Nov. 2: Hi-Way Drive-In Theatre, Coxsackie NY

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.

Nov. 1: Greenville Drive-In Outdoor Cinema, Greenville NY

It’s Day 305 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey. On this rainy Wednesday, I was glad to have a short drive, just a half hour from the Jericho Drive-in in Glenmont NY to the Greenville Drive-In Outdoor Cinema, in Greenville NY of course.

The Greenville used to have its history posted on an About Us page on its web site. Fortunately, the Internet Archive made a copy in 2014 so I can share some of its highlights with you.

In April 1959, Peter Carelas began construction on the Greenville Drive-in. New York Drive-Ins says its opening night was two months later on June 18. The drive-in was originally designed to hold 400 cars, although the International Motion Picture Almanac later listed its capacity as 550. The screen was 85 feet wide.

The Greenville’s history appears to have been uneventful until it was put up for sale in 1988. That’s when local business owner Mark Wilcox and 10 others, eventually forming “The Greenville Eleven, Inc.” jointly purchased the drive-in to save it from land development. Wilcox operated and managed the Greenville through the 2006 season. During that time, he switched from in-car speakers to FM sound. Even now, he’s still listed as the CEO of the corporation.

“2007 was a year of sadness,” as the Greenville closed. In 2009, Don Brown and Patricia Creigh reopened it for the season, but plagued by rainy weather, the drive-in was only open a few weekends. The Greenville was again closed for the 2010 and 2011 seasons.

In 2012, Jim Gatehouse and family took over, spruced up the facility and reopened, but they couldn’t get past the digital projection hurdle and closed the Greenville again for the 2014 season.

Enter the current owners, Leigh Van Swall and Dwight Grimm. They ran a modest but successful Kickstarter campaign, highlighted by the embedded video above, in early 2015. (It noted, “We are one of the few all-grass drive-ins in existence so the fifteen acres requires extensive mowing and gravel access roads to keep patrons from becoming mired.”) Grimm later told Catskill Eats, “We’re trying not to be so much a straight-up movie theater, but more of an event venue with movie-showing capabilities.”

The Greenville opened a beer garden in 2016, and held a typewriter festival later that year. They finished their 2017 season in mid-October and promised to be back in May 2018. Sounds like fun!

Miles Today / Total: 22 / 34429 (rounded to the nearest mile)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: dark / 185

Nearby Restaurant: Was Lane’s Cafe, up Highway 32 from the drive-in, the diner where the Greenville Eleven organized over breakfast? The menu showed plenty of breakfast choices, but I arrived at lunch. I had the hot open-faced turkey sandwich with gravy and cranberry sauce. Mashed potatoes make a better choice than the fries they provided, but for a good turkey sandwich, I’m willing to overlook that.

Where I Virtually Stayed: The Greenville Arms 1889 Inn is possibly the best place to stay in Greenville. It’s the kind of vintage bed and breakfast you’d find on a postcard. My comfortable little room included a mini-fridge. Breakfast included grits, a difficult dish to find in chain hotel buffets. And as a bonus, the proprietors make gourmet chocolates. That’s a great reason to stay here!

Only in Greenville: According to Roadside America, just south of Greenville in the town of East Durham, on the property of Blackthorne Resort, there is a 17-foot-tall steampunk robot. It was built by Thomas Willeford for the 2014 Steampunk World’s Fair, and is displayed in an open-air shed-like building.

Next stop: Hi-Way Drive-In Theatre, Coxsackie NY.

Oct. 31: Jericho Drive-in, Glenmont NY

It’s Day 304 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey. On Halloween, I scurried to a safe retreat, driving less than two hours from the Unadilla Drive-In in Unadilla NY, of course, to the Jericho Drive-in in Glenmont NY.

The story according to Oval Pike is, “The Jericho opened in 1955, after two brothers bought the land from the physician who lived across the road.” It’s true that the incorporation papers for Jericho & 9-W Drive-In Theater, Inc. were filed with the state on Sept. 16, 1955, and DriveInMovie.com wrote that those brothers were Morris and Raphael Klein. But New York Drive-Ins and everybody else says that the grand opening was on Flag Day, June 14, 1957.

The International Motion Picture Almanac still listed Morris Klein as the owner in its 1966 edition, and the Jericho’s capacity was 520 cars. Then came a few decades where I’m really not sure what happened.

The Spotlight of Albany County says that current owners Mike and Lisa Chenette bought the Jericho in 1995. About 2007, they carved out a piece of their viewing field to open the TwisT ice cream stand. (Which offers 25 flavors of hard ice cream and 22 varieties of soft serve including eight combinations of candy that can be added! But I digress.) In 2013, they tried and failed to get a free digital projector in Honda’s Project Drive-In. In 2014, they tried fundraisers to build up some of the cast they’d need, and they upgraded to digital projection in 2015.

And that’s about all I’ve got for this beloved local staple. The video of the day must have first aired on WNYT, Albany’s News Leader, in early 2014 although it was posted to YouTube over two years later.

The Jericho is closed for the season. The ice cream stand was closed for Halloween, but otherwise expects to stay open through this Sunday.

Miles Today / Total: 100 / 34407 (rounded to the nearest mile)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: dark / 185

Nearby Restaurant: I find a good old 50s-style diner to be a great salve for missing out on the drive-in experience, and Johnny B’s Glenmont Diner fits that to a T. It’s not shy about sharing all the awards it’s won, or about nailing plenty of vinyl records to the wall. Everyone was dressed up for Halloween, adding to the surreal. Oh yes, the breakfast was amazing, with eggs and bacon and plenty of coffee.

Where I Virtually Stayed: There were a couple of hotels closer to the Jericho, but the Hilton Garden Inn by the Albany Medical Center was just six miles away, so I went with one of my favorite chains. There were cookies waiting for me at check-in, my room had all the modern amenities, and my Hilton Gold status scored me a free breakfast from its substantial buffet.

Only in Glenmont: Next door in Albany, there’s a 28-foot tall, four-ton steel and fiberglass statue of Nipper, the dog best known as listening to “His Master’s Voice” for RCA. According to the Albany Institute of History & Art, Nipper came to his downtown perch in 1958 following renovations of a rundown warehouse built in 1900. The refurbished structure became the new home of RTA, a distributor specializing in RCA appliances. The sculpture was fabricated in Chicago, shipped by rail in five sections, and assembled on the roof with the help of a ten-story crane.

Next stop: Greenville Drive-In Outdoor Cinema, Greenville NY.