happened in my life had I not built it,” Thompson added. “A lot of good things. I’m living in my own environment. I live very peacefully.”
Thompson doesn’t really think of the place as a business.
“I want to share this stuff. We enjoy saving stuff. We were lucky enough to start building this thing. I wanted to build the drive-in as good as I could. Everything I own is paid for now. I spent money when I had to, and I saved it when I could. It just kept growing and growing, and people wanted to use it. I do a lot of free things today, and I charge very little to use it anyway,” he said.
The facility includes 10,000 square feet of collectibles such as chainsaws, outboard motors, antique toys and an extensive collection of Elvis and other rock-n-roll memorabilia of the 1950s. Other features include a bandstand, dance floor, ‘50’s and ‘60’s music, historic collection of nearly 30 cars, a game room and pool table, magazine room, indoor movie theater, drag strip and timing tower (no longer in use), an operating electric train, 1957 Bell Boy boat and 1957 Sound Service garage.
Over the years, My Girl has been used for private and corporate functions and can also be used for wedding receptions, retirement or birthday parties, high school reunions, family gatherings and fundraising events, per the drive-in’s website.
Upon request, the drive-in will provide services such as live music, a bartender, catering, Elvis and Marilyn Monroe impersonators, disc jockey, karaoke and a band. Fees are used for operations, clean up and maintenance costs. Proceeds go toward military projects.
“I’m here to change lighting effects and make sure everything’s working properly and talk to the people,” Thompson said. “It’s basically their house. The party’s normally run about three hours, and then the cleanup starts.”
Thompson was born in Port Gamble back when there was still a hospital there before his family moved to a 73-acre farm in Kingston where the drive-in, Kingston High School and KMS now sit. While most of the Thompson land was sold for the schools, they still own the 8.5 acres where the drive-in is located.
Growing up in the ‘50s, Thompson’s ambition was to create something that reflected those times and also display items from his family’s history and other collectibles from that time period. After retiring from Boeing and Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, he began researching ‘50s style drive-ins across the U.S.
“I’d never seen any in this area but I saw them in the magazines,” he said. “I was stealing all the best engineering lighting effects I could find.”
Thompson said My Girl has been featured in many national magazines, which have helped to purchase items that didn’t originally belong to his family. “I never did it for the money, I did it to save our family antiques and to save the cars I had at that time so people could enjoy them,” Thompson said. “I just wanted a place to share the time period that I lived.”
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Thompson said he only held three events last year, but he is also happy to give quick tours to anyone interested. “It’s been really bad,” he said. “Most of the bookings I had have been cut out.”
Soon, Thompson will be handing the reins over to Harlan to run the operations, with Thompson assisting.
“He can work on cars better than I can,” he said. “He’s excited about this place.”
Through all that the Thompsons have acquired over the years, nothing would top the location being featured in a movie.
“I have something here that is so different,” he said. “I don’t know if there’s any place like this. I’ve been contacted, we’ll see what happens. That would probably be the most exciting thing of my life.”