7th Street Drive-In

MacArthur Road,
Whitehall, PA 18052

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The 7th Street Drive-In was the second drive-in theatre to open in the Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton area. It was located in the “then-town now-city” of Whitehall near the far north section of Allentown in the Mickleys area on MacArthur Road.

The 7th Street Drive-In first held its formal opening on June 3, 1940 with private showings of selected shorts and two movies (one movie every two days during the stunt-week).

After five-days of testing, the 7th Street Drive-In held its grand opening to the public and opened its gates on June 8, 1940 with David Horton in “The Man In The Mirror” along with a comedy reel and a couple of other short subjects but were unnamed. The theatre was first operated by Leon Male and Lincoln B. Moser of Allentown, and featured installations of RCA High Fidelity sound.

Throughout the entire history of the 7th Street Drive-In, the theatre faced challenges and trouble.

On August 6, 1940, District Attorney Joseph E. Gehringer stated that he wouldn’t permit showings of movies or vaudeville at the 7th Street Drive-In on Sundays due to multiple complaints over traffic, especially crazy churchgoers in the area.

However, a few months after the theatre just got started for its second season made a huge turn, which Male faced trouble along with his sidekick. Operators Leon Male and Lincoln B. Moser became the first (or if not one of the first) drive-in theater operators in the United States to be arrested and booked in jail. The 7th Street Drive-In made local headlines after both Leon Male and Lincoln B. Moser were both charged with a single violation charge over the “then-new” Whitehall Township ordinance prohibiting the use of outdoor shows on July 8, 1941. Leon (of 2321 Allen Street) and Moser (of 615 North 9th Street) were then fined $50 a piece at a hearing held by Charles A. Milson, a West Catasauqua Justice of the Peace, and were discharged afterward. Five years later in June 1946, Male was arrested again for similar charges.

The 7th Street Drive-In managed to continue running despite the craziness during the war. However, right when the drive-in boom of the late-1940’s and early-1950’s began to blow, the 7th Street Drive-In turned the opposite direction. But there is one more incident that took place there.

On June 28, 1951, the 7th Street Drive-In once again became local headlines following an unexpected “hit-in-the-ditch”. A 13-year-old West Catasauqa boy who was sitting on the ground between the projection booth and the screen was struck and ran over by an oncoming unknown-modeled vehicle. The boy suffered severe brush burns, bruises, contusions, and a fractured leg. He was then transported by Allentown Ambulance (the ambulance service that was used in Allentown back then) to Allentown Hospital (the name of the city’s hospital) where he was been treated for injuries. The incident took place during a showing of Jake Carroll’s “Angel In Exile” along with Chapter 2 of “Winners Of The West” (but it was unknown if the management halted the film due to the incident), as he was paying attention to the screen at the time the person in the vehicle rammed him over.

The theatre managed to continue running into the next couple of months after the incident but the management has no choice but to close the theatre’s gates for the final time later in 1951 for safety precautions and was demolished later on.

Nearly almost a year after closure, on June 14, 1952, the 13-year-old’s parents filed $6,500 in a suit starting in the Lehigh County Courthouse in Allentown.

Contributed by 50sSNIPES

Recent comments (view all 1 comments)

50sSNIPES on June 22, 2023 at 2:05 pm

Correction: It is the second oldest drive-in in the Lehigh Valley and in the Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton area behind the Shankweiler’s within less than 10 miles.

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