-CAUGHT IN THE WEEDS-
By Matt Weed
This past weekend I went to the Dependable Drive-In Movie Theater in Moon Township. I hadn’t been to a drive-in in years, the last time being at Twin Hi-Way in Robinson about a year before it closed.
Years after the fact, I would meet one of the partners of Twin Hi-Way, Jim (Jimmy) Torcasi. I remember listening to his stories of all the fun he had running the place and all the antics of the kids that would spend their summers there working the ticket booths, concession stands and directing cars. The nights of Trunk or Treat in October, the smiles on the families’ faces observed as they sat outside their vehicles as their kids sat in awe of the movies they were watching.
It brought back a lot of memories of my own childhood and going to the drive-in...
Showing up early to get a good spot.
Us kids running around in front of the screen playing tag or throwing around footballs and frisbees.
Getting sugary treats and drinks (admittedly sometimes snuck in) and then passing out before the end of the second movie when the sugar rush wore off.
It made me really think of what a true gem these places are, and what a shame it would be if they were to close and disappear for good. Not just for the moviegoers, but for the folks who run and work at these places. For many teens, this might have been their first summer job, and I can only imagine the memories they have of working the concession stands late into those summer evenings.
And the joy the owners of these places get (to my knowledge, all the ones I have been to have been locally owned). It must be a labor of love. I can’t imagine these are cash printing businesses. And after many hours of talking to Jimmy at the Obey House in Crafton Heights, this was the case for him. It was something that brought him great joy and you could hear the sadness in his voice when he spoke of the possibility of the land being sold to become a Sheetz. A partner who owned the property told him this could be the case. Another great American icon shut down and turned into a brand-pumping consumer machine.
Now instead of going to a movie outdoors and building memories to last a lifetime with your family or for date night, you can go to that same spot and get questionable food and a night of heartburn and regret (I suppose the upside is they also will sell you Tums).
While I was at the Dependable Drive-In, watching the double feature, I looked around at mostly empty screens, people leaving before the end of the first movie and many right after the second movie, and it made me kind of sad. While my friend Allison and I might have not enjoyed the first movie, it was still part of the experience. We quietly laughed and poked fun at the movie and looked at the stars, airplanes and lighting bugs that were visible there at Screen 3. I am not sure if it was just a slow Friday, bad sets of movies, or just a general disinterest in the outdoor movie-going experience these days, but I for sure will be making it a point to go and support the last few remaining examples we have here in Western Pennsylvania. It will truly be a sad day for us all if these treasures fade into the past as more modern movie-going experiences continue to expand.
So, for your next movie night, don’t just binge watch Netflix, don’t just order something on the little screen at your house; go and be adventurous and hit your local drive-in and show them the love and support they deserve for all the years of memories they have brought to you.
Columnist Matt Weed is a resident of Crafton who enjoys travel, supporting local businesses and exploring the neighborhoods that make up the west side of Pittsburgh and beyond.