The Boom

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.

A disc jockey spins the records at Teen-Inn, overseen by Jack and Marge McCash who were the adult advisors to Teen-Inn during the 1950s and 1960s.
A disc jockey spins the records at Teen-Inn, overseen by Jack and Marge McCash who were the adult advisors to Teen-Inn during the 1950s and 1960s.
The Oil City YWCA on Central Avenue was the location for popular dances every Friday night.
Teen-Inn, a student-run organization, was in charge of the Friday dances at 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.

Skating Rink 4
A sign outlining the rules at the Oil City skating rink was posted on the fence. The youngster in the middle is wearing an ice patrol sash. The ice patrol ensured safety at the rink.
The City of Oil City owned and operated the expansive rink, located in Hasson Heights.
Skaters show off their skills at the Oil City skating rink.
A figure skating club sponsored a variety of events at the city rink in the 50s and 60s.

Swimming Pool

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.

The Oil City municipal swimming pool in Hasson Heights offered a baby pool and a swim-through castle that regularly drew the whistles from the lifeguards. There were two diving boards, a large sandy plot and a bathhouse.
Oil City’s first public swimming pool was built in 1938 and replaced decades later by a new one that was named in honor James Nelles, longtime city public works director and health officer.

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.

Rollie, a household name for the baby boomers, was regarded as a jovial and gregarious restaurateur. His wife Freda was known as the enforcer and tossed out any youngster deemed to be a trouble-maker. He also portrayed Santa Claus for many years at gatherings in the Central Avenue Plaza.
Roland and Freda Phillips owned and operated the popular Rollie’s Pizza on Central Avenue. It was a prime gathering spot for teenagers in the 1950s and 1960s.

Famoore’s Restaurant

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.

Drake Theater

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.

An October 1931 advertisement in The Derrick newspaper promoted a movie ticket for each purchase of 10 cakes of Lux Toilet Soap. A list of advertisers who sold the soap and were in on the campaign was also published.
Famoore's 2
Jim Monson, owner of Famoore’s, stands in front of the restaurant. In business for decades, the site was a familiar haunt for area baby boomers.
Drake Theater Inaug copy
A drawing of the new Colonel Drake Theater was featured in the inaugural program that opened the theater on Aug. 27, 1928. The movie theater was located on North Seneca Street.
A patron could buy a booklet of admission tickets for shows at the Col. Drake Theater. The cost was $2 a booklet that consisted of 10, 20 and 30-cent tickets.

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.

The interior featured nearly 2,000 seats, including those in a balcony. It opened in 1929 and closed in 1970s.

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Oil City’s South Side lay claim to a movie theater described in news accounts as “opulent”. The front façade featured hundreds of light bulbs and an expansive marquee.

Written by Judy Etzel with research by Kay Dawson and design by Natalie Cubbon.

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