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July 5, 2013

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



On July 6, 1948, Al “Fuzzy” St. John made a personal appearance promoting his latest movie, “Law of the Lash.” The theater was packed beyond belief. They were turning so many cars away.

For his appearance, a stairway was built in the back of the concession stand up to the roof, which was used as the stage. At intermission, he arrived in this beautiful brand new Chrysler “Woodie” Town and Country convertible. He had a pair of six shooters filled with blanks and kept shooting them off. Accompanying him from Hollywood was his band, the “Sunrise Rangers.” The crowd was all gathered around the stage and he and the band performed for a long time, holding the audience spellbound.

On July 21, 1948, the theater held a “Gigantic Display of Fireworks” and again it was packed to capacity.

At some point early on, the name was changed from Outdoor Theatre, Inc. to Super Outdoor Theatres, Inc., owned and operated by James Castelli and his brother Victor Castelli, from Library and Canonsburg, respectively. They also owned and operated Super 71 Drive-In Theatre in Belle Vernon, which opened  June 22, 1948. It was a two-screen theater, one accommodating 700 cars and the other 600 cars.

They apparently saw that it wasn’t necessary to continue to hold special events in order to fill the theater. Cars would begin lining up well in advance of the opening time. The line would start in front of the ticket booth and stretch all the way down the berm of the eastbound lane of Route 224, past what is today Advance Auto Parts.


The early days of the theater were not without challenges. Cars would go down Winter Road and enter the theater via a field bordering the back of the theater. Automobile undercarriages were a good bit higher in those days, making it easier than if one were to do it today.

Consequently, at the back border of the theater, a bulldozer scraped the dirt into a mound about 4 feet high so that no cars could enter via this route. That took care of that problem.

However, then there was the problem of entire families walking from Winter Road through the field and into the back of the theater, bringing chairs or wooden boxes to sit on. The owners then surrounded the theater with a cyclone fence, ending that problem.

Next, there was the problem of trunk stuffing. In order to avoid paying, people would stuff one or more persons into the trunk in order to avoid paying the 50 cents. It was like a contest to see who could hold the record for stuffing the most individuals into the trunk. It was a dead give-away when a lone individual would pull up to the ticket booth.

Finally, on Aug. 15, 1948, they implemented the policy of charging “Only $1 per car total admission.”

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