Aug. 8: Field of Dreams Drive-In Theater, Tiffin OH

It’s Day 220 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey. I returned to two-lane highways through farmland, driving a little over an hour from Mansfield OH to the Field of Dreams Drive-In Theater in Tiffin OH.

Cinema Treasures has a complete history for this Field of Dreams, which spent most of its life as the Tiffin Drive-In. The Tiffin opened in June 1949, built and owned by Brinkman & Shults Inc. and H. Horsteimer. Brinkman had opened the Defiance (OH) Drive-In the year before.

Ed Suffecool, who helped Shults build the drive-in, remembered “Howard and I had to go out and oil the ramps and driveways with used motor oil to keep the dust down.” In front of the screen there was a kids’ playground with a teeter totter, a slide and a sand box. I hope that used motor oil stayed clear of the playground.

To entice families to come early, Shults opened the Tiffin’s Fun Farm in May 1951. It featured miniature horses, deer, Shetland ponies, sheep, prairie dogs, wild ducks, rabbits, and other animals for kids to enjoy. The star of the Fun Farm was ‘Little George’, a one-ton Texas Longhorn steer. In 1963 they added a buffalo calf. The Fun Farm also featured a miniature prairie schooner with matched teams of ponies that would pull kids around the drive-in for a dime. Shults had two miniature Model Ts that could be driven around the drive-in for a quarter.

A root beer/ice cream stand was built in front of the screen tower, but the business quickly failed and was converted into a house. After the 1955 season, the screen was rebuilt and widened, and the old concession stand was replaced with a new 50×70-foot concession stand/projection booth.

After just one year with that widened screen and new concession stand, Shults sold the Tiffin in December 1956 to Leonard Mishkind, owner and president of General Theatres in Cleveland. Tiffin Drive-In Theatre Inc. was formed to operate the drive-in. In the following half-decade, the drive-in weathered the storms, real and economic, and also just weathered.

In 2010, the president of General Theatres Management and Tiffin Drive-In Theatre Inc., Norman M. Barr, told a drive-in owners’ convention that he was retiring. Rod and Donna Saunders, who had built the Field of Dreams Drive-In from scratch in Liberty Center, bought the Tiffin in April 2011. They renamed the drive-in, gave it plenty of overdue maintenance, and added a second screen.

The Saunders’ son, Denton, a Fremont Middle School special education teacher nine months of the year, runs the Tiffin drive-in throughout the summer. At the time of the purchase, they told the Toledo Blade that Denton would live on-site in that former ice cream stand.

The YouTube video of the day comes from Dead Shark Productions, and it’s an amazing time-lapse of an evening at the Field of Dreams. I especially like the patterns of clouds passing by.

Thank goodness for the Saunders’ second screen! With Screen 1 showing The Emoji Movie, I turned away to watch The Dark Tower for the first time. It’s nowhere near as bad as The Emoji Movie.

Miles Today / Total:  53 / 26850 (rounded to the nearest mile)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: The Dark Tower / 135

Nearby Restaurant: I’m a huge Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan, so I dropped in at the MST Pub in Tiffin. Turns out that it stood for Madison Street Tavern, and I guess they didn’t want “Tavern Pub” in the name. Those folks sure know how to serve up a bacon burger with lots of pub food appetizers to boot, plus Oreo pie for dessert.

Where I Virtually Stayed: I promise that I’m not a slave to the Hampton Inn, it’s just the most attractive hotel in a lot of towns. This one had a nice indoor pool and a workout area. My room had the full set of amenities, and the breakfast was the same Hampton quality as the previous three nights.

Only in Tiffin: Tiffin was once known for its ceramic and glass products; it was home of Tiffin Glass Works from 1889 to 1980 and the American Standard Company, maker of ceramic kitchen and bath products, from 1899 to 2007. It’s still home to the Tiffin Glass Museum, where over 1000 pieces of Tiffin Glass are arranged chronologically in oak cabinets. Admission is free.

Next stop: Hi-Road Drive In, Kenton OH.