The Drive-in Theater at North Hoosick
The Drive In Theater was first built by a partnership between Chase & Mary Hathaway and Dean & Dorothy LeBarron Hathaway. Dean drew the plans in 1946, ground was broken in 1947, and it opened on June 1,1948.
The screen was 60 feet high, 40 feet long and 20 feet wide. The bottom of the screen was approximately 30 feet from the ground. It was made of sheets of asbestos 1/4 inch by 4feet by 8 feet, and coated on the projection side.
There were spaces for 300 cars and bleachers for walk-ins or those who wanted to sit outdoors. Speakers were hung on posts that were placed between each pair of cars. When in use, they were placed on the car window, the volume controlled individually. Sometimes the patrons would forget to remove the speaker as they left the theater. The damaged speaker would have be repaired before the next evening. Speakers that were left with the volume up had to be turned down before 11:00 pm, as the noise would disturb the neighbors.
Tickets at that time were $.50 for everyone over 12 years of age. Refreshments were sold at the concession stand as they are today. In early years a refreshment cart was pushed around the grounds to serve those in cars. Pop corn, soda, candy, etc. were offered from the cart. The soda was bought from the Joe Sales Bottling Works in Hoosick Falls. The cart was operated in 1948 and 1949 by George LeBarron and Jay Arnold Sr. They received $.20 for every dollar taken in.
Some families traveled 70 miles from their homes to the North Hoosick Drive In. It has always been a place for a family to enjoy movies.
The hurricane of November, 1950 that caused much damage to the area also blew the projection screen down. It was rebuilt using wooden poles heavily braced to support the screen. In 1994 the screen was destroyed by wind again. It was replaced with a steel structure supporting a new modern screen.
In recent years speakers have been replaced with a new FM sound system that broadcasts the audio portion to the car radios. This gives better reception and lower volume that reduces the general sounds of the theater.
The projectors are original but can be rebuilt as needed. There has been little improvement for this equipment over the years. Digital equipment is being developed and is expected to be available in the near future. There is constant upgrading to the theater including the food concession.
Mr. Karl Pingree has owned and operated the theater for the past several years. In May 1998 he opened the season with a fiftieth anniversary celebration. Still in operation, it is one of the few drive-in theaters left in New York State.
By Gilbert E. Wright