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Remember the great drive-in theaters

It has always been a car-loving citizenry in our country, and nothing could compare to the introduction and mainstay of the all-American drive-in movie theater.

It seems to have all began in the late 1930s, and by the late 1950s it really peaked.

It was so convenient for families to pile in their 1952 Desoto (might have even included the family dog and Grandma) to go to the movies in their own car and stay there and watch cinema in action. They could even smoke if they wanted to.

Sometimes, there was even buck-a-carload nights when friends and neighbors and an old Nash station wagon provided transportation and comfort for a night at the movies for only a buck. Mostly those were for Class B movies, but so what?

The Warren and Youngstown areas had their share of those auto flicks with Skyway and Elm Road drive-ins in Warren, and Northside, Southside, Westside and Sky-Hi drive-ins in the Youngstown area. They all had a story to tell.

Sometimes, they were referred to as “passion pits,” as loving couples just couldn’t remember the cast or the plot to the movies the next day.

You could really get the same benefits at the drive-in as you could at the indoor theaters, including cartoons and refreshments, including delicious popcorn and soft drinks, and even news events and previews.

How could you beat a Road Runner cartoon and an action-packed John Wayne western, or a Randolph Scott oater or perhaps the Bowery Boys and Leo Gorcey and Huntz Hall, and even Abbot and Costello — all while cozily reclined in your favorite jalopy, viewing the flick right through your windshield? You could even adjust your seat.

Later on, some drive-ins provided X-rated movies just to keep their business afloat, but also received protests from parents and church groups.

Many drive-ins have disappeared from our area, but some still survive. Elm Road Triple Drive-In for close to 70 years have provided entertainment and a showplace for concessions and even desserts, and providing a Showtime Page for current movie schedules.

We have to mention Skyway, too, also in the Warren area and still providing the same service as does Elm Road, and just a few miles from one another. Skyway also became the first drive-in in northeast Ohio to convert to digital projection, which makes the picture much better.

I have found out that approximately 400 drive-in theaters still exist in our country. This number has remained steady in the last five years. It is so nice to see those nostalgic theaters still producing entertainment under the stars with great attendances.

Just a little bit of information on Youngstown drive-ins: Back in 1964, everything seemed to change. Different owners, Youngstown Enterprises, took over the leases of Southside, Northside and Westside, and even Sky-Hi, and it seems that by the mid-1980s, they were gone.

Cars have changed. At the drive-ins, you don’t see any more Desotos or Nash station wagons or Hudsons or even Studebakers. What you do see are plenty of Jeeps, Chevys and Fords, Kias and Toyota Nissans and such with families enjoying cinemas. Those cars have all the comforts of the inside theaters, as families not only spend vacation times with their favorite auto, but also can be thoroughly entertained at the drive-ins with their old pal, their automobile.

We sometimes rejoice at some nostalgia, when we still see that it is quite active and enjoyed by many. Such is the case of the drive-in theaters.

Contact Whited at olebert1@aol.com

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