1231 Howard Road,
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As World War II ended, a new age began – the Atomic Age. The first atomic bombs were dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 & 9, 1945, respectively. This ended World War II and created a new, more nervous age. The Atomic Age brought many advances to nuclear energy production. One of the plants was built in Piketon, OH. In August 1952, the U.S. Energy Commission(AEC) selected Scioto Township, a rural area occupied by family-owned farms, as the site of a new gaseous diffusion plant. This location was to produce highly enriched uranium, U235, for use in military reactors and nuclear weapons production. It also produced the Atomic Drive-In. The new ozoner was going to open on April 18, 1953, but bad weather conditions prevented that from happening.
The Atomic Drive-In did have its grand opening night on April 25, 1953, screening the 1952 comedy “Feudin' Fools” with Leo Gorcey, Huntz Hall, Dorothy Ford & the Bowery Boys. The co-feature was the 1952 adventure/western “Denver & Rio Grande” with Edmund O'Brien, Sterling Hayden and Dean Jagger. The new drive-in was opened by J. Henry ‘Hank’ Davidson, K.R.‘Kib’ Roberts and H.C. Walmsley(dba Associated Theatres) from Lynchburg, OH. They were operating the Roselawn Auto Theatre and the Fort Auto Theatre as this time. The parking ramps could park 400 cars, with in-a-car speakers. In May of 1955, the screen was widened for CinemaScope movies.
In August of 1971, the drive-in was sold to Ed Payne from Chillicothe, OH. He owned and operated the Torch Drive-In and Fiesta Drive-In at this time. Prior to that in June of 1971, a fire destroyed the concession-projector building at the Atomic Drive-In. Payne rebuilt and installed an all new concession stand equipment, restrooms and projection equipment. When the Atomic Drive-In reopened on March 25, 1971, Payne had renamed it to the Moonlite Drive-In. On April 2, 1976, it reopened as the Atomic Drive-In. It would be interesting to find out why Payne did that. In 1986, Ed Payne retired and turned over the Torch Drive-In and Atomic Drive-In to his son Tom. Tom Payne operated the Atomic Drive-In until 1988 and closed it down at the end of the season for good. It is now home of the Chapel Hill Community Church.
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