Dec. 20: Pike Drive In Theatre, Montgomery PA

It’s Day 354 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey. I-80 is still there and I got to see more of it this day, driving over an hour and a half from the Super 322 Drive-In Theatre in the unincorporated community of Woodland PA to the Pike Drive In Theatre in Montgomery PA.

The Williamsport Sun-Gazette reported on Oct. 30, 1952, “Three city men have started construction of a modern, 800-car theater on the Montgomery Pike. They are Harry J. Miele, Harry L. Nixon and Benjamin Pulizzi. Mr. Miele said the theater being built at an estimated cost of $135,000, will open about April 1. Clearing work on the land, about 12 acres, started last week.” It opened on April 16, 1953, showing Son of Paleface.

Strange that he wasn’t mentioned in the 1952 newspaper article, but Billboard magazine reported a little after the fact on April 18, 1953, “Charles Collins and his partners are about ready to open the Pike Drive-In near Montgomery, Pa.” Both the Theatre Catalog and Motion Picture Almanac during those times listed Collins as the first owner.

After that, the only ownership information I could find was in those MPA annual lists. John Shade was listed as the owner in the 1961 edition. The Sportservice Corporation, which ran at least a couple dozen drive-ins in Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, owned the Pike in 1976-82. Somebody named G. Tomka was the listed owner in 1984, and J. Farruggio closed out the MPA lists in 1986-88. That was probably Joe Farruggio, known to have owned the nearby Point and converted that drive-in from one screen to three.

According to the official history page at the Pike Drive-In web site, it also expanded from one screen to three “in the 1990’s”. photos suggest that happened in the early 1990s, so maybe that was more of Farruggio’s work.

From that point, I’ve got nothing until the current owner arrived. According to his LinkedIn page, Joe McDade bought the Pike in March 2006. In 2014, he started showing retro horror movies to raise money for digital projectors for his three screens, a story described by the embedded video of the day from WNEP, Scranton’s News Leader. That station also had a nice video report in September 2016 about the positive results of the digital conversion, which had covered two screens by that point.

The Pike closed for the season in October. I’m glad it promised to reopen next spring.

Miles Today / Total: 93 / 39406 (rounded to the nearest mile)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: dark / 200

Nearby Restaurant: The Station House in Montgomery is another good example of an unassuming small-town restaurant, across the highway from the railroad tracks, with good comfort food. I stopped in for dinner and had a couple of grilled pork chops with veggies and a baked potato. What a friendly place!

Where I Virtually Stayed: Google said the closest hotels were just up the road in Williamsport. Just to prove I’m not a slave to the Hampton Inn, and to save about $35, I chose the Comfort Inn in town. There were cookies and coffee waiting at check-in. My comfortable room had all the modern amenities. Breakfast included meat, eggs and waffles. And best of all, I still had that extra cash in my pocket when I left.

Only in Montgomery: Just south of town in Allenwood is Clyde Peeling’s Reptiland, a specialized zoo that has what you would expect and more. The room full of parakeets is an interesting attraction, as is the chance to feed a tortoise. There are komodo dragons in an extensive habitat. And there’s original art for sale, painted by the creatures on display.

Next stop: Point Drive-In, Northumberland PA.