Sept. 30: Mendon Twin Drive-In, Mendon MA

It’s Day 273 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey. Even though I crossed a state line, it took just a half hour to drive from Rhode Island’s only active drive-in, the Rustic Tri View Drive-In, to one of three left in Massachusetts, the Mendon Twin Drive-In in Mendon of course.

When and how did the Mendon first open? Every post I read says that it was as the Milford on June 14, 1954, and they’re probably right. But Mendon MA had a drive-in before that, and I ended up digging down a rabbit hole to find out more about it.

The 1948-49 Theatre Catalog ran one of the industry’s first drive-in lists, and one of its 761 theaters was “Drive-In” on Mendon-Millville Road, capacity 100 cars, owned by Fred Parker. Another publication, the Motion Picture Almanac, lists that same F. Parker as owning Mendon’s only drive-in, with the same capacity, from 1952 through at least 1957. But Mendon-Millville Road is on the southwest side of Mendon, and the old Milford was on the highway to Milford northeast of Mendon. I think the MPA failed to notice when the old drive-in closed and the Milford opened.

The Milford started with a capacity of 475 cars. According to a 2013 article in the Milford Daily News, Susan Swanson bought the drive-in in 1987, changed its name to the Mendon, and added a second screen in 1998, boosting the capacity to 800. “When I bought the theater, I turned it into a really family-oriented business,” she said. “In the ’80s, you’d see horror and biker movies at drive-ins… Now, we play every G, PG and PG-13 movie we can get.”

One year after that article, Swanson sold the Mendon Twin to the Andelman brothers, producers of regional favorite TV show Phantom Gourmet. “Our family made frequent trips to the Mendon Twin Drive-In when my brothers and I were growing up and it’s always been something that is very dear to us,” Mike Andelman wrote in a press release at the time. “With there being so few drive-ins left in our country, we thought it would be an incredible opportunity to continue and to grow this landmark destination that means so much to so many people.”

And they made good on that promise as shown in a YouTube promotional piece they made in 2014. Drive-in gourmet food such as fried dough and popcorn chicken was one part of the new Mendon Twin, and another was the beer garden. That was one great idea!

On this night, for the second time this week, I got to see a special concert movie. This one was Let’s Play Two, a rockumentary of Pearl Jam’s 2016 performance at Chicago’s Wrigley Field.

The embedded YouTube video of the day is a nice overview (yes, it’s a pun) of the grounds of the Mendon Twin on a busy night. You can see both screens, the projection building, and that wonderful beer garden.

Miles Today / Total: 16 / 31788 (rounded to the nearest mile)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: Let’s Play Two / 173

Nearby Restaurant: The Muffin House Cafe in Mendon has two of my favorites in its name, and I’m not talking about a house. Freshly baked muffins (pina colada is my new favorite) and plenty of coffee made this a great place to stop for a second breakfast.

Where I Virtually Stayed: Over in Milford, there’s a Holiday Inn Express that had my name on it. There were cookies waiting at check-in. My room had the full set of modern amenities, including a Keurig coffee maker. Breakfast in the morning included bacon and biscuits, plus those terribly wonderful HIE cinnamon rolls. Just another great stay.

Only in Mendon: The ever-cheeky Roadside America noticed the Irish round tower in a cemetary in nearby Milford. “The only Irish Round Tower in North America. Tallest thing in a Catholic cemetery. Built in the mid-19th-century for some reason.” Ashley Roberson has a more thoughtful take. “Thousands of Irish immigrants are buried at Saint Mary’s Cemetery… A tower was built in honor of these immigrants in the late 19th century that replicated the many round towers found throughout Ireland. ” Better yet, Roberson has several tower photos.

Next stop: Overlook Drive-In Theatre, Poughkeepsie NY.

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