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Facts About the Bengies Drive-in

By Matt Slovick
Washingtonpost.com Staff

   


Who Built It

The Vogel brothers Jack, Paul and Hank built the theater in 1955-56. The Vogels' father, C.J., was an early pioneer of theater exhibition and built the Liberty Theatre in Wellsville, Ohio, in 1921. Jack was a theater owner and architectural engineer who specialized in indoor and drive-in theaters. In 1950, the Vogel brothers built their first drive-in in Salem, Ohio. They also re-designed existing drive-ins to accommodate larger crowds and the new CinemaScope format. Paul and Hank are deceased. Jack owns the property.

The Name


The Vogels always named a drive-in for its location – Salem (Ohio) Drive-in, Dublin (Ohio) Drive-In. The area near Baltimore was known as Bengies, Md., for former president Benjamin Harrison. The people in the community liked to use his nickname. Hank always called it the Bengies and pronounced it the Ben-GEEZ.

The Marquee


The original marquee had Bengie's with an apostrophe. It was Jack's idea, and Paul and Hank did not particularly like it. The "new" marquee, which went up in the early '70s, had block lettering and eliminated the apostrophe.

Who Is Behind the Voice


D. Edward Vogel is the owner, operator, projectionist, the voice on the showtime line and the character who, using the microphone, keeps patrons entertained during the evening. He's been a virtual one-man show at the Bengies for 11 years. He is the youngest of six children by A. Fred and Aileen Serrao. His father, who built the Gateway Drive-in in western Pennsylvania, died in 1960 when D. was 3. His mother married Jack Vogel in 1966. Listen to Streaming RealAudio
the drive-in announcement

The Numbers


The Bengies takes up 11-and-a-half acres; the landlord has four more acres of adjoining land. The screen is 120 feet by 52 feet. The drive-in was built to hold 750 cars. But since the speakers are no longer needed, a record 1,020 cars were parked for one show in 1995. About 500 speakers remain and are operable.

   
© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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