NEW CASTLE —
One summer evening, a circus was coming through town, and the owner had no place to put all the animals and circus acts up for the evening. He stopped and arranged with my father to put the circus up. My father and his brother, George, owned and operated a mink ranch. There was plenty of land and water, so it was no problem to put the circus up for the evening.
When the circus arrived and settled in, it was still daylight. There were elephants, lions, tigers, etc. Everyone in the theater saw this and a large crowd came over to see all the animals. The owner of the circus said that had he known he would have such a large audience he would have set up the tents and arranged for a complete performance before the opening of the movie.
When I awoke the next morning, the circus had already pulled out.
In 1953, the motion picture industry introduced Cinema Scope. This meant that the original screen had to be widened significantly in order to accommodate the movies now being released. In the picture accompanying this article, you can see where they widened the screen.
When the theater first opened, Berlo Vending Co. of Philadelphia was in charge of the concession operation. Later, the Castelli Brothers decided to bring the concession operation in-house. As part of the change-over, they modernized the operation. They expanded the building out on both the left and right sides and put in large glass windows and speakers so that you could watch the movie while in the concession stand.
Instead of going up to the counter to order and not being able to see or hear the movie, they converted it to cafeteria style. While you would be going through picking out what you wanted to have, you would not be missing any of the movie.
Around 1965, outdoor movie theaters began to lose their appeal and that was also the case with the Super Castle. You now had color television, first-run, made-for-television movies, central air conditioning, and the children of “America’s Greatest Generation” were now adults. While the thrill of the automobile was still there, it was not like it was when the GI’s were coming back from the War.
On Jan. 23, 1970, the state highway department announced that Pennsylvania Route 60 (now Interstate 376) would be coming through a portion of my family’s 96 1/2 acres. This spelled the end for the Super Castle. The picture that accompanies this article shows our home and the screen just before the bulldozers began tearing them down. Our home sat approximately where First Commonwealth Bank sits today and the theater was just to the right of where the bank is located.
Subsequently, Agway Inc. bought a portion of the remaining property, but they never built on it. Later, all the property, including the portion that Agway had bought, was purchased by the developers of Union Square and Maple Heights Apartments and Condos. Today, these facilities occupy the entire property.
(David Aquaro is a Neshannock Township resident whose family owned the site of the former Super Castle drive-in theater).