Dec. 11: Lynn Auto Drive In Theatre, Strasburg OH

It’s Day 345 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey. The drive across Ohio was just a little longer than I’d had recently, still less than an hour and a half from the Winter Drive-In in Wintersville to the Lynn Auto Drive In Theatre, northwest of Strasburg.

The Lynn is a treasure, one of a very few drive-ins opened before World War II that are still in operation today. It started its life as Boyer’s Auto Theatre, but when?

Almost everybody, especially the current owners, says that Boyer’s opened in 1937 after over a year of construction work. However, Kerry Segrave’s indispensable book Drive-In Theaters includes a list of the drive-ins that he could find with start dates that early but Boyer’s wasn’t on that list. On the other hand, The Daily Times of New Philadelphia OH wrote on May 26, 1939, “Boyer’s Auto Theater, the first of its kind south of Cleveland, will be opened to the public tomorrow evening … by Roland and Karl Boyer”. It’s possible that was just a season-opening announcement, but the tone sounds like a grand opening and the first ads I could find follow afterward. Even if its opener was as “late” as 1939, that’s still an amazingly long run.

Karl Boyer, brother of Roland (sometimes written as Rollin), was a partner in Boyer’s through early 1941 when Roland bought out his brother to settle a lawsuit between them.

The Lynn’s official history page says that Ward Franklin and his son-in-law Ray McCombs purchased the drive-in in early 1948. (They changed the name in honor of McCombs’ daughter, Judy Lynn.) Except The Daily Times wrote on Feb. 20, 1950, “The sale of the Boyer (sic) Drive-In Theatre near Strasburg to Ray McCombs of Jewett and Ward B. Franklin of Cadiz was announced today by the former owner, Rollin Boyer.” The drive-in stayed Boyer’s until the start of the 1951 season, when the ad for the Lynn Auto Theatre announced “Many Improvements, Including in-a-car Speakers and Ramped Ground”. I wonder if Boyer’s was still using loudspeakers in the 1940s.

The start of the heartwarming multigenerational era for this drive-in came in the fall of 1957 when Richard R. Reding and his son Richard W. “Dick” and his wife Eunice “Abby” bought the Lynn. They added a second screen in 1967. In 1970, Rick Reding joined his parents in the family business, and for the next two decades they owned and operated 12 theaters. Rick’s two sons Rich and Jamie now run the Lynn.

They added the modern marquee in 2005, converted one screen to digital projection in 2012, then converted the other the next year. wrote in 2013 that Rich and his family “live in trailers parked on the drive-in property. He said his life is tied to the place, the second-oldest operating drive-in in the country. … Reding said he learned the business at his grandfather’s side. The drive-in is in his blood, and, tough as it is, he can’t imagine making a living any other way.”

The drive-in closed for the season in October, and I’m glad it’s in good shape to return next spring.

Miles Today / Total: 62 / 38984 (rounded to the nearest mile)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: dark / 200

Nearby Restaurant: Campesino’s Grill serves up huge portions of Mexican food with beer on tap. Need more? I’m partial to the margaritas myself to cool off the heat from my carne asada. The fried banana for dessert topped off a wonderful, filling experience.

Where I Virtually Stayed: If you want to stay in Strasburg, you’re probably going to want to stay at the Ramada Limited there. There were cookies waiting at check-in. It had a bar with a putting green on-site and an adjacent McDonald’s. My king bed suite had all the modern amenities. And breakfast had a few hot items to go along with the continental favorites. All at a very nice price.

Only in Strasburg: Just south of Strasburg in Dover is the Auman Museum of Radio and Television. As recounted by Roadside America, the proprietor is Larry Auman, who has done a lot of collecting and restoration of mostly old television sets. “Larry’s museum is designed to appeal to more than just electronic gearheads. ‘I didn’t want to just show the TV sets,’ he said. Pop culture and accessory products thrived in the rich mulch of America’s most important invention, and Larry has lots of them: TV-themed toys, comic books, salt and pepper shakers, a novelty apron emblazoned, ‘No TV Until You Help Me.'”

Next stop: Magic City Drive In, Barberton OH.