July 22: Hummel Drive-In, Winchester IN

It’s Day 203 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey. Since it was Saturday, that meant another trip across a state line in search of another weekend-only drive-in theater. This time, the drive took about an hour and a half from Middle Point OH to the Hummel Drive-In east of Winchester IN, just across the border.

In 1949, this drive-in opened as the Air Line Auto Theatre, a reasonable name considering that it’s just across Indiana Highway 32 from the Randolph County Airport. Arthur Kemp opened the place, but by 1952, Mike Make had taken over. Make owned and operated the Air Line (eventually the Airline Drive-In) into the 1990s. Alan Teicher bought the Airline and added a second screen in 2002. (There’s a YouTube video from near the end of the Teicher era, promoting its unsuccessful Kickstarter campaign, embedded above.)

Then in August 2014, faced with the cost of converting to digital projection, Teicher closed the Airline and his other theaters. He told the Bradenton FL Herald, “I’ve been in business for 58 years, I’m 80 years old and think it’s time to retire.” It sat idle for over a year, then Shawn and Pauletta Hummel bought the drive-in in March 2016. They renamed it the Hummel Drive-In.

By early August, after $200,000 worth of renovations and projection equipment, the Hummels were ready to reopen with one screen. As Pauletta told the Richmond IN Palladium-Item, “We really started from scratch, for the most part, on a lot of these things. The foundation was there, but we did whatever we could to improve the facility.” The concession stand was rehabilitated “entirely,” including the bathrooms and projection area. They said at the time they’d start with one screen, then expand back to two screens “down the road”.

I guess conditions haven’t yet warranted lighting up that second screen, which had been badly damaged when they bought the place, so my only choice for the early movie was the latest Planet of the Apes installment. It was only the second time I’d seen it, so I was grateful for the novelty. I kicked back with a pizza burger and a “monster” popcorn and enjoyed the show.

Miles Today / Total:  73 / 25678 (rounded to the nearest mile)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: War for the Planet of the Apes / 119

Nearby Restaurant: The Referees Bar and Grille was adjacent to my hotel (see below), so that made it easy to reach. I had to leave for the drive-in before the live music started, but I was able to catch a little when I returned before it closed. Earlier for dinner, I enjoyed a rib eye steak with sauteed mushrooms and some salad and veggies to stay balanced. And beer and TV sports, of course, because I needed to fit in.

Where I Virtually Stayed: If you’re staying in Winchester, you’ll want to check the Randolph Inn & Suites. This place has a really nice new main building, plus the “budget building” that might have been an old motel. My main building room had the full set of modern amenities, and the breakfast in the morning was better than most mom and pop places.

Only in Winchester: The author of The Gaslight Addition grew up in Winchester. The 1995 movie version, Now and Then, was directed by a man who also grew up in Winchester. Although the town’s name was changed in the movie, a local museum has preserved a significant part, the Our Jonnie gravestone in the old Winchester Graveyard.

Next stop: Huntington Twin Drive-In, Huntington IN.