Youth fights drive-in closure

By ANNE KAZMIERCZAK
Register Reporter

Register/Anne Kazmierczak
Caleb Johnson holds a petition with some of the 1,371 signatures he has gathered since Thursday protesting the closure of the 54 Drvie-in in Gas.

When Lincoln Elementary fifth-grader Caleb Johnson read in The Register that the 54 Drive-in in Gas was being shuttered, he wanted to do something about it. He asked his mother Deidra, ‘what can one 10-year old do?’
His first thought was to write a letter — a “not very nice letter” according to his mom — to the drive-in’s owner.
Instead, she suggested a petition campaign, and they took it “door to door around the square,” Caleb said.
The Johnsons also went to businesses in Gas and LaHarpe. Since Thursday afternoon, when they began, they have collected 1,371 signatures protesting the closing of the landmark theater.
“We thought it would be a good learning experience for him,” Deidra said of the effort. She and her husband, Stanley,“warned Caleb that everyone might not agree with him, that people’s politics differ.
“But I wanted him to know that even though he is a 10-year old, he still has a voice, and that voice can be heard,” Deidra said.
The Johnsons thought they might get, at most, 500 signatures.
Instead, “he was met by a lot of people who said, ‘I’m glad you’re doing this; I hope it helps,’” Deidra said.
Deidra was particularly bothered that no advance announcement of the closure was ever made. “They never did any promotions,” she said.
“Caleb said ‘they didn’t even ask us.’”
The Johnsons intend to turn the petitions over to the owners of the drive-in. “I want to get the drive in back open,” Caleb said. “I want to go there more often.”