Telegraph Drive-In

5969 Telegraph Road,
Toledo, OH 43612

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Additional Info

Previously operated by: Jack Armstrong Circuit

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Telegraph Drive-In

The Telegraph Drive-In was opened on April 26, 1946, with Hedy Lamarr, George Brent & Paul Lucas in “Experiment Perilous” and Roy Rogers in “Utah”. On August 19, 1947, nine local residents filed an injunction against the theatre, ‘to restrain them from noisy dialogue and shattering sound effects which disturb the sleep and the nerves’. At that time the speakers were located outside the car and the sound was transmitting through them. An agreement was made between the residents and the theatre owners to install new in-car speakers to eliminate the problem for the 1948 season. They installed the new in-car speakers, but they soon discovered they had a problem with vandalism. As of June 1949, 150 speakers were stolen from the Telegraph Drive-In, the Maumee Drive-In and the Toledo (aka Franklin Park) Drive-In. These thefts occurred over a period of two years.

The Telegraph Drive-In was the first single screen drive-in theatre to open in the Toledo area. This new theatre was made possible by a partnership between Jim Dempsey, who was the manager of the Maumee Drive-In for the past two years, and Jack Phillips. Together they shared the ownership of the new theatre. Dempsey also owned the Parkside (aka Sundance Kid) Drive-In. Later on, Ray Searles took over ownership of both of the drive-in theatres. After his death in 1960, his sons, Dan & Edward, took over the ownership of the Telegraph, Star-Lite & Parkside (aka Sundance Kid) drive-in theatres. The Telegraph Drive-In had a capacity of 692 cars and covered 26 acres.

On April 17, 1958, the Telegraph Drive-In held a grand reopening showing off their new projection equipment and the new CinemaScope screen which had been installed. One of the traditions at Toledo drive-in theatres, which started in 1955, running thoughout the 1960’s and into the 1970’s, was the fireworks displays on the 4th July. The Telegraph Drive-In was known as the big ’T' because it had a neon letter ’T' on the screen tower. It was also referred to as the big ’T' in some Toledo Blade movie advertisements. It was part of the Co-Operative Theaters of Ohio (Booking & Buying Agency) from 1950-1955 and the Armstrong Circuit from 1960-1979. The Telegraph Drive-In was closed in October 1979. The drive-in was demolished and Dan Searles sold the property in October 1986 for $2,080,000.00. It was redeveloped into a shopping center which stands almost empty today.

Contributed by MikeRogers, Randy Studer

Recent comments (view all 9 comments)

CSWalczak on December 2, 2010 at 9:47 am

This former drive-in was located on Telegraph Rd. (U.S. Rt. 24) near Alexis Rd., hence the name. Its local moniker, the “Big T” derived from the fact that there was a large letter T on the back of the theater’s screen. There are pictures of the theater and memorabilia related to it on the theater’s gallery page at

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on December 2, 2010 at 3:26 pm

CWalczak,That is some neat stuff to look at,thanks for passing it on.

CSWalczak on December 2, 2010 at 3:55 pm

Yes, especially that flyer for a rather repulsive double feature 8-)!

If memory serves, the big T was in red neon at night. on December 19, 2010 at 11:55 am

The Telegraph Drive-in was at 5969 Telegraph Rd, Toledo, OH 43612-4548. on January 2, 2011 at 10:10 am

I don’t see a listing for the Toledo Drive-In here. This is supposed to be a photo of it from 1950. I am trying to find it’s exact location, I believe it was on Detroit Ave. Does anyone know about this one?

DavidZornig on January 14, 2011 at 6:01 pm

I posted a blurb about the Telegraph Drive-In over on CT’s Miracle Mile Drive-In (Toledo) page. I believe it was prior to the Telegraph getting it’s own CT page, because of the dates and I’d searched for this by name first.

jjoyner5 on May 30, 2011 at 9:47 pm

The Telegraph Drive-In (We called it the “Big T” for its monumental neon “T” on the back of the screen)was located on Telegraph Rd, about ½ mile north of Alexis road. After it was torn down, sometime in the late 70s-early 80s, the neon “T” found a new home on a church in Michigan

Drive-In 54
Drive-In 54 on January 8, 2012 at 12:57 am

michigandriveins…The Toledo drive-in was the Franklin Park DI. The picture you are linked to was the Maumee DI. Maumee, Ohio.

Drive-In 54
Drive-In 54 on April 24, 2012 at 6:28 pm

jjoyne5..Do you know which church got the big “T' sign? I have heard that story myself…I’m updating the overview for Telegraph.

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