Published February 13, 2004

  

The Ole' Ranch Drive-In

   

Ranch Drive-In Feedback      History of Local Theatres

The Rand Theatre Demolition

  
ranch drive-in ad ghs.jpg (56874 bytes)
What's playin' at the Drive-In? Here's the bill for late June, 1957. Click ad to enlarge.
I was wasting time yesterday surfing the Internet when I came across a web site that dealt with Ohio's remaining drive-in theatres. To my surprise, they included Greenfield's Ranch Drive-in as one of the last remaining active drive-in theatres in Ohio. 

Don't know where they got their information from but it certainly wasn't from anyone in Greenfield.

Anyway, it got me thinking that maybe some of you would like to share a few memories about the Ranch with the rest of us. And, don't say you can't remember anything. You'd have to lived your teen years in a closet not to have some memories of the drive-in!

Also, if you have any photos, email them, along with your memories, to  ranch@highland-ohio.com

   
Here's an interesting set of statistics about the popularity of drive-in theatres in Ohio.
   

Number of Ohio Drive-Ins Per Year

1948 1954 1958 1963 1967 1972 1977 1982 1987 1999
88 164 196 188 189 181 165 144 83 48
   

FEEDBACK

  
Editor's Note: After reading the feedback, several things have come to mind:
  • Do only guys have memories of the Ranch?
  • What are those things nobody wants to talk about?
  • I think my grandmother provided me with the answer. I was on a Greyhound bus with her, going from Columbia to Greer, SC. We passed a drive-in theatre and she sternly warned me about ever going to such places. She said, "people did dirty and evil things in those places." Is that what you guys don't want to talk about?
  • One of the things I enjoyed doing the most was altering the letters on the outdoor sign next to Centerfield Road. It was a great creative exercise seeing how you could change the title of an upcoming movie into something dirty! It happened often enough you'd think they would have put a clear and lockable covering on the moveable plastic letters
   
Larry, 

John Edington and I went there a lot and stopped at the Dog and Suds and went in with a bunch of hot dogs and root beer, We sat on the top of my Austin Healy and had a great time , and got to know the owner Kib, very well as we were at the Rand a lot also. 

Don Mowery, cmowe@earthlink.net 2/17/04

My memories go back to the late 50s, Phil Cameron and I would be taken there, and then after the show would be picked up and taken home, Also in later years they had the best pizza ever if you had the $1.25 to get one.. Also Don Green was the security and Tom Benner directed traffic after the show was over.. Oh yes the trains that ran every night,, Sure is good to look back in time .. And yes there were other things going on ,but we won't talk about them now...
 
Jim Fenner jfenner@dragonbbs.com 2-14-04

   

Larry,
Your article on the Ranch Drive-in did bring back a lot of memories, however I won't post them because my children and grandchildren might read this. I will mention Lucky Buck Night when you could get in for one dollar a carload and see 2 movies for a dollar.
John Countryman jcountryman@in-touch.net 
      
Mr. Chapman,

Regarding memories of the Ranch Drive-In, I do remember Lucky Buck night (Thursdays I think) when it was only $1 per car load. I also recall having folks hide in the BIG trunks of those 50's and 60's era vehicles on the weekends to save a few dollars. If you were quick and had good enough timing you could drive into the exit without paying (not that I would ever do that). I seem to recall that the trains would go by at the most inappropriate times during the movie. I'm very appreciative of being able to grow up in those wonderful times. When gas was less than 50 cents a gallon and you could go to the movies for just a couple of bucks. That was the only time in my young life that I was happy my first car was a station wagon! Most of my best memories of the Ranch Drive-In can not be published on your family rated web page! Thanks for the trip back!

Randy Sagar, Randy.Sagar@med.va.gov 2/14/04

  

Hank Davidson recalls career as movieman

(Note: Hank Davidson passed away not too many years ago, but he is fondly remembered in the Lynchburg, Ohio area and in other communities where he owned and operated movie theaters and drive-ins for many years. One of those endeavors was a partnership with Greenfieldís Kib Roberts in the Rand Theater and the Ranch Drive-In. The following article about Davidsonís career in the movie business appeared in the Lynchburg News on August 21, 1975.)

By Ron Coffey (visit Ron's website at www.coffeeweb.com

When J. Henry (Hank) Davidson was a boy growing up in Buford, he developed a fascination with movie projectors. At Buford High School, he was always tinkering with the film equipment.

After graduation, he was working at Allis Chalmers in Cincinnati when he decided to take a course in electro-acoustical engineering at a nearby school. The young man learned about the principles of the newly-developed system and was about to receive his diploma when the school suddenly went bankrupt.

To get back some of his tuition, Davidson said, "I, so to speak, latched on to some sound equipment that was put to use in starting my first theater."

That first theater was opened at the village of Seaman in 1932. However, the town was not big enough to support the "picture show" and Davidsonís first venture was soon closed.

However, he rebounded and eventually built a very successful career as owner of 17 theaters during 43 years in the business.

Hank Davidson is no longer active in the movie business, although he is co-owner of the Mound Drive-In at West Union, which is leased to Russell Rainwater. Davidson recently took a few hours from his busy retirement schedule to recount his career as a showman.

After the failure of the Seaman enterprise, Davidson enlisted the help of K.R. (Kib) Roberts, an automobile company employee. The two men became business partners and brought their equipment to the Patterson Show Building in Lynchburg in 1933.

Needing a name for the business, the men settled on the Rand Theater. The "Rand" was derived from the "R" in Roberts and the "D" in Davidson, joined by the letters "an".

By 1934 the business was in operation. The movie theater was located in the building now occupied by Howardís Carpet Shop.

The theater was a success, and by 1935 Davidson bought out his partner. That same year his landlord decided not to lease the property again, so Davidson build the New Rand Theater.

The business continued to prosper until the war years, and was finally closed in 1945. The birth of television at about the same time contributed to the demise of many a small town theater, Davidson feels.

The New Rand Theater was located in the building now occupied by the Lynchburg Volunteer Fire Department.

During the 1930s Davidson and Kib Roberts got together again and decided to build the Rand Theater in Greenfield. This 1938 investment proved to be a good one, and soon after the partners took over operation of Greenfieldís other theater, the Lyric. They later formed an affiliation with the White-Lisbon Circuit in Cincinnati.

In 1939 Davidson and Roberts opened the Grant Theater in Georgetown. Davidson pointed out that most of the theaters he was associated with were named after some aspect of the areas they were located in. The Grant Theater was so named because President Ulysses S. Grant spent his boyhood days in Georgetown.

In 1941 Davidson became associated with Harry Wamsley in the operation of the Palace Theater, Peebles.

The Skyway Theater in Osborn was added in 1944, with William Hitchcock as a partner. This theater was named after Skyway Park and located across the highway from Air Service Command.

As the Adams Amusement Co., Davidson, Roberts and Wamsley built the Mound Theater at Peebles in 1945. This enterprise was named after the Great Serpent Mount nearby.

During this period, drive-in movies were making a name. Davidson recalls that the first drive-in was built in 1938 in Boston, Mass. The inventor tried to patent his design, but his idea of a ramp system for viewing was turned down as not original when it was learned the ancient Romans often parked their chariots the same way when watching gladiators.

Government permission was required before certain projects could be started during the 1940s. Each type of project was numbered, Davidson says, and that is how he knows the Roselawn Drive-In at Allensburg was the 234th drive-in ever built. The drive-in was opened in 1947.

In 1948 the 3-Cís Drive-In was built in Washington C.H. The establishment, which was later sold to Jim Chakers, was named after the first cross-Ohio highway, known as the Cincinnati-Columbus-Cleveland Pike, shortened to the 3-C Highway.

The Old Fort Drive-In at Lebanon was built in 1949 by Davidson and Roberts. The name comes from nearby Fort Ancient.

The Atomic Drive-In at Waverly was named after the atomic energy plant there. The theater was erected in 1953.

The Mound Drive-In at Peebles was built in 1954.

Greenfieldís drive-in theater, the Ranch, was built in 1956. Davidson said he and his partners had a difficult time naming the theater. They decided on "Ranch" because it was built on the spot where there had once been a pony ranch.

During his time as a showman, Davidson also owned the Circle Theater at Circleville, the Avon Theater at New Vienna, the Community Theater at Sardinia and the Arcade Theater at Georgetown.

In 1971 the Atomic Drive-In was sold to Edwin S. Payne, Chillicothe, and in 1972 the Old Fort, Roselawn, Rand and Ranch were sold to B & R Theaters Inc., Cincinnati. In previous years, Davidsonís other movie places had been sold, and today (1975) he and Roberts own only the Mound Drive-In at Peebles.

After selling to B & R, Davidson remained active as manager of several theaters. He continued in this capacity until January, 1975.

Davidson and his wife, Dean, who reside in Allensburg, still maintain an office in Lynchburg. Davidson opened the Associated Theaters office in 1946 to conduct business matters, and he likes to come for a few hours each week. He also owns the Fireside Inn at Allensburg "to have something to play around with as a rental proposition."

As for the movies heís shown during his 43 years, Davidson says: "Iíve seen them come from the cowboys to the nudies."

Some of the big box office stars of small towns in the past were Shirley Temple, Will Rogers, Hopalong Cassidy, Gene Autry and Roy Rogers, Betty Grable, June Haver and Alice Fay, Davidson recalls, adding that "Clark Gable was the king of them all."

Davidson feels the sex symbols of the past, such as Clara Bow, Alice Fay, Marilyn Monroe and Betty Grable, were far sexier than current stars who disrobe on screen.

Although he does not personally care for the current wave of "fast-buck" pictures dealing with explicit sex, Davidson opposes censorship of "one of our American heritages, freedom of speech, sight and sound." He feels people should be able to see what they want, and those who donít want to view certain movies "donít have to look."

Many R-rated movies have been seen at Davidsonís theaters, but only two X-films were shown: "Midnight Cowboy" and "The Graduate"; both were Academy Award caliber pictures.

Movies have gone through many cycles: there have been beach party films, motorcycle movies, musicals, disaster flicks and others. Only the horror pictures and cowboy movies have been able to hold their own over the years, Davidson says.

Todayís big box office hits, such as "Jaws," take in huge receipt figures to place quickly on the all-time hit list. While Davidson does not find fault with the movies, he noted that they were aided by inflation. He pointed out that admission prices were much lower when "Gone with the Wind" was first released.

Business aspects of the movie business have changed too. Davidson says most films cost in the neighborhood of $15 when he began showing them. Now distributors often demand 90 percent of the theaterís gross receipts, and Davidson is glad to be out of the business.

However, he feels movies will always endure as a form of entertainment. They have survived the competition of television, and new "gimmicks," such as three-dimensional films, "Sensurround" sound and others have always added a novel attraction.

Today Davidson devotes considerable time to fishing and farming and maintains a busy schedule. Looking back on his 43 years in the movie business, he says, "I canít figure out how I ever had time to go to the theater."