Open & Operating Theaters

Mahoning Drive-In (Open – PA)

IMG_4595History

The Mahoning Drive-In Theatre opened in 1949 and continues operation today! Bethlehem Steel constructed the 105-foot Cinemascope screen in 1948.

The ownership or management is a bit spotty – but thanks to Billboard, the user NeonMichael on Cinematreasures.org, and the author of www.carload.com, I have a general idea:

  • 1949: Opened. Operated by Max Korr, Mitchell Rappaport and Shirer. A.M. Ellis also took up 50% interest in to the Mahoning (Ellis Theaters of New Jersey). Ellis operated drive-ins in New Jersey.
  • 1956: Owned by Ellis Theatres
  • 1952: Joseph J. Humphries and R. C. H. Becker Sr
  • 1963-66: Claude Reinhard
  • 1978: Riant Entp
  • 1980-82: J. Morgan
  • 1982-1998: Amos Theaters Inc (Joseph Farruggio)
  • ? – 2013: Owned by Mike and Deb Danchak, who also own the nearby Angel Theatre in Coaldale.
  • 2014-present: Jeff Mattox
    • July 2014: Added Matt McClanahan and Virgil Cardamone

 

Over the years, the car capacity increased gradually to eventually reach the current capacity of approximately 900 cars.

In 2013, Mike and Deb Danchak closed the theatre for the season on September 8. This was the time the movie industry announced they would be switching film from 35mm to digital – with no more than one year left for possible 35mm films available for current movies.

A digital projector was a pricey investment. A bamboozler – Glen Brannon – took advantage of the drive-ins difficulties and reached out to Mike Danchak about saving the theater. There was a major fundraising effort to fix-up the drive-in. Volunteers came to the drive-in and painted the projection booth, for example. There was an online fundraising page to raise money for the projector and other needed improvements. Depending on the amount you donated, you were able to receive a gift of some kind. I remember seeing the opportunity to buy carload passes for the upcoming season as well. Personally, I donated money in hopes to keep the theater alive and running! Brannon headed all of these processes, with the promise of updating and revitalizing the Mahoning DI.

However, Brannon turned out to be a swindler. He had dealings with several other theaters and you will be hard pressed to find a positive piece of information about Brannon. See the given links at the end of this post for information about Brannon.

Jeff Mattox took over the drive-in in 2014 and for a brief stint, renamed the theater as “Big Pocono Outdoor Theater.” He managed the Mahoning from 2001-2007, and part of the 2010 season, prior to returning as the new owner. On July 22, 2014, Mattox officially added McClanahan and Cardamone (Mahoning FB page).

For the 2014 season, the Mahoning continued to show first-run movies from the companies that would provide 35mm films. Per a Facebook post on March 17, 2014, Jeff initially believed the Mahoning would need to purchase a digital projector to continue into the 2015 season. However, the Mahoning switched to nostalgic movies for the 2015 season and continues today. You also have the option to camp if you are interested.

As quoted from the official Mahoning Drive-In website: “We offer an exclusively retro 35mm film program, which is presented reel-to-reel via original 1940’s Simplex projectors! Our goal; to deliver you a true love of film, and the nostalgic movie going experience you can only get at the drive-in!”

 

Our Visit (September 14, 2013)

Our stop at the Mahoning Drive-In Theater was a double hit – we had a movie night at Laurel Drive-In Theater (35 minutes away), but also stopped by the Mahoning for a brief photo shoot!

The Mahoning Drive-In had closed for the season the previous weekend, but we still wanted to see the property. I was instantly excited by the beautiful marquee – the red arrow directing patrons was eye-catching and gorgeous. Who doesn’t love an old-fashioned drive-in marquee?IMG_4597

We approached the drive-in property – you can see the screen as you drive down Seneca Road. Mahoning DI has a fun entrance with ticket booth and overhand introducing the theatre. The left side was blocked with a chain, and based on the tracks on the ground, has not been used in quite some time. Regardless, you could easily picture two rows of cars lined up for a night of movies!

A small building seemed to be the location for tickets, not far past the original ticket booth. (Further research showed this to be true, but the current owners use the original ticket booth!)

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Inside the theater, there is a paved roadway for the entrance and to the exit, as well as around the projection booth. The car parking/viewing area was covered in grass. The projection booth was standard concrete, white with colored polka dots. There were openings for the projector to project the movies onto the large CinemaScope screen.

The screen is always one of my favorite aspects to photograph. Along the top of the screen, there was either speakers or lights. Under and slightly behind the screen was a small building. I’m unsure the purpose, but photographed it anyway.

Finally, the EXIT sign guided us off the property for the day. Random side note, we took our photos of the marquee on our way out.

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There were a few piles of trash around the property – not too unusual for older theaters.

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Mahoning Drive-In Theatre

635 Seneca Rd

Lehighton, PA 18235

 

 

References and Further Reading:

Official Website: http://mahoningdit.com/

News articles on Brannon: http://www.route66news.com/2012/06/18/who-is-the-teepee-drive-ins-new-operator/, http://www.route66news.com/2013/05/11/teepee-drive-ins-former-operator-resurfaces-in-pennsylvania/, http://wnep.com/2013/05/10/excitement-turns-to-concern-for-drive-in-trying-to-stay-open/

Article on new owners: http://www.philly.com/philly/entertainment/movies/20150717_Temple_grads_run__open-air_nostalgia_palace__drive-in_theater.html

www.carload.com

http://www.cinematreasures.org

Big Pocono Outdoor Theater FB Page: https://www.facebook.com/bigpocono/

Article about documentary film on the Mahoning DI: http://republicanherald.com/news/documentary-to-tell-story-of-mahoning-drive-in-1.2252034

 

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The Moonlite Comes Back to Life! (Opening Soon!)

For Christmas, I unwrapped my very own pair of drive-in speakers and stand! My husband came through with an amazing gift, and linked me to a fun Facebook page as well.

While browsing the recent posts, I came across some photos of the Moonlite Drive-In Theatre in West Wyoming, Pennsylvania – BEING RENOVATED! The Borough Council accepted the purchase of the drive-in by Eric Symeon and approved a variance for the land to become a drive-in again earlier this year.

I hope some of the memorabilia Mr. Symeon found in the buildings will be put on display – I almost wish I had withstood the heat and bugs to browse the property more when we were there!

Best of luck and well wishes during the renovations – the marquee already looks 110% better and only good things can happen from here on out! 3 Cheers for another drive-in theatre brought back to life (Coming: Spring 2018!).

**Make sure to check out my original post about the Moonlite Drive-In! 

Point 3 Drive-In (Open, PA)

Our Visit (September 21, 2015):

This was our first drive-in theater where we were allowed to, and brought!, our dog, Max! Needless to say, I was excited about this aspect right from the start. I had seen photos of drive-ins with tail-wagging dogs in the background, but had yet to experience this side of the drive-in. We made a night of our trip – visiting Centralia, PA to explore a Weird Pennsylvania article location, drove by the Laurel Drive-In in Hazleton, PA (post to come eventually – we went there the previous year!), and went to the Point 3 Drive-In.

We arrived early so I could take photos of the outside pieces – marquee, back of the main screen, drive-way…the usual. The Point 3 has old ticket booths at the tree border, marking the entrance. The ticket booths are no longer used, but serve a taste of nostalgia. As you pass through the ticket booths (overhand present!), the block of pine trees to your left clear out to expose the expansive drive-in.

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Following the drive-way, cars approach the back end of the snack bar. This serves as the ticket booth, advertised by a neon sign. Our screen (#3) was to our far right. Both Screen 2 and 3 lots are covered in grass. When we first came in, I wondered about parking for the movie. Lanes nor spacers were marked – only the slight incline for optimal viewing indicated the parking locations. I needn’t worry – my husband chose a perfect spot, and it was not overly crowded (yes…a wedding over the summer kept me away from blogging!).

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Max and I explored the grounds while Dan set up the back of the jeep with the blankets, pillows, etc. Max was drawn towards the snack-bar (of course), but no dogs allowed inside. We saw an elevated seating area, with overhead coverage, next to the snack bar, and some picnic benches on the other side. There was a slide and play-set to the left of Screen 1, which is always neat to see (I think it really shows the focus on children and families!).

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Our food was good – typical snack-bar snacks. The soda was self-serve, a first I had seen at a drive-in. Our movies were good – “Pixels” and “Trainwreck” – the adult movie set out of the three screen choices. Most cars left after “Pixels,” but then again, most of the cars had children.

All in all, it was a fun evening and we were glad to be there for their last night of the season!

 

History:

The Point 3 Drive-In was originally called the Arrow Drive-In Theatre, opening between 1952 and 1953 in Danville, Pennsylvania. According to Billboard (June 21, 1952), the drive-in opened in summer of 1952. Harold E. Bell opened the drive-in with the help of Allied Booking and Buying Service. By September 13, 1952, Billboard reported that new lamps were installed at the drive-in. By May 30, 1953, Bell resigned from his other theater management position at College Theater in Bethlehem to manage the Arrow Drive-In. Bell seemed to have been a theater advocate, being a manager of regular Berwick theaters up until 1950, and also a salesman of Perkins Theatre Supply Co from 1952-55.

The name change timeframe is uncertain, occurring sometime between 1955 and 1958. The Theatre Catalog lists the drive-in as the Arrow Drive-In in 1955, and the Film Daily Year Book of Motion Pictures lists the drive-in as the Point Drive-In in 1958. While running under the name of Arrow Drive-In, the theater had one screen. This continued through 1966 at least (via Historic Aerials). By 1993, historic aerials seems to show 3 screens.

David Renn is the current owner and has been for the past 27 years (Renn, in person, 9/21/2015). Prior to Renn it seems that Cinecom Theatre ran the Point, after Comerford Theaters was in charge and sold out to them in the late 1960s. Looking into these theater companies does not bring out any connections to the drive-in, although they are associated with local theaters.

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Point 3 Drive-In Theatre Route 11 & Northumberland-Da Hwy Danville, PA 17821

 

Video to Support Drive-Ins!

Mod Betty (an awesome, retro-hunting blogger) has posted a kick-starter video to support the drive-ins! Check it out (featuring Shankweiler’s Drive-In!!).

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ThEvPLYXnP4&feature=youtu.be

 

If you like the video, check out her page: http://retroroadmap.com/

The Ultimate Drive-In Night

Well, this post is drive-in theater related, but is not the usual content!

 

On Saturday, April 26, Dan and I attended our first drive-in of the season (wooo! at Delsea. Since it was the first of the season, we invited family and friends…. and oddly enough, everyone wanted to go! Before the movie started we had 13 cars and 36 people! So much fun!

 

The real story happened during intermission, in-between the two movies…

 

     “Hard to Concentrate” by Red Hot Chili Peppers began to play and up on the screen, where dancing popcorn and hot dogs usually appear, a slideshow began.

Dan proposed!

     Although there were some technical difficulties, it was more than I ever could have imagined or dream of… it was beautiful. It was perfect.

So, as if the drive-in wasn’t already a memorable, meaningful, important, wonderful place in my life, it has now become even more special.

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On the screen!!

The Proposal on the screen!!

Pictures, before the movie and proposal…

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Bengies Drive-In Theatre

Bengies Drive In

My Visit – August 10, 2013:

The Baltimore area is a fun place to visit, and once we found out about Bengies we decided to take a trip down. Luckily I did some research ahead of time because there are many rules for this particular drive-in.

One major thing you need to know about Bengies is they have a NO PHOTO policy anywhere on the property.

We arrived early and parked nearby. We walked around the property to get a feel for the size and a glimpse of what we would see later that night. I did snap some photos from the outside, mainly because I wanted to share an image to show the screen size.

Bengies DI - back of screen Bengies Drive In Bengies Drive In Bengies Drive In Bengies Drive In Bengies Drive In Bengies Drive In Bengies Drive In Bengies Drive In Bengies Drive In Bengies Drive In Bengies Drive In

As you enter the drive-in, you will immediately notice the barrage of signs warning you of the various rules for the property. It was a bit intimidating and overwhelming – one of those times where you feel guilty even though you are completely innocent! I knew there would be signs ahead of time, thanks to Mod Betty and retroroadmap.com (blog post: http://retroroadmap.com/spot/its-drive-in-movie-season-maryland-new-york-and-pennsylvania/, specific picture: http://www.flickr.com/photos/modbetty/4630018820/).

Entering the theater grounds (aside from the signs) is very pleasant. Besides the ticket booth, there was also a greeter near the concession stand, directing cars and wishing them a good night at the drive-in.

We parked in the center and a few rows back from the screen. The concession stand was very busy, with two sides servicing customers. The food was good; nothing sticks out as being an amazing food choice.  They have a lot of merchandise for sale, which made me excited to add to my t-shirt collection. Unfortunately they did not have my top 2 choices and I had to settle for my 3rd choice. I waited awhile for service to buy the t-shirt, since I had to go to a separate register from the food line. Also, the workers behind the counter weren’t visibly happy. At all. Everyone seemed hurried and distracted.

Bengies shows three movies, starting with the lowest rated. So we watched Smurfs 2, followed by Grown Ups 2. Due to our drive home we did not stay for movie #3. I was disappointed because Grown Ups 2 was listed as the third movie in the program, but the marquee had it listed as #2…

Several things about this theater bothered me, one being the talking over the credits. As soon as the end music and credits began, there was a person talking over the movie giving announcements. I found it distracting, unnecessary, and pushy for it to immediately begin at the credits. He (the announcer) also repeatedly mentions the rules during these announcements.

In-between the 2 movies, we turned the car on to keep the battery from fading. Honestly, I do not understand how this works or why, but it is something Dan has taught me and we always do at Delsea for a couple minutes. Immediately, a worker came over and told us to turn off the car to prevent CO2 emissions. Hm.

Overall, I am glad we visited Bengies – it has a large screen, vintage memorabilia and cars, kind greeters, a playground for children, and is one of the last drive-ins in the area. However, I don’t need to go back to this one. I feel it was more profit-based instead of maximizing the experience of the drive-in. Since visiting several other drive-ins, I prefer the latter.

History/Information:
According to bengies.com, the theatre opened on June 6, 1956. They just closed their 58th season running – quite incredible! Three brothers named Jack, Paul, and Hank Vogel built the theater. Jack Vogel was the architect and designed this theater, as well as several others in the US. Interestingly, the drive-in was named after Benjamin Harrison (former president) because the area used to be known as Bengies, MD. D. Edward Vogel is the current owner and operator of the drive-in.

The screen is 52′ x 120′ and Bengies quotes itself as having the biggest screen in the USA. I have found a contradiction to this statement, since the Capri Drive-In (Coldwater, MI) lists its screen as 150’ x 75’.

The current marquee is not the original. The first marquee had an apostrophe between the e and s. There is a story about the apostrophe, which can be found in the City Paper link below. The current marquee was put up in the 1970s and did not use the apostrophe. Speakers were present up until at least 1998.

Bengies Drive In

Bengies Drive In Bengies Drive In

Information regarding the original builders, name, and marquee come from a 1998 article in the Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/style/movies/features/bengiesfacts.htm.

Interesting tid-bits about Bengies:

Bengies Drive In - Google Maps

Bengies Drive-In Theater
3417 Eastern Blvd
Middle River, MD 21220

Family Drive-In: Stephens City, VA

How I came across the Family Drive-in

My best friend MK moved to Winchester, VA a couple years ago to work at the University. My initial reaction was excitement for the job opportunity and sadness because she’d be so far away. On the bright side, I saw this as a chance to see a new place.

Before my 3rd visit, I discovered there was a local drive-in while surfing the web and my regular drive-in websites. How had I not known? I made it my goal to scope out the drive-in as soon as possible.

My Visit(s)

October 20, 2012:

MK wasn’t too keen on going to the drive-in, so we just stopped by during the day to see the site. I fell in love … it was my first time seeing the classic car speakers and a playground in front of a screen. I promised myself (and told MK) that the next time I visited we were going for sure!

July 19, 2013:

We arrived at 6:45 pm for a 9:00 pm showing. You never know how crowded it is going to be or what time to arrive with drive-ins! I wanted to have a good spot and since it was MK and her friend Rick’s first time at a drive-in. There were probably about 20 cars already, mostly at the first screen. Our movies were, “Grown-Ups 2” and “The Heat.”

When you arrive to the Family Drive-In the first thing you should notice is the back of Screen 1, which serves as a marquee and announcement of the theater’s name. It slopes out and down from the top of the screen, white background and red letters (they light up later!). Below the name there is a letter board for both screens naming the movies showing. Drive In 001

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Drive In 022     Drive In 024

 

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I liked the classic aisle lights and Screen # light. A giant median as well as the concession stand/projection booth separates the two screens’ spaces. After we parked and set-up I walked around the snap some photos. The speakers were by far the most interesting and neat aspect of the Family Drive-In. I frequent Delsea DI often and we visited Shankweiler’s; however, neither drive-in has speakers remaining. After reading a couple books on drive-ins and an overabundance of articles I was ecstatic to see the speakers in person! They are about 4 feet tall and only one company makes and supplies parts for them!

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Screen #1 has playground equipment in front – swings, a slide, etc. This is another common feature of drive-ins during their hey-day, but my first time seeing them in use. Once the movie starts, the playground closes. Screen #2 had a couple benches out front.

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The concession stand had a range of food choices at reasonable prices. They have an inside and outside set-up, with certain items available outside only (including funnel cakes and sno-cones). I purchased a t-shirt as memorabilia – there were two design choices and a TON of colors. I ended up choosing a light gray because I liked the bright/neon green on the design.

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Overall, we had a great time! Everyone I spoke to was very nice and helpful. The food was good, movies were funny, and the night was cool (which was a blessing considering the night before was 100 degrees).

Some History:

The theatre has been open for 57 years! It opened on June 14, 1956, owned and operated by the Dalke Family of Woodstock, VA. In March 2009, Tim Dalke leased the theatre to Jim Kopp (the lease runs for another 7 years). The theatre holds about 400-500 cars (conflicting data between articles).

The Family Drive-In started as a single screen theater. In 1989 they added the second screen. They open around Mid-March through to November. Each night there 4 movies playing – 2 movies per screen.

Recently, the Family DI announced they will be converting to Digital by the end of August! This is great news for locals and drive-in enthusiasts and supporters. Many theaters are threatened by this conversion to digital and the Family DI was able to make the change!

There have been several articles and interviews recently about the Family Drive-In, generating attention and business for drive-ins all over (The Washington Post, Washington Post 2, BBC’s Radio 5, Roll Call, and VOA).

Go Visit! They were great people and a great drive-in. Visit their Facebook page or website and if you get a chance, visit the actual drive-in!

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Family Drive-In

5890 Valley Pike

Stephens City, VA

www.thefamilydriveintheatre.com

Other Photos:

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Divider between the 2 Screens

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Waiting in line!

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The speaker is ready to go!

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Row Markers –

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Photos from the 1st visit, just looking at the property:

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Shankweiler’s Drive-In

Date of Visit: April 20, 2013

I was pumped when we decided we would take the hour and a half drive up to Orefield, PA to attend the movies at Shankweiler’s Drive-In. My adventures to visit other (open) drive-ins outside of Delsea DI were really happening!!

  • History:IMG_4306

Shankweiler‘s is the longest-running theater in America – it opened on April 15, 1934 and has been in continuous operation since. Impressive (and quite awesome) to say the least. Shankweiler’s was actually the 2nd drive-in to open in the United States, following the original Camden Drive-In in NJ (…that will be a blog in the near future). Unlike the Camden DI, however, Shankweiler’s has managed to survive!

When they first opened, Shankweiler’s used sound projected from a speaker near the screen. As inventions and technology advanced, Shankweiler’s added speaker poles and car speakers in 1948. As far as sound goes, the use of an AM station occurred in 1982, and then finally the advancement to FM frequency in 1986 (the year I was born!). FM radio is the current sound projection used by Shankweiler’s, as it seems to be with the majority of DI theaters I have researched.

I found it interesting to learn about Shankweiler’s screen… originally it was a simple sheet, stretched out. Then it was a “shadow box” or small screen. However, in 1955 a rough hurricane (I shall not speak her name!) destroyed the screen and projection booth. That same year, a new screen was built, as well as a projection booth/concession stand/restroom location. The screen and building for projections/concessions/bathrooms in 2013 is the same from 1955.  In case you didn’t figure it out, Shankweiler’s has one screen. According to drive-ins.com and a few other sites, about 300 cars is the capacity.

  • My Visit

Showtime was 8:15 pm, and we arrived at 6:39 pm (according to my camera). IMG_4279As we came to the stoplight at Rt 309 and Shankweiler Rd, the Neon Sign across the street had me fumbling with my camera for a good shot. I was bouncing in the passenger seat, anticipating the view of the entrance. As we made the left-hand turn, the back of the screen and entrance marquee was prominently in view. I mean, you can’t miss the place! We pulled over and parked right outside to get some photos – crossed the street to the neon sign, and then back over so we could enter the theater.

Entrance Shankweiler's DI

Spot @ Shankweiler's DI

The Perfect Spot

When we pulled in, only about 3 cars were parked already. Since we are a “high vehicle” we had to park between the yellow poles. After 3 tries, we found our perfect spot. Blankets and pillows were arranged, and then I started snapping pictures.

I liked that there was gravel for driving and grass for parking, delineating the spots and allowing a bit more comfort if you chose to sit outside the car. I did see one girl jumping rope before the movies, and a couple of families setting up chairs.

Concession, Projection Booth, Restrooms

Concession, Projection Booth, Restrooms at Shankweiler’s DI

The concession stand had the basics – hot dogs, burgers, popcorn, goobers, and other candy assortments. An entrance on both sides of the building allows customers to get their food easily, regardless of their parking destination. My hot dog was perfect, the large soda was GIANT, and the popcorn was yummy.

I have to say it was VERY COLD that night. Even under sleeping bags and 2 blankets I felt the chill. Definitely not a night to sit outside, and also might be the reason for a smaller attendance rate. It was also the first weekend they were open so word might not have gotten out yet. Let’s face it, not everyone is receiving weekly newsletters or checking websites a few times a week! Regardless, it was a great night.

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I had a chance to speak with Susan, one of the owners, before the first movie. What a sweet person! According to their 70 Years pamphlet, Susan and her husband have been part of the Shankweiler establishment since 1971 and then purchased the theater in 1984. Susan shared that they have several, non-local families that visit each year.

Shankweiler’s is truly a great place to visit, enjoy a couple movies, and create your own drive-in memories. Check it out!

Google Maps

Aerial View – So neat to see it like this!

Shankweiler’s Drive-In
4540 Shankweiler Road
Orefield, PA 18069
http://www.shankweilers.com/

Some additional photos…

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When on Rt. 309, about to turn left onto Shankweiler Road – there is the sign!

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