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Don Boyd | all galleries >> Memories of Old Hialeah, Old Miami and Old South Florida Photo Galleries - largest non-Facebook collection on the internet >> Miami Area THEATRES and DRIVE-IN THEATRES Historical Photos Gallery - All Years - click on image to view > 1968 - Wometco's Air-conditioning at the North Dade Drive-In
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1968 - Wometcos Air-conditioning at the North Dade Drive-In
1968 Courtesy of Robert Bowman

1968 - Wometco's Air-conditioning at the North Dade Drive-In

North Dade Drive-in, NW 27th Avenue, Miami

Thank you to Robert Bowman for contributing this rare image of the air-conditioning system selected by Wometco for their drive-in theaters in South Florida.

The below article is from:

Motion Picture Herald October 9, 1968
Something New in Florida! Air-Conditioned Drive-Ins

With more warm weather months than others parts of the United States, South Florida's sub-tropical summers provide as suitable a test spot for drive-in air conditioning as any other place in the country. The area also provides an interesting drive-in audience mix composed of resident Floridians and the big summer influx of vacation and tourist visitors from the North.

Wometco Enterprises, Inc., Miami, whose chain of Wometco theatres in Florida, the Bahamas, and the Caribbean includes seven drive-in theatres, introduced the initial air-conditioning installation at the Coral Way Drive-in at Southwest Miami in June, 1967. This was, in effect, a test installation.

With the inevitable "bugs" worked out with subsequent modifications and improvements on the prototypes at Coral Way, additional air-conditioning installations are now being completed at both Wometco's 27th Avenue and North Dade locations.

Wometco selected Parkaire Engineering Corporation with offices in Tampa and Hollywood, Florida, and factory in Dayton, Ohio, for its venture into drive-in air-conditioning. Harry Fleischman, Wometco executive vice president coordinated the pilot installation with Ronald Krieger, Parkaire sales engineer.

Wometco and Parkaire have received a number of inquiries from drive-in operators across the country on all phases of the air-conditioning installation including costs, performance, pricing, effect on attendance and other questions.

A brief description of the unit and its installation provides a useful preface to it leading into some answers.

A Parkaire installation features individual units in five models: 110-volt, and 220-volt models which are straight air conditioners without heating; and three 220-volt combination models with 500-, 1000-, and 1500-watt heaters, respectively. Each unit services two cars.

For its South Florida installations, Wometco uses straight air-conditioning units without heating.
The units are mounted on existing posts, servicing two cars, without interfering with speaker attachments. Each unit measures 27 inches in height, 14 inches in width, and 18 inches in length, although the unit extends only 9 inches to one side (see photos).

Cold air is delivered from the unit to the interior of the car via a four-inch plastic hose with a pliable 12-inch wide vacuum cleaner-like nozzle fixture. This fixture is held in place by placing it on top of a slightly lowered window then raising the window sufficiently to clamp the fixture in place.

Questions most frequently asked:

How about costs (naturally)? Cost per unit varies slightly according to quantity. Rough figure would be well under $300 per unit ready for installation including shipping costs.

Can I use the same wiring system I already have for heaters? Generally speaking, yes. The units can be adapted to wiring systems for heaters since most heaters require 500 watts. While the air-conditioning units require 750 watts, there is only one unit to a post. And since most posts are wired for two 500-watt heaters, they are capable of handling a total of 1,000 watts--more than sufficient for the air-conditioning unit.

In some instances, an inexpensive modification of the power output may be required. (110-volt air-conditioning units require a steady load of 10 amperes; 220-volt units, five amperes, when all units are in use.) [Transcriber's comment: Power draw is given per unit and the "when all units are in use" qualification makes no sense.]

What is the installation procedure? Each unit installation takes an average of eight minutes. Units are attached to the speaker pole and locked into place without interfering with any other attachments. Parkaire's Ron Krieger personally supervised the Wometco installations--installation supervision is provided as part of the package.

What kind of maintenance is required? Very little. The entire unit is anodyzed against rust and is self-lubricating. Parkaire recommends a yearly inspection of the electrical hookups, and a hosing down of the coil and evaporator at the same time.

A one-year guarantee is provided on all external parts, with a five-year guarantee on the refrigeration cycle including compressor, coil, evaporator, etc.

Suppose a driver pulls away without disconnecting the attachment? In that unlikely event, the hose will "pop off" the unit without sustaining breakage or other damage; and can easily be re-attached to the unit.

If a hose is damaged by cutting or perforation, repairs can be made on the spot with ordinary adhesive tape.

And if a car rams a unit? The unit can survive almost any kind of collision except a head-on "direct hit" at speeds rarely found in a drive-in parking area. (Only two units sustained any visible damage at the Coral Way Drive-in to date, and neither required replacement.

The Coral Way Drive-in, a 560-car theatre, served as a proving ground for Wometco's experiment with drive-in air conditioning. [Transcriber's note: From this point forward the article stops hyphenating "air conditioning"] Major modifications on the original prototype units included the development of an air re-circulation system, and stepping up the flow of cubic feet per minute from 25 to 60 cfm's.

These modifications, incidentally, produce faster, hotter heating from the combined air-conditioning heater units.

Wometco charges 50 cents per car for air conditioning--an amount which, it is estimated, should liquidate the cost of the unit and its installation within two-to-three year's time. (Estimated lifetime of the basic unit is estimated to be approximately 10 years under normal operating conditions.)

Dated tickets for use of air-conditioning are sold at the box office, and displayed on the windshield. Parking ramp attendants collect the tickets when they attach the air-conditioning unit.
Not all posts are equipped with air conditioning on the premise that not all drive-in patrons desire air conditioning or wish to pay for it.

Again at Coral Way, the 560-car unit--173 posts are air conditioning equipped for the equivalent of 346 cars.

While exact figures are not available, air conditioning has substantially boosted attendance at the Coral Way Drive-in with a corresponding increase in concession sales. Its success can be measured by Wometco's introduction of air conditioning to two additional Wometco drive-ins.

Gordon Spradley, a Wometco theatre operations superviser, points out that drive-in air conditioning, in addition to cooling the car, keeps out mosquitos and other insects as well as noises such as jets passing over, cars starting up, and other extraneous sounds.

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Guest 24-Nov-2010 23:30
Dated my wife for the first time at this Drive In. The airconditioners came at the end of the Drive-In era. No one really cared what the movie was or whether they were cool or not... We were there for the in-car dramas. Still married after 45 years, so it must have worked!
Steve S 10-May-2010 23:57
Hello Jeff. I am also a West Miami Jr. High alumni. The hobby shop was (and still is) Crown Hobbies (you can see it on Google Maps Street view). Yes, racing slot cars was fun, but model rocketry was even MORE fun! Every Sunday, Mort (the owner) would take myself and my friend to the old Tamiami Airport (long before it became FIU) between 8th Street and Coral Way, 24th street to launch the rockets. Somewhere I've got a photo of the abandon runways that WE took from a camera mounted in the nose of a rocket!
Coral Way Drive-In was just between the two sets railroad tracks on Coral Way. I too remember they charged by the carload and had some friends that would sneak in hiding in the trunk! I vaguely seem to remember the air conditioning. I think we saw Planet of the Apes there.

ps Don, Nice collection of old Miami memorabilia. I was an airline child. If I can find some of my dad's old stuff, I'll gladly post it.
Cindy (Martin) Ihde 04-Mar-2010 04:48
I remember this, it kinda looks strange now. But I remember they charged by the car load and we would even put kids in the trunk to get them in.
JEFF NORMAN 09-Jun-2009 02:12
Cliff Smith 29-Jan-2009 16:15
That is just too neat. I've probably been to every
drive-in in Dade County growing up in the '70's
but never got to witness the A/C experience.
How'd you like to pay THAT electric bill
nowadays? It's a shame they're all gone.
We still have the Thunderbird in Sunrise,
not sure if they're still showing movies but,
of course like every other drive-in it doubles
as a swap shop.
Guest 19-Jan-2009 18:45
I think we went to this drive-in in the 70's. I don't remember the a/c system, though. I remember parking in the first row and placing our lawn chairs in front of the car, bringing our popcorn pop, and other snacks and watching the pink panther movies. My husband laughed so loud, that the kids and I were so embarassed! Was this tdrive-in the only one in North Dade? I remember it was off the Palmento Expressway and NW 27 Ave. Julie
Randy 26-Oct-2008 07:45
There was A/C at the Hi-Way in Dania around the same time. I have had more people look at me like I am crazy when I mentioned there were air conditioned drive ins. Thanks for posting.
Ernest Joya 16-Jun-2008 15:22
Saw The Poseidon Adventure, The Godfather and several Bruce Lee movies there. My parents home is still on the other side of the canal behind this spot. (now a car dealership,) Loved going there. Surrounded by pine trees. Where the entrance used to be, there is still an old dilapitated billboard that's been there since the early 70's. Thanks for the look back.
robertbowman30-Apr-2008 03:11
I think my las movie at the Coral way with air conditioning was Planet of The Apes.....I was still in high school.
christian w. olson 29-Apr-2008 22:46
saw star wars at this theatre.