Oil City offered teenagers in the 1950s and 1960s a wide array of social venues. Key among the popular destinations were the city’s two huge movie theaters, an ice skating rink, a YWCA teen dance, the swimming pool and favorite gathering places like Famoore’s and Rollie’s Pizza Shop.
Here’s a look at the teen spots:
The Friday night dances at Teen-Inn, an organization sponsored by the Oil City YWCA, were offered from 1955 to 1970. Teen-Inn became an institution in Oil City with the popular dances drawing hundreds of school age youths from Oil City and the surrounding area. The dances after Oiler football games were not to be missed as students walked from the football field, then at Mitchell Avenue, down to the YW.
Teen-Inn was run by teenagers, elected from each high school class at Oil City High School. Overseeing the group were volunteer adult advisors. Jack and Marge McCash, advisors, were very popular with kids in the 1960s. Teen-Inn closed in 1970 due to students’ changing tastes and time constraints.
Ice Skating Rink
The City of Oil City owned and operated a large ice skating rink in the Hasson Heights neighborhood from 1955 to the early 1970s.
When it opened in December 1955, it was a huge hit and prompted the city to soon build an adjacent recreation lodge that featured a fireplace, skate rentals, seats and benches and concession. A favorite treat at the rink were vinegar-soaked French Fries.
The Oil City Figure Skating Club was organized in 1963 and regularly sponsored contests and shows during the winter season.
Extensive repairs to the piping system resulted in sporadic shutdowns and the rink eventually closed for good in 1996. A DEK hockey facility is now located on the site.
Oil City’s first municipal swimming pool opened in 1938 in Hasson Heights on land donated by the Ramage and Hasson families. It was one of the first projects in the nation approved under President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal work relief strategy known as the Civil Works Administration. The pool was designed to accommodate 2,000 patrons.
It was demolished many years later and a new public pool was built on the same spot. It is named after James Nelles, longtime public works director for the city.
The city pool drew large crowds each summer and was a prime social gathering spot for teenagers.
Rollie’s Pizza Shop
Roland and Freda Phillips owned a restaurant at 11 Central Ave., a spot just down from the Teen-Inn dances at the YW and the Latonia Theater.
The couple advertised they sold “pizza as you like it – we make our own sauce” and was a destination for families as well as teenagers. Founded in 1955 at 30 W. Front St., it later moved near the former Rickards bandshell until settling in 1964 on Central Avenue.
Flanking Rollie’s were the Oil City Electric & Magneto Co., Central Avenue Restaurant, Italian Village Restaurant, Lorenzo Butiste’s shop, Gisela’s Beauty Salon and more.
The cozy restaurant, still in business, was located at 18 E. First Street. Founded in about 1919, the restaurant bears the name of Frank A. Moore who owned it until selling it to candymaker Roby Nelson. Famoore’s was filled with teenagers when school was out at the nearby South Side Junior High School. A favorite entrée was the specially-flavored Cokes at the soda fountain.
Oil City was home to two cavernous movie theaters – the Col. Drake Theater on the North Side and the Latonia Theater on the South Side.
The $1 million, 2,000-seat Drake Theater opened on Aug. 27, 1928, to mark the 69th anniversary of Col. Edwin Drake’s successful oil well near Titusville. The cornerstone ceremony that year featured Samuel B. Smith of Titusville, nephew of Billy Smith who was a member of Drake’s drilling team, as key speaker.
The Drake Theater boasted its own Drake Symphony Orchestra and a Wurlitzer organ.
The theater closed in the mid-1980s and was temporarily used as a home for Community Playhouse. The building, plus an adjacent office complex, are now owned by Webco manufacturing.
The Latonia Theater
The opulent Latonia Theater on the city’s South Side was constructed by the L.O. Bouquin Co. of Oil City. It opened March 4, 1929, to coincide with President Herbert Hoover inauguration. It had a capacity of 1,460 patrons, seating that included a 500-seat balcony.
A 600-plus pipe Wurlitzer organ was in place and ten-foot-high gilded peacocks of cast plaster were installed in front of the second tier organ openings. Outside, hundreds of electric bulbs blared The Latonia on the front brick wall. The front entrance boasted a red Levanto marble ticket booth.
In the baby boomers’ era, the Latonia regularly featured Pot of Silver drawings on mid-week matinees and contests for kids to pull out a fistful of dimes from a fishbowl on stage.
The theater closed in 1970 and was converted to a furniture store two years later by a private business.
Written by Judy Etzel with research by Kay Dawson and design by Natalie Cubbon.