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Spotlight 88: Re-Uniting With A Special Friend

By Jack Goddard

Milestones Vol 34 No. 1

The hot blistering July sun was just sinking over "The Knob" in New Sewickley Township one evening. It was then that I spied her. I knew at a glance that we'd met before. That was years ago in a more innocent time when we were so young. She'd aged a little now but was still in good shape.

It took a mere second as I gazed at her silhouette, to see that this gal still had those exotic streamlined features. It was a creature of downright beauty. It's still indescribable to me how this still had power over me. It was as if I was being pulled by a magnet. Talk about bein' seductive! I couldn't help but come closer and closer.

Even six decades ago, she had me going around in circles. She made my head spin and I can remember leaving her, dizzy at times. But, my little heart skipped a beat every time I got near her. I'd hold her tight as if it was love at first sight. It didn't last long, however, as some older boys would come and put her under their control. I'd go for a while but I'd be back. Even the bigger kids couldn't keep me from her.

She was always in demand. All I hoped for was that she stayed on the right track. We had to part ways in the early 1950's. I'd got a little upset watching her keep others excited and laughing. Oh, she was soooo special. Maybe its fate---our crossing trails again. Some things never changed. For example, she seems shorter and I now tower over her. She's been dominated by at least four men but the lady is still proud. She's all painted up and ready to roll!

Yep, I was really tickled pink when I saw this beauty again. And boy, does she look good. A very understanding wife, Linda Young, smiles and is the first to say that her husband Wayne, "Has so much fun with her." You see, the Riverside High School grad, who lived in Fombell, has a long relationship with her too.

One doesn't have to be a "rocket scientist' to see that he loves and adores her too. Plus, Here's betting that he'll keep her on the right track. Wayne and Nancy, residents of nearby Marion Township, are both 100 per cent devoted to her. He asserts, somewhat philosophically, that "You know we are all in love and attached to things we knew in the past." He amended "It don't matter what it is. If you have good memories of something, a certain attachment comes with that." This is true, your truly will never forget many things. The fun we had at Halloween, our plow horses Barney and Clyde; and ev

en my childhood dog, Rex.
Wayne and I have a mutual love affair from our days of going to Spotlight 88's drive-in theater. It ran from 1948 until 1985. If you went anytime between the opening date until the early 1970's, chances are you do too. Ours centers on that ol' Crosley Train. It, if you recall, sat inside the giant screen of that huge 22 acre complex.

Here is just a brief history lesson to you youngsters under the age of 40. Spotlight 88 was named for Route 88 on which it sat. It went south to New Brighton, and north to Ellwood City. It intersects with Route 588, which went west to Beaver Falls and to Zelienople on the east. Getting back to Spotlight 88's name. The Eisenhower Administration re-assigned north-to-south routes to having odd numbers. Route 65, therefore, replaced Route 88. For instance, this writer lived on Route 88 when he went into the military. I found myself on Route 65 when I was discharged.

Spotlight, before the sun disappeared, had the looks of a small amusement park. Scores of youngsters (some of us even clad in our "jammies") would swarm the base of the wall. Many lined up for the airplane ride. Another group would streak to the fire engine. Larry Parks recollects the small merry-go-round. His wife, Debbie, a granddaughter of Ralph, explained that he had "The kids from McGuire Home come out as guests and opened up the rides and concession stand."

This was one time when our parents didn't have to wait long for us to get ready at home. We knew that the sooner we got there, the more time we had. You do the math! We'd run from here to there until the shadows turned into darkness. Then, on top of the giant screen, three large and bright spotlights would light our way back to our respective cars. I'll also never forget the flashlights dancing like Ballerinas showing late comers empty parking spaces. Then it was "Movietone News" time-our CNN. Then Bugs, Goofy, Donald, Mickey, The Roadrunner or Yosemite Sam would come on.

Although, we lived just over the hill, we didn't go that often. Once in a while, however, mom would pack some PBJ sandwiches, some fruit and a couple of Mason jars of home made root beer. It'd be off to the movies. We took blankets and us kids usually sat on the fenders, hood or roof of our cars. Who can forget intermission as we were shown what goodies awaited us at the snack bar? The clock ticking down.

Soon the time was gone, the lights were out-and, so were we. The next thing I'd know was a booming voice was saying "Please be sure to return your speaker to the stand." I could never understand who'd want those "tinny sounding" things in the first place. But after I worked there for awhile, I discovered many would be missing. As a child, I'll also always remember the massive traffic jam at the exit. I think that was the main reason we didn't go much. Country folks didn't/don't like bumper to bumper situations.

We, however, best get back to the main issue. Debbie, daughter of "Sonny", explained that the train "survived at least 20 years and two tornados. A now-deceased opening night employee recalls that "It was there that night". That means it would be celebrating, at the very least, its 60th birthday. "It was still running when I bought it" Young stressed in amazement. He, since that time, has put a new engine in the three-car train. Sixteen small steel wheels guide it to its destination. "It was in pretty bad shape when I got it" Young said, wiping his brow. He added that he was laid off one winter so he and his wife, volunteer conductors and tour guides at the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum in Washington, Pennsylvania spent a bulk of the time grinding, sanding and painting. He also had a friend get him some finished wood scraps and installed bright new seats.

If memory serves me right, it was red at the drive-in. "The coat closest to the metal" Young confirms "was red." Debbie, on the other, thinks it was blue. If that is the case, Ralph bought it secondhand and had it repainted. That also makes it over 60 years old! Regardless, it brings back a lot of vivid and fond memories. Wayne now has the diesel-type bit of nostalgia donning a yellow coat of paint with a small red stripe near the bottom. For those who remember the fun we had at Spotlight 88, this writer advises you to drop by the "Big Knob Antique Tractor Show" in July.