New Castle News

Local News

July 4, 2013

Former Skyline Drive-In was an integral part of Parkstown

NEW CASTLE — People entered and exited the former Skyline Drive-In from Old Youngstown Road.

Still, the stretch of Route 224 just around the corner from it is just as much a part of the history of the facility and the Warren family, which owned it from 1949-77.

 Start with the former Parkstown roller skating rink at the northeast corner of Old Youngstown Road and Route 224,  now home to Yesco Electrical Supply. That was built by the Warrens around 1960 and family operated until it closed.

“That was pretty neat,” recalled John Warren, a Vietnam veteran and grandson of the drive-in owners, John and Elma Warren. “We had wrestling in there, wrestlers from Pittsburgh. We had an AKC dog show there. Bingo was there.”

Nellie Warren, John’s aunt, recalled that the rink would send a bus out to various areas on the weekend to bring youngsters in to skate.

“But they had to be gone by 10 o’clock, because then it would be senior night,” she said, “just older people until midnight.”

John, an electrical contractor, was tabbed to do much of the electrical work when Yesco moved in, after the former rink served briefly as a bingo and community hall.

“You walk in there, and you have to wipe away a little tear,” he said. “The floor’s still there. Every time I go in there,  I can still see Dale Spears at the organ and the big disco ball in the middle.”

About a mile farther east sat the Super Castle Drive-In, where Wal-Mart is today. The Super Castle was bigger (800-car capacity vs. Skyline’s 400) and provided patrons with in-car heaters, giving it a longer season than the Skyline.  It also offered one-price-per-carload admission, which the Skyline did not.

Still, the facility with the turrets on the screen was never seen as a competitor.

“People would go to both,” John Warren said. “Drive-ins were big then. The nice thing about the guy at the Super Castle and my grandfather, they’d work together and help each other. They’d write me a pass, and I’d go see a movie there.”

“Not only that,” Nellie Warren added, “if we would run out of things in our concession stand, I can remember many times going to get boxes for popcorn or whatever, and they would do the same with us. It wasn’t a competitive thing.”

Over the years, the Skyline sometimes complemented its films with added attractions. Smiley Burnette, best known as Gene Autry’s sidekick and later as Cannonball engineer Charley Pratt on “Petticoat Junction,” once made a personal appearance, as did an expert hula dancer from Florida (for Elvis Presley film “Blue Hawaii.”)

Still, it was one night when viewers’ cars began lining up along the shoulder of Route 224 – from which the Skyline screen was visible – that John recalls with a laugh.

It was 1972, and the Skyline was showing what John called “its first risqué movie,” a hillbilly-centric work called “Tobacco Roody.”

“It’s probably like a Disney film now,” he said. “They show worse today on TV.”

Nonetheless, he recalled, “you could look over to 224, and cars were stopping,” John said. “They were pulling into the Parkstown bowling alley lot to watch. They couldn’t hear the sound, but they didn’t care.”

“And there was a church there,” Nellie added, “and the preacher got upset over it and he called the district attorney (Tom Andrews, at the time. He came out and wanted to close the theater down.”

Such films, Nellie continued, were an aberration from the family fare her in-laws showed throughout most of Skyline’s history. Toward the end, though, when families weren’t coming any longer because “there was too much else for them to do,” she said, “they started to play some of these movies, because they figured since they weren’t getting many families anyway, they could get away with it.”

The crowds of the 1950s and ’60s, though, never returned, and the Warrens sold the Skyline in 1977 to Cinemette Theaters, which operated it for its final few seasons.

“Grandpa was getting old, he was in his 70s, and it took its toll,” John said. “He put in a lot of hours there. And no one else in the family was interested in taking it over. Other theaters were closing, and I think everyone saw the handwriting on the wall.”

 Although the Skyline’s screen was removed, the projection house and the concession stand were left to crumble and be overtaken by weeds, its projector, popcorn machine and other items still inside. It was only in the last few years that those remnants were taken out as well.

“That was heartbreak,” Nellie said. “You missed it, you missed the people. But to look over and see the weeds and the grass, and the driveway not even there it’s all grass – that was sad.”

(Email: d_irwin@ncnewsonline.com)

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Local News
  • NicholsonOffice.jpg County to buy new office for Nicholson

    Before the end of the year, the Lawrence County commissioners plan to move District Judge Jennifer Nicholson into new offices.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • PortersvilleSS.jpg Portersville Steam Show summer event arrives

    The Portersville Steam Show will stage its summer event Thursday through Sunday at its show grounds.

     

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • Veteran.jpg Veterans seminar to view technology

    A veterans benefits seminar has been set for Friday. The program will run from 2 to 4 p.m. in the commissioners room of the Lawrence County courthouse.

     
     

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • Part-time guard position created

    The Lawrence County Salary Board created a part-time temporary court guard position Tuesday.

     

    July 30, 2014

  • JaredGustafson.jpg Mohawk senior Jared Gustafson elected nation FCCLA officer

    A Mohawk High student was elected to national office at a leadership conference in Texas. Senior Jared Gustafson now is the 2014-2015 national vice president of parliamentary law for the Family, Career and Community Leaders of America.

     

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • PipeDreams.jpg Concert to feature sounds of ’60s

    This week’s Friday Night Live at Riverwalk Amphitheater will feature a 1960s theme. Entertainment will be provided by Pipe Dreams. The group performs a tribute to the British Invasion and American rock ’n roll with music from The Beatles, Stones, Doors, Monkees and hits from Motown and Philly.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • well.jpg Environmental groups oppose forced pooling

    An effort by local landowners to have forced pooling declared unconstitutional is getting some outside support. Two environmental groups — Delaware Riverkeeper Network and Mountain Watershed Association — have filed a friend of the court brief with Commonwealth Court. They are asking that the court review forced pooling, which is part of a 1961 Oil and Gas Conservation Law, before scheduled hearings take place.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • CashMob.jpg Cash Mob returns Saturday to downtown

    The New Visions Destination Downtown Action Team will host a cash mob Saturday in downtown New Castle.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • wampum_gazebo.jpg Wampum Homecoming draws near

    The 22nd annual Wampum Homecoming Weekend is scheduled for this weekend. It is sponsored by the Wampum Area Business Association.

     

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • money.jpg City imposing new regulations for vendors

    The city of New Castle is tightening regulations and imposing new ones for mobile food and transient vendors.

     

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo