Video: Tiffin gets a new owner

Michael Cole of Findlay OH has purchased the venerable Tiffin Drive-In (the Tiffin OH drive-in known for a few years as the Field of Dreams) and plans lots of renovations. The news comes to us via WTOL, Toledo’s News Leader.

Cole said his first order of business will be to demolish the screen tower that has stood since the drive-in opened in 1949. “Repairing it was really out of the question,” he said, and although I hate to see something that old taken down, I suppose it’s smart to be proactive instead of waiting for it to fail. Cole plans to replace it with a new screen and tower, then do the same to the second screen added by Rod and Donna Saunders just a few years ago. For a longer history of the Tiffin / Field of Dreams, check out my virtual visit there three years ago.

With all the is-it-open and temporary-popup news these days, it’s nice to be able to share something real with you this time. And I’m always on the lookout for video that captures the drive-in experience. I hope you enjoy it!

Tiffin’s Field of Dreams Will Restore Neon

Daylight photo of the mural on the back of the screen of the Mission Drive-In Theatre

Here’s an example of how a glorious neon display on the back of a drive-in screen used to look. This one’s in San Antonio, and its restoration used faux neon. Photo by Neon Michael from the Carload Flickr pool

In Sunday’s edition of The Advertiser-Tribune of Tiffin OH, neon artist Michael Flechtner is recreating some of the original neon at the Field of Dreams Drive-In, which spent most of its life as the Tiffin.

When I last wrote about this Field of Dreams (the original is in Liberty Center), its owners were listed as Rod and Donna Saunders, but Sunday’s article said the owner is Donna Callahan-Saunders. I don’t know whether that’s a change. Anyway, Callahan-Saunders told The Advertiser-Tribune that the original neon had been removed before they purchased the drive-in in 2011, because the neon tubes would break in severe weather. “Part of the work to restore the neon is to work with local experts who can help design a way to protect the neon tubing from severe elements,” she said.

That might answer my nagging question of what had happened to most of the wonderful neon murals that once commonly covered the backs of drive-in screens. The old Theatre Catalogs were full of them, but now they’re pretty hard to find.

Flechtner said he planned to meet with the American Sign Museum in Cincinnati, and was trying to find any photos of the old Tiffin’s neon display. Sounds like something that’s going to look great for the start of the 2018 season.

Dec. 17: Skyway Twin Drive-In Theatre & Elm Road Triple Drive-In Theatre, Warren OH

It’s Day 351 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey. Two weeks to go! It was just a little above freezing as I drove just a bit more than a half hour from the Midway Twin Drive In Theater, halfway along the road between Kent OH and Ravenna OH, to the Skyway Twin Drive-In Theatre on the northwest side of Warren OH. Then I continued on an extra 10 minutes to the Elm Road Triple Drive-In Theatre on the northeast side of Warren, one of the very few cities with two active drive-ins.

I just can’t find out a whole lot about the history of the Skyway. From all accounts, it opened in 1949. Industry lists suggest it was run by Herbert Horstemeier’s Ohio Theatre Service Corp. for its first couple of decades. By 1978, the owner was listed as S. Doane. wrote that on May 9, 1977, Trumbull County deputy sheriffs raided the Skyway to confiscate an X-rated movie, Russ Meyer’s “Up,” and arrested the theater’s owner, Steve Doane. Sheriff Richard Jakmas said the theater had been under investigation since January, when a complaint was filed.

Slightly stale corporate records indicate that the Doane Theater Corp was formed in 1966 and owned the Skyway. Its last known president was Stanley Doane. Cinema Treasures says the Skyway added its second screen in September 2010. wrote in 2013 that Brian DeCiancio had owned the Skyway “for a dozen years” at that point, as well as an indoor complex. He had recently upgraded the drive-in to digital projection. “We planned ahead,” said DeCiancio, when asked about how he raised the money. “We get strong support at our concession stand. Plus having the six-screen indoor theater helps, because it’s a year-round business.”

Turning to the Elm Road, I’ve got a better handle on its early years thanks to a passage in the recent book Historic Theaters of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley by Sean T. Posey. The Elm Road opened in the summer of 1950, built by Stephen Hreno, who had thought to build a roller skating rink before visiting Rainbow Gardens in Pennsylvania. “The town had a skating rink and a drive-in theater,” his son Robert recalled. “We went to look at the parking lots on a Saturday night and there were a lot more cars at the drive-in than there were at the skating rink.”

The drive-in has stayed in the family ever since. Stephen passed away in 1960, then Robert and his mother ran the business. They added a second screen in 1979 and switched to radio sound in 1983. The Elm Road’s third screen went up in May 2005.

Robert and his family installed digital projection in May 2013. By that point, his daughter and son-in-law, Sheri and Mark Hocevar, were running the Elm Road. “We’ve been saving money all along for it,” Robert said. “Digital has been around for 10 years, but they have only made projectors big enough for drive-ins for the past two years.”

I just ran a video of the Elm Road in October, so the embedded YouTube video of the day features the Skyway in the context of a classic car show.

The Skyway closed for the season in September, and the Elm Road closed in October. Both promise to return next spring.

Miles Today / Total: 25 + 5 / 39166 (rounded to the nearest mile)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: dark / 200

Nearby Restaurant: They told me the best place in town for barbecue was Cockeye BBQ, so that’s where I went. I started with a cup of Brunswick stew with corn and beans, then graduated to a half slab of ribs with some amazing corn casserole and baked beans. My entree was like the stew but with more bones. Great stuff!

Where I Virtually Stayed: Longtime readers know that the Holiday Inn Express is one of my kind of hotels. It’s efficient, nothing too fancy (or pricey), and with a reassuring sameness and good quality. Warren’s HIE provided all of that. There were cookies and coffee waiting along with a bit of fruit. My room had all the modern amenities. Breakfast was the very good HIE standard, complete with addicting cinnamon rolls. As always, I was glad to choose a place like this.

Only in Warren: As described by Roadside America, the city of Warren has twice honored one its native sons, rock star David Grohl, founder of the Foo Fighters and former drummer of Nirvana. It named an alley after him in 2009, and in 2012 unveiled 900-[pound drumsticks in his honor. After a brief stay at the Warren Amphitheater they were moved to their permanent location, in David Grohl Alley of course.

Next stop: Moonlite Drive-In Theatre, Brookville PA.