It’s Day 306 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey. This was one more day of short drives – just 20 minutes from the Greenville Drive-In Outdoor Cinema, in Greenville NY of course, to the Hi-Way Drive-In Theatre in Coxsackie NY.
NewYorkDriveIns.com has plenty of newspaper clippings of the Hi-Way’s origins. It opened with a single screen on May 4, 1951, owned by brothers Morris and Rafael Klein. (The 1952 Theatre Catalog listed the drive-in’s executive as Mrs. Frieda Klein. Sounds like somebody’s wife was taking charge!)
Roger Babcock began working at the Hi-Way in 1971 and met his future wife when she started working there. When the Kleins decided to sell in 1976, the Babcocks took over, and they’ve been running it ever since. (Although some sources suggest the Babcocks didn’t take full ownership until the mid-1990s.) They added a second screen in 1999, a third screen in 2004, and a fourth in 2011. Along the way, they converted from in-car speakers to radio sound.
There was a flurry of drama in 2014 when the Babcocks faced the prospect of finding the money to convert all four screens to digital projection. In January that year, Roger told the Kingston Daily Freeman, “We have no plans on shutting the drive-in down, none whatsoever.” After donation boxes and an IndieGoGo campaign yielded a pittance, he found an unusual source of financing. “Social Security at my age is going to help pay for this,” he said. “With Social Security, the monthly payments are reasonable enough for us to convert two to three screens.” They eventually converted all four.
I wrote about Roger and the Hi-Way back in October 2013, when he was still deciding whether to get a loan to buy some projectors. Too bad the lengthy, incisive article I referenced then is gone now. That just happens sometimes.
The drive-in closed for the 2017 season after Columbus Day weekend. They posted on their Facebook page, “see ya in March, Snow banks permitting”.
The video of the day is a delightful documentary short by Tansy Michaud and Adam Carboni called Enjoy Your Intermission. (There’s a great interview with the filmmakers here.) It profiles the Hi-Way and the people who ran it when they were still using their beloved 35mm film.
Miles Today / Total: 14 / 34443 (rounded to the nearest mile)
Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: dark / 185
Nearby Restaurant: The Pegasus Restaurant in Coxsackie has been around almost as long as the Babcocks. It’s not one of the cheap eats joints I often prefer, but now and then I need to show I can behave at a nice place. I was rewarded by a plate of broiled scallops in a spicy red sauce with a side of shrimp. By the end of the evening, I could see how this place has stayed around for so long.
Where I Virtually Stayed: I’m not sure why they called the hotel up the road the Best Western New Baltimore Inn. It’s one of a cluster of hotels by the closest NY State Thruway exit to the drive-in, but even that highway doesn’t go anywhere near Baltimore. At any rate, the price was pretty nice, my room had all the modern amenities, and breakfast included scrambled eggs and bacon. It’s all good.
Only in Coxsackie: This town has a class of viruses named after it. According to Wikipedia, the coxsackieviruses were discovered in 1948–49 by Dr. Gilbert Dalldorf, a scientist working at the New York State Department of Health. Searching for a polio cure, he found that fluid collected from a non-polio virus preparation could block polio’s damage. Eventually he discovered viruses that often mimicked mild polio, and he named them after the town where he had obtained “the first fecal specimens.”
Next stop: Delsea Drive-In, Vineland NJ.