The Skyway Drive-In Theater was located about 5 Miles west of Butler, PA on Route 68 Evans City Road. It was across the road from Butler County Memorial Park Cemetery in what is now Stirling Village. The drive-in operated from the early 1950’s until 1989. Car capacity was between 300 to 400 cars with a single screen. In the 50’s its co-owners were Mr. & Mrs. William Geibel of Beaver, PA and Mr. J. Earl Taylor of Butler. The Geibel’s two sons helped at the drive-in as did Taylor’s son Floyd and his wife Marian. “Bill” Geibel worked the ticket booth; Mrs. “Vivian” Geibel was in charge of the concession stand and was assisted by Marian Taylor. Earl & Floyd Taylor and Bill Geibel were the projectionists. Mr. Taylor had his own separate business Taylor Radio & TV Parts & Service with a shop at his home in Butler on West New Castle Street. He also had rental properties and took care of the drive-in during the day, sound system, projectors maintenance etc. Marian Taylor later became Mayor of the City of Butler 1990-1994.
As a teenager growing up in nearby Meridian a gang of us would ride our bikes up to Rapp’s on Whitestown Road, park the bikes there and walk thru the woods to the last row of car speakers at the drive-in and would sit there and enjoy the movies, eventually returning home on our bikes later in the evening. We became regulars, were chased out a few times but later were asked if we wanted to work at the drive-in. My older brother Bill was old enough to get his working papers and worked evenings at the concession stand. I was just 14 and couldn’t work evenings but got a day time job working for Mr. Taylor cleaning up the trash, mowing, trimming, painting, fixing speakers, posters, billboard and various odd jobs around the drive-in. Mr. Taylor was a great boss to work for, got to drive his stick shift Chevy pickup truck around the drive in, he took time to show me how to do things and didn’t get mad when I messed up, like sticking his walk-behind Gravely power mower in a wet area along side the drive-in lot. Picking up the previous evening trash was an endless job. I would turn in anything of value that I found currency, wallets, purses, clothing, etc. but could keep any coins. Baby diapers were the worse. Later when I could work evenings I also worked in the concession stand. My younger brother John took over my day time job of cleaning up the drive-in.
When my brother Bill worked the concessions it was just a counter where you stood outside and ordered drinks, popcorn and hot dogs. After I started a cafeteria style building was added to the back of the projection both. The indoor concession stand had two lines, one each from both sides and cashiers in the center with food preparation area behind. We were in charge of keeping the serving lines well stocked and filling special orders. We popped the popcorn, made pizzas, hot dogs, French fries, meatball sandwiches, soda drinks and were quite busy at intermission times. Mrs. Vivian Geibel and Marian Taylor were generally the cashiers and gave us our marching orders. Mrs. Geibel was strict, but fair and a good person to work for. We never went home hungry or thirsty. All the concession workers were teenage boys when I was there in the mid fifties.
Mr. Geibel was at the ticket booth taking admissions and he had a fifth sense at spotting an overloaded car i.e.non- paying persons hidden in car trunks. He would call over to concessions and have one of us boys spot out the car to see if anyone got out of the trunk or how many were in the car. We would then watch the ticket booth while Mr. Geibel would confront the non payer’s. I believe Bill Geibel’s brother was owner/operator of Geibel’s Drive-in Theater in Chicora, Pa.
At its height the Skyway was bidding on and winning first run blockbusters like the “Ten Commandments”. It hosted Drive-in Church Services early Sunday evenings for a few years and in later years was home to flea market vendors on Sunday afternoons.
All in all it was a great first job for a teenager, we got paid, saw a lot of movies, had free snacks and drinks, got dates and family in free to see movies, but also learned how to do things, to show up and work responsibly, discipline and teamwork, all of which helped in growing up.
The Drive-in was closed in the winter, open weekends in late spring and early fall and every night in the summer. Movies would start at dusk, people would start shining their spotlights on the screen and honk their horns impatiently before the show started. Mr. Taylor had a Sunstream Travel Trailer that he kept at the drive in and would go to Arizona in the winter and collected Indian jewelry, rugs, etc.
I was saddened to see the Skyway torn down but that’s part of life, here today gone tomorrow always changing. The Stirling homestead with horse barn, riding academy, pasture and wooded riding trails surrounded the drive-in on three sides with the homes and barn to the west and woods and trails to the south and east. Only the homestead remains today, the barn, pasture field and riding trails replaced by high end home development Stirling Village and Lowrie House an assisted living home. The drive-in theater area was replaced by Huntington Bank, Stirling Village Plaza, Dentist Office and Bruster’s Ice Cream (now vacant). The Cemetery across the road is still there but now has a mausoleum.
Hope you have enjoyed my reminiscing from the fifties. If any one has photos, ads, info or memorabilia from the Skyway I would be interested in hearing about them. The photo attached is from the internet “American Classic Images” and was taken May 1987.