Dec. 26: Becky’s Drive-In, Walnutport PA

It’s Day 360 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey, time to return to Pennsylvania for the final six drive-in visits. On this cold, sunny day, that meant spending a bit under four hours driving from the Southington Drive-In in Southington CT to Becky’s Drive-In just east of Walnutport PA.

Becky’s, the legacy of William “Becky” Beck, opened as the Route 45 Drive-In in the 1940s. The exact dates vary in the telling, but Beck opened a drive-in on leased land, then two years later purchased a lot that was a block away and built there. Cinema Treasures has a Grand Opening ad from June 26, 1946. The Lehigh Valley Marketplace wrote that Beck “opened the Route 45 Drive-in on leased property; in 1946, he bought the land where his namesake theater now stands.” Which would put the first opening in 1944.

The Blue Mountain Town & Country Gazette wrote in July 2014 that when the Route 45 opened, it had two loudspeakers for the whole viewing field. “Around 1981, he put in the radio transmitters in AM, so people couldn’t steal or damage the speakers,” said Beck’s son Darrell. “Then it went to FM and it’s done that way still today.”

Around 1971, Beck switched to adult movies “for survival” according to later generations. “People would snicker, but we had to do that or there would be a store here now,” co-owner Cindy Beck Deppe told The Allentown Morning Call in September 1997. It was also about that time when Pennsylvania promulgated a change to that highway’s number from 45 to 248, and about when the Route 45 changed its name to Becky’s. (However, a Morning Call traffic accident story in September 1972 still called it the Route 45.)

By all accounts, Beck gave generously of his time and talents and was a beloved figure in the community. The Morning Call wrote in October 1982 that neighbors weren’t bothered that Becky’s was showing X-rated movies. It said that he had retired and his son Dennis had purchased the drive-in “at the beginning of the year.” That matched when the Gazette said all five Beck siblings bought the business.

William Beck died in 1987, and the following year his widow and children switched back to family films. Second-eldest Dale Beck passed away in 1997, but the remaining siblings and their families still run Becky’s. The drive-in added a second screen in 2005 and swapped it for a permanent second screen in 2007. More recently, they put in a new refreshment stand (midway between the screens) and expanded the restroom facilities.

In 2013, drive-in historian Don Sanders called Becky’s the best drive-in in the country. “It offers everything a drive-in’s supposed to offer,” he told USA Today. “Really good food, a pastoral setting, a field sloped so you can see.”

The embedded video of the day is another rare treat. It’s a collection of news reports about Becky’s in 2001-2003, posted on the drive-in’s Facebook page.

Becky’s closed its season in mid-October. I’m glad that such a class act is still going strong.

Miles Today / Total: 200 / 39948 (rounded to the nearest mile)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: dark / 200

Nearby Restaurant: The Fire Stone Pizza & Grill sounds like just a pizza joint, but it’s got a lot more than that. More than strombolis and calzones, the Fire Stone also takes pride in its topped French fries and hamburgers. I had the “loaded” fries with bacon and cheddar, then a mushroom swiss burger. Maybe I’ll just eat a big salad tomorrow.

Where I Virtually Stayed: The closest hotels to Becky’s are in Lehighton, about 11 miles away, and one of those is a Hampton Inn. There were cookies, flavored water and coffee waiting for me at check-in. My comfortable, standardized room had all the modern amenities. The fine standard Hampton breakfast had plenty of warm protein to go along with the continental favorites. Staying here was just a no-brainer.

Only in Walnutport: Next door in Slatington, there’s a historic Fireman’s Drinking Fountain. The 12-foot high statue depicts a volunteer fireman carrying a child and holding a lantern, illuminated with an electric light at night. It was erected in 1909 in the center of Slatington to provide a drinking fountain for people and a drinking area for horses and dogs. After it was damaged in a 1979 car accident, it was restored and rededicated in July 1980.

Next stop: Shankweilers Drive-In Theatre, Orefield PA.