Oct. 24: Family Drive In Theatre, Kane PA

It’s Day 297 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey. Driving along twisty highways into the heart of the Allegheny National Forest, it took me over an hour and a half to drive from the Sunset Drive In just southeast of Waterford PA to the Family Drive In Theatre east of Kane PA.

The drive-in started as the Ideal in June 1952. It was built by Clyde Piccirilo, Joseph Farrell, and Harold Prosser on the former Larson airport field. The Kane Republican wrote that at 2200 feet, it was the highest drive-in in Pennsylvania. The field held 400 cars, and the screen was constructed of concrete blocks. According the Family’s Our History page, that sturdy screen still stands.

Less than two years later, during the 1953-54 offseason, the drive-in was sold to Waldemar “Wally” Anderson, who ran several theaters in the region. He was the one who renamed it the Family before the 1954 season opener. At the time of the sale, he announced that, “A new concession will be added, a modern playground, rides of all types, a new sign, (and) moonlight lighting.”

Anderson sold the Family to Clifford Brown and the Holmes Poster Advertising Company in July 1957. In 1969, Fred Holmes became the projectionist for the theater. During at least some of the following years, the Family showed a mixture of family and not-so-family movies, though not on the same bill. Brown added AM radio sound in 1975.

In 1983, Fred purchased the drive-in and continued to run it, along with his wife Mary and their daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren. In 2013, the Holmes family upgraded to a digital projector, then Fred passed away. The drive-in was dark for most of 2014, then Lowell and Jackie Watts bought it and reopened in it April 2015. “This is an icon of the community,” Lowell told the Bradford Era. “No matter what we do, we can’t lose the drive-in.” Tracy Smith is in the mix there too, sometimes called a collaborator, sometimes co-owner.

The Family has embraced digital projection to the point where there’s a nice little video of somebody playing Pac-Man on the big screen. They also have an annual Squatchfest concert including a “Sasquatch call” contest in which participants compete to see who’s best at luring Bigfoot.

The YouTube video of the day is a long aerial view that goes all over Kane, but the part we care about starts around 6:45. For as bright as it is, for the lot to be as full as it is shows just how popular the Family can be. And although the Family is still open on weekends, that didn’t help on the last Tuesday before Halloween.

Miles Today / Total: 79 / 33740 (rounded to the nearest mile)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: dark / 182

Nearby Restaurant: It’s been around for over a century, so I had to eat at the Kane landmark Texas Hot Lunch. (Hint: Don’t go to the Urban Dictionary on this one. Just don’t!) In a nod to its Greek heritage, I chose the gyro burger, topped with gyro meat, feta cheese, and tzatziki sauce. In lieu of dessert, I also ate a true Texas Hot, which is a hot dog in special sauce. Good stuff!

Where I Virtually Stayed: There aren’t any chain hotels in Kane, but there is the Kane Manor bed and breakfast. My room had a separate bath (in consideration of other guests) and was quiet and comfortable with wifi, a TV, and an old fireplace. Breakfast was very good with meat, cooked-to-order eggs and plenty of coffee. Lots of history in a unique setting.

Only in Kane: Just a little east of town is Kinzua Bridge State Park, a monument to man’s hubris or nature’s fury. The bridge, or railroad viaduct, was 301 feet tall and 2052 feet long. It was first built from wrought iron in 1882 then rebuilt with steel in 1900. During restoration efforts in 2003, a tornado struck the bridge, collapsing half of it. The state repaired the remaining portion and added a new observation deck and visitor center to showcase the ruins still in place underneath.

Next stop: Elmira Drive-In Theatre, Elmira NY.

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