Friday, February 16, 2018

Warner’s Skyline Drive-In Theater

Ralph Murphy, Projectionist at the Skyline Drive-in
The 52 Ancestors theme this week is “valentine.” When I saw that, I immediately thought “I got nothing!” I dug around my trees, looked through some photos, and racked my brain for a good valentine story, but still came up with nothing. I’m sure there are love stories in my tree but I haven’t found them yet. Maybe it’s because Valentine’s Day has never really meant anything to me so my mind is fighting it. So, like last week, I’m cheating again and instead will share a group of photos we have of a drive-in located in West Virginia. Who knows, maybe these photos will remind someone of a Valentine’s Day evening they spent at a drive-in with a special person years ago.

Warner’s Skyline Drive-In Theater
In 2007, my husband Charlie, his Dad Earl, and I visited his Aunt Jean Murphy in Bridgeport, Harrison County, West Virginia. Before we left, Aunt Jean gave Charlie 15 boxes of slides taken by her husband (and Charlie’s uncle) Ralph Murphy. There were thousands of slides in the collection, spanning the years 1947 to 1984. Many were scenic shots from their travels across the United States, some were family members, and others were friends and co-workers. I wanted to convert the slides to digital images but there were so many the task was overwhelming. I converted a few here and there and then abandoned the boxes for several years. I finally bit the bullet in August 2015 and made it my yearly genealogy project during a summer “staycation.” I spent the full week inserting three slides into a tray, pushing the tray into the slide scanner, and pressing a button. It was that easy, but time consuming. Since I completed the project, I’ve spent hours looking at the photos and they’ve brought great joy into my life. I’ve been able to identify many of the family members in the images, but many remain a mystery. I hope to remedy that someday by posting the images on the Internet. Hopefully someone will find and recognize these unknown people. Now, about the drive-in.

Warner’s Skyline Drive-in Theater was located on U.S. 19 in Clarksburg, Harrison County, West Virginia. According to Drive-Ins.com, it opened on June 29, 1948. The original owner was Charles Warner, thus its name. The first movie to hit the big screen was Come and Get It, a 1936 film that featured Walter Brennan. The capacity for cars was 400 spaces. According to an obituary I found for Evelyn Caputo, her husband, Samuel Caputo, purchased the drive-in in 1955. The obituary also noted “When the drive-in was destroyed by a severe storm in 1960, material salvaged from the screen was used to construct Sam’s Market on Rt. 19 S.” Mr. Caputo apparently rebuilt the drive-in and remained the owner until it closed in 1985. On a website for the WI Newsletter, Barbara Ann Paugh Patton posted a photo of the drive-in road sign on a page marked Trivia Picture. Many people who knew what is was wrote comments on the page. Kay Corathers Connor wrote the “drive-in was built on an old strip mine and the owners lived in a nice house up on the hill beside the theatre area.” Jay Sharp wrote “As you start down the hill you can see a small lake on the right-hand side.” You’ll see evidence of that lake in two of the photos in Uncle Ralph’s collection. And one person, Bill Losh, even mentions Uncle Ralph stating “Their projectionist at that time was my neighbor, Ralph Murphy.”

These photos are part of Uncle Ralph’s slide collection.

Ralph was there from the beginning, documenting construction
 







The driveway to the drive-in
 

Skyline ticket booth
Unknown projectionist
Unknown projectionist
Skyline refreshment center
Unknown workers inside the Skyline refreshment center
Unknown workers inside the Skyline refreshment center
Unknown workers inside the Skyline refreshment center
Skyline refreshment center
 




Ralph's wife Jean Murphy and an unknown woman
Jean Murphy
  



Ralph Murphy
 















First three young women are unknown; Jean Murphy

The lake mentioned by Jay Sharp
The lake mentioned by Jay Sharp
  







References
1. Drive-Ins.com, Skyline Drive-In Theater - Facts & Highlights; http://drive-ins.com/theater/wvtskyl/skyline-drive-in-theater-clarksburg-wv#.Wmz9kExFyhx
2. Obituary for Evelyn Caputo, Davis-Weaver Funeral Home, August 2015; http://davisweaverfuneralhome.com/book-of-memories/2233329/Caputo-Evelyn/obituary.php
3. The WI Newsletter, Trivia Picture, no. 91, March 2007; http://wihs59.tripod.com/news/news0703/news0703.html.