Nov. 17: Family Drive-In Theatre, Stephens City VA

It’s Day 321 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey. Even with some interstate highway assistance, it still took me four hours to drive from the Dependable Drive-In in Moon PA across the Appalachian Mountains to the Family Drive-In Theatre southwest of Stephens City VA.

The Family was built by William F. Dalke Jr. and opened as a single screen on June 14, 1956. His son, his son, Tim Dalke, told The Washington Post in 2013, “Our drive-in was mostly a family affair from the beginning. I think that’s the same case today.”

Tim and his three brothers worked at the drive-in, and in time Tim took over the Family. “I twinned the screen in 1989 because we could double the product we were offering the public,” he said.

Remember James Kopp, the guy who used to run the Raleigh Road Outdoor Theater, profiled just a few days ago? Since 2009, Kopp has leased Family Drive-In from Tim Dalke.

Among other things, Kopp has made sure to keep the in-car speakers on their poles, which include the original lighted markers at their rows’ ends. “A lot of people don’t get to experience the speakers at the drive-in anymore,” he told WTOP. “If you’re like me, I put the car speaker in the window and I also turn my radio on, so I’m getting a stereo-type event.” He converted both screens to digital projection in 2013.

The embedded YouTube video of the day is a nice mix of aerial and ground coverage, and some of the shots pointing almost straight down provide a nice perspective. I also like the way it shows the grassy playground area in front of the main screen.

I was so glad that the Family was still open that I didn’t mind watching Justice League for the second straight night.

Miles Today / Total: 215 / 36464 (rounded to the nearest mile)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: Justice League / 192

Nearby Restaurant: The name pulled me in. Granny’s Pancake Cottage is just up US Highway 11 from the Family, and my only question was whether it would still be open when I got there for lunch. Yes, it was. I love eating breakfast for lunch, and it was great to find another restaurant that serves scrapple. Add a bowl of grits and plenty of coffee, and I was happy to have been lured to Granny’s.

Where I Virtually Stayed: Less than two miles away, I found a good old Comfort Inn. It’s not new and pretty, but it was clean and comfortable. My room had all the modern amenities. Breakfast was typical Comfort Inn with a waffle maker and omelettes as well as the continental standards. It was just what I needed at a good price.

Only in Stephens City: Just five miles south of the Family is where the Battle of Cedar Creek took place in 1864. Wikipedia calls it the culminating battle of the Valley Campaigns near the end of the Civil War. Southern Spaces wrote that “General Philip Sheridan’s ride south from Winchester to rally retreating Union forces passed directly over the drive-in’s grounds.”

Next stop: Hound’s Drive-In, Kings Mountain NC.