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July 5, 2013

Movie Memories, Part 5: Post-World War II generation kept Super Castle thriving for nearly 25 years

NEW CASTLE — With the surrender of Japan on Sept. 2, 1945, World War II had officially come to an end.

This meant that (as Tom Brokaw so eloquently coined the term) the members of “America’s Greatest Generation” would soon be returning home.

Although the first drive-in movie theater opened in Pennsauken, N.J., on June 6, 1933, drive-in movie theaters did not really begin to take off in this area of the country until after the soldiers began returning home from the war in large numbers.

Upon their return, they ushered in the Baby Boomer generation. Their interests centered on getting married, starting a family and buying an automobile.

With this as a backdrop, on April 27, 1947, Outdoor Theatre, Inc. entered into a five-year lease — with the option of automatic extension for an additional nine, five-year terms — covering 20.072 acres owned jointly by my father, Joe Aquaro; my mother, Ada Irene Aquaro; my father’s brother-in-law, Rocco Ieraci;  and his wife, my father’s sister, Lucy Aquaro Ieraci.

This  parcel was a large fruit tree orchard and was an integral part of approximately 96 1/2 acres they owned, bounded on the north by Route 224, on the east by what is now Interstate 376, on the south by what is now Angela Lane, and on the West by Winter Road from Angela Lane north to the storefront to the left of Keystone Rehab Systems Physical Therapy. There, the property cut in on an angle to approximately where Ruby Tuesday’s now meets Route 224.

Construction began immediately, and on Oct. 24, 1947, the grand opening of the Super Castle (drive-in) Theatre was held. As you can see from the grand opening advertisement, it referred to “Route 422.”  This was a misprint. It should have read “Route 224.”

FAMILY TIME

From the very beginning, the theater was a tremendous success. Everything seemed to click. Admission was 50 cents for adults, and children under 12 were admitted free. The fact that there had been this pent-up demand on the part of GI’s for an automobile, getting married and starting a family all fit neatly into the equation.

In 1947, network television was rare. Radio had been around for quite a while, and air conditioning in the home was unheard of. So, did you want to sit home in the heat of the summer listening to the radio, or did you want to hire a baby sitter and go to an indoor theater?

What many chose to do was to bathe the children, put their pajamas on, possibly pack a picnic dinner and head off to a movie under the stars in their new automobile. They would get to the theater early, let the children play in the large yard in front of the screen, enjoy their picnic dinner, then settle in to watch the movie in the cool evening breeze.

By the time the movie was over, the children were usually asleep. You could take them home and generally just place them in their bed without waking them up. By now, the temperature in the home had cooled down somewhat, making for more comfortable sleeping.

In the months that the theater was operating, the evening sky would be lit up from the neon lights. When it closed down for the winter, you would have four months of total darkness. Both extremes took a little getting used to.

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