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BeeLines

Remembering Westfield’s Drive-In Theater

May 21, 2015
Westfield Republican

By Marybelle Beigh

Westfield Historian

A couple weeks ago, a haunting photo of an abandoned drive-in theater screen and deteriorating lot showed up on Facebook, posted by Brian Sherman, with the caption "Look familiar?"

Article Photos

The Westfield Drive-In Theater from a 1960s postcard.

This was followed by dozens of comments like "I remember it well we used to hide in the trunk and sneak in dirty joes Ah yes, the 'dirty drive in"!! why was it dirty? well, it seems my memory has it they showed xxx movies late nights hence, dirty joes Before it was X rated: I remember the swings and such for kids to play on before the movie; in the days of station wagons. When rock & roll was new, I saw Bill Haley and the Comets in the movie, Rock Around The Clock Can we bring this back for just a day? I miss the 70's I bought a few of the old drive in speakers is the motel still out front? yesbut the restaurant has been closed quite a few years now still standing? not still standing... The screen was the back wall of Joe Catania's motel. Then his brother Mike had it, till the building burned in the late 80's, and it was torn down. All that's there now is the east and west motel buildings"

At that last comment above, I weighed in on the comments, writing, "The west building housed a restaurant off and on... I believe the last "edition" was there for about a year around 2004 and used the old Starlight Diner sign from a short ways west on Main Street where the little buildings that were tourist cabins, are still located Thinking I need to write a BeeLines about the Westfield Drive In Theater!"

Several years ago, I wondered just when our drive-in theater was built, as I remembered going there as a youngster, and into my teens. Researching the old Westfield Republican newspapers on microfilm unearthed several articles in the May 1952 issues. The May 14, 1952 edition, page 1 headlined article "Westfield Drive In Theater Will Open Thursday May 22" exclaims, "The latest and the best projection equipment available was installed this week. The concession will be operated by a Buffalo concern the latest equipment will be used to serve you the best of food and drinks."

May 21, 1952, a large sketch illustrated "WESTFIELD DRIVE-IN - WESTFIELD NEW YORK - This is the week you've been waiting for. The opening of Westfield's Drive-In Theatre. Fun for all, and gifts for many." The grand opening, actually on Friday May 23rd - started at 7:00 PM with a parade from Moore Park accompanied by the Westfield High School Band. Several more pages of the Republican were filled with Program for the week, and what may have been nearly the entire business community's large display ads of Congratulations, Welcomes, and Best Wishes for success.

The first movie shown was "Crosswinds" in Technicolor with John Payne and Rhonda Fleming, a Cartoon - "Anvil Chorus Girl", and a Technicolor Musical "Champagne for Two" - quite a "feast" for the eyes and ears!

Later, the Theatre Motel was built, with long single-story buildings on the east and west sides of the lot in front of the theater screen and one two-story building along the back side of the screen.

The Drive In provided many years of fond memories for the area residents, closing in the mid 1980s. According to the website, newyorkdriveins.com, the final season was 1986, but this date has not yet been confirmed by primary sources.

From a comment on the Facebook conversation, the motel building against the screen burned in the late 1980s, and the remains of the screen were torn down. But according to the NY Drive-ins website, photos posted by Barry Joy state that the fire was in the late 1990s. Again, the Westfield Historian is looking for source documentation for the date of the fire.

The west-side building has housed a succession of restaurants, the last one opening about 2004 as a reincarnation of the Starlight Diner, using the old sign from the former diner that used to be about a quarter mile closer to downtown Westfield, on the south side of Main Street. Sadly the restaurant lasted barely a year before closing. However, the motel continues operation to the present (May 2015), and the current owner runs a U-Haul truck rental business as well.

You may contact Marybelle Beigh, Westfield Historian, with information, documents, articles, photos, memories, comments, questions, and requests for historical research and stories by email: westfieldhistorian@fairpoint.net, or by phone: 716-397-9254.

 
 
 

 

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