Oct. 18: Portville Drive-In, Portville NY

It’s Day 291 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey. In less than an hour and a half, I was able to drive from the Silver Lake Twin Drive In Theatre in Perry NY to the Portville Drive-In in Portville NY of course.

For this virtual visit, I must admit that I’ve got almost nothing, and most of what I have is from NewYorkDriveIns.com. They’re the folks who host a copy of the Olean Times Herald article from July 8, 1972, talking about the Portville, which began operating the night before. “The grand opening had been delayed because of the wet spring weather,” the Times Herald wrote, quietly understating the great Flood of June 1972, which shut down some businesses and damaged several parts of town. The article said the drive-in was “untouched by the flood waters”, but I’d still bet it added to the delay.

Industry veteran Dean Emley, who had managed Olean’s Haven indoor theater over 20 years earlier, returned to shepherd the Portville, which opened before its landscaping was finished. It was said to hold 600 cars and was owned by the Frontier Amusement Company of Buffalo.

That brief article is easily the best information I’ve got on the Portville, including its own web site which misstates its opening date as 1970. Every other bit of information I’ve got is second-hand, or by inference.

In the 1978 International Motion Picture Almanac, the first time it listed the Portville’s owner, it was “Bordinaro”. That was corrected to Bordonaro by the 1984 edition. That surname pops up in several news stories about theaters in western New York, and it could have been the family that owned Frontier Amusement. New York Drive-Ins said in 2010 that Anthony Bordonaro was the owner at that point. In general, what little evidence I could find all points to the Bordonaro family owning the Portville for a very long time, possibly since it opened.

Chris1982 wrote at Cinema Treasures that the Portville uses FM radio sound and added its second screen in 2005, which matches before (2004) and after (2007) photos at Historic Aerials. It’s still operating, so it must have managed the transition to digital projection, probably without any drama since I can’t find anything about requesting donations for it.

And that’s about it. Its Facebook page shows that it closed for the season after Labor Day this year, and its web page says “We look forward to seeing you in April 2018.” Maybe it’s just one of those places that does its work so well that no one thinks to write about it.

Miles Today / Total: 55 / 33347 (rounded to the nearest mile)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: dark / 180

Nearby Restaurant: Sprague’s Maple Farms is full of maple-y goodness, of course, but they also raise free-range turkeys, one of which was the guest of honor for my dinner. It came with maple sausage stuffing and cranberry sauce, and I drank some maple Chardonnay to stay on theme. I finished off dinner with a slice of apple pie a la mode topped with truly homemade maple syrup. What an experience!

Where I Virtually Stayed: Apparently, the closest hotels to the Portville are in Olean, and the very closest is the Holiday Inn Express there. Fresh cookies greeted me at check-in. My room had the full set of modern amenities. And I was glad to return to the HIE standard breakfast including meat, the pancake machine and amazing little cinnamon rolls.

Only in Portville: In the bell tower of Portville’s First Presbyterian Church, the Westminster carillon sounds the time each hour of the day. It’s a gift from the Atkinson family to thank the dozens of people of the town who donated blood for their daughter, who died from leukemia in 1968 at the age of 12. Her mother told the Olean Times Herald in 2015 that when she hears the carillon, “she smiles, thinking of the little girl who was quiet, loved animals and released the fish she regularly caught from Dodge Creek.”

Next stop: Delevan Twin Drive In, Delevan NY.

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