Dec. 2: Evergreen Drive-In Theater, Mount Pleasant PA

Aerial view of a full house at the Evergreen Drive-In

Photo from the Evergreen Drive-In Facebook page

It’s Day 336 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey. Just when I thought my drives were short, this one was shorter. It took barely 15 minutes to drive from the Comet Drive In just south of Connellsville PA to the Evergreen Drive-In Theater in Mount Pleasant PA.

The drive-in opened as the Ruthorn in June 1947. That was probably pronounced roo-thorn (not rut-horn) because the name was a portmanteau of its two owners: Donald J. Ruth and Robert M. Thorn. During the winter after the 1948 season, it was renamed the Evergreen. Since Ruth eventually became the sole owner, my guess is that the name change signalled the end of Thorn’s participation.

Ruth ran the Evergreen until he passed away in 1961. His widow sold the drive-in that off-season to Homer and Rita Michael. Box Office magazine wrote in April 1962, “The Michaels … have modernized the Evergreen, first with a complete fresh paint job, including screen resurfacing, and also with installation of new in-car speakers.”

In 1998, Homer Michael, a former police officer, put out the word that he wanted to sell the Evergreen. Joe Warren, who had operated the Greater Pittsburgh Drive-In in North Versailles until it closed in 1997, was looking to get back into the business after a year off. The deal closed that off-season. Warren installed a newer projection system and reopened the drive-in in June 1999.

Warren told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in July 1999 that he was looking to add at least one more screen as soon as he could. “We have to if we want to survive,” he said. The Evergreen’s history page says that two additional screens were added after the 2001 season.

The Morning Call caught up with Warren in 2016. They said he will tell you he was ‘born into’ the business and will show his birth certificate listing his home as a New York drive-in as proof. “I was born in New York where my family was building a drive-in,” he said. Warren made the digital conversion in 2014, and the Evergreen appears ready for several more decades of entertainment.

Even though it’s a Saturday night, on this first weekend of December, the drive-in had been closed for the season for several weeks. It’s nice to know that it’ll be back next spring.

Miles Today / Total: 11 / 38659 (rounded to the nearest mile)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: dark / 199

Nearby Restaurant: Time once again for some great barbecue, this time at Gorky’s Smokin’ Grill. For a late lunch, I ordered a full rack of ribs with cornbread and baked beans and swapped out Kansas City sauce with Gorky’s to see which I would prefer. With a cold beer or two to go with it all, I definitely didn’t need to eat again for the rest of the day.

Where I Virtually Stayed: There aren’t a whole lot of hotels in Mount Pleasant, but there’s a Holiday Inn Express less than a mile from the Evergreen, so that seemed like a pretty smart choice. There were cookies and coffee waiting at check-in. My comfortable room had the full set of modern amenities including a Keurig coffee maker. And the hot breakfast in the morning included those addicting HIE cinnamon rolls. Good stuff!

Only in Mount Pleasant: Just north of town, there’s a historical marker commemorating the Morewood Massacre. According to ExplorePAHistory.com, it reads: On April 2, 1891, at the nearby Morewood Mines of the H.C. Frick Coke Co., sheriff’s deputies killed these strikers; two more died later. These were among some 16,000 workers striking for higher wages in the coke region. Thousands of mourners attended the funeral of the original seven victims, who were buried in a mass grave in St. John’s Cemetery, Scottdale.

Next stop: Silver Drive In, Johnstown PA.

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