Sept. 12: Valley Drive In, Cambridge NS

It’s Day 255 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey. These Canadian maritime islands look so small on the map, but it was another 4+ hours to drive this day, from Brackley Beach on Prince Edward Island to the Valley Drive In in Cambridge, Nova Scotia.

The Valley opened around 1956, according to my reference books. Some online sources say it was 1950 or the early 1950s. At any rate, Rockwell Fletcher “Rocky” Hazel and a Phil Barkhouse bought a chunk of the former Waterville Airport, according to the Annapolis Valley Flying Association, and built the drive-in right where the hangar used to be.

The history of the Valley gets a little fuzzy after that, except that it stayed in operation into the 1990s. After it closed for a while, something remarkable happened. The Coldbrook and District Lions Club bought the place and reopened it in 1999. As described by ValleyConnect.ca, “The initial loan … has been repaid with proceeds from their very 1st season with money to spare, which was donated to local schools. Since then they have been able to preform a number of key upgrades. Switching to digital projection in 2012 with the help of the local Credit Union and replace their screen in 2013 in part by a grant from the Province of Nova Scotia.”

The Lions run the Valley as a civic-minded non-profit, staffed (mostly?) by volunteers. Other local non-profits take turns hosting 50/50 fundraisers at the site each weekend, and they sometimes rent out the screen for private functions. It’s a great example of how a local group can preserve a bit of history and provide entertainment to the community.

The YouTube video of the day is a great look at the Valley’s opening weekend this year. If you want to see another video from a couple of years ago showing the Valley’s then-new screen, and if you have a high tolerance for gratuitous profanity, there’s another YouTube clip here.

Pretty much all the drive-ins around here are closed on weeknights this time of year, yet there was a reason I made sure to visit the Valley on a Tuesday – drive-in bingo! Players buy cards from members of the Lions Club as they drive in and park. “We recommend you bring a piece of cardboard or TV tray to rest your cards on during play.” The announcer reads the details over the radio, and there’s an intermission break. The concession stand and bathrooms are open. All in all, it’s the next best thing to the drive-in movie experience when they aren’t showing a movie.

Miles Today / Total: 255 / 29754 (rounded to the nearest mile)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: dark / 163

Nearby Restaurant: It had been a while since I’d ordered a pizza, and the House of Dough was right across the street from my hotel (see below). I had a pie topped with the local spicy ground beef, called donair, plus bacon, pepperoni and the usual suspects. Glad I always pack some antacid to fight all those spices!

Where I Virtually Stayed: In this little hodgepodge of communities along Highway 1, the Greensboro Inn is one of the closest to the Valley, and probably one of the nicest. From the outside, it looks like an ordinary motel. Inside, my room was clean and stocked with all the modern amenities. It’s not one of those places that serves breakfast, but with a Tim Hortons just a couple hundred feet away, that’s not a problem.

Only in Cambridge: The Charles MacDonald Concrete House Museum in nearby Centerville is just what it says – a house made by Charles MacDonald out of concrete. He was an artist who spent four decades devoted to manufacturing, promoting, and using concrete. His house was a converted cement brick factory.

Next stop: Cape Breton Drive-in Theatre, Sydney NS.

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