I derived the name "Kanauga Kool” in remembrance of the drive-in theater that I went to as a small kid and later while in college - The Kanauga Drive-In Theatre. I miss that place! Kanauga is a small unincorporated area along side the Ohio River on State Route 7 just north of Gallipolis, Ohio. From 1950 to 2008 the Kanauga Drive-In Theatre was operated there by the Wheeler family. It was built by Harry Wheeler, who owned and operated The Colony Theatre in Gallipolis, and was ran by him until his passing in the late 1980s with ownership and management going over to his son, Tom. Tom Wheeler passed away in 2016. The screen, signs, and concession stand have long since been torn down, but thankfully some of the old speakers and junction boxes have survived and I’ve been fortunate enough to add some to my personal collection, as well as restore some original Kanauga sets for other people that live in that area.
As I am always on the lookout for things that have to do with the Kanauga Drive-In Theatre, I recently became acquainted with a very nice lady through Facebook who not only worked there herself as a teenager, but her father Virgil Halley helped build the theater with Mr. Wheeler as well as being the projectionist there for 36 years! Linda Halley Criner has so graciously allowed me to post these vintage images of the Kanauga on my page and I am ever so grateful for it! She also shares with me what it was like working at the theater as a teen:
“I started working there when I was 15 in 1958. I just popped popcorn because you had to be 16 to work there. I worked full time though 1963 while I was in high school and at Rio Grande College. I moved to Utica and then to Hilliard to teach in 1963 so I just worked part time through 1966. We had a great time. Harry and Hazel Wheeler were great employers. Several summers we would make homemade ice cream (the guys would do the cranking) and the girls would take turns bringing a cake or someone would go down to Bob Evans Steakhouse or drive in and get fresh strawberry or peach pie. After we closed the concession stand, we’d have ice cream and cake or pie! We really had a good time! When the drive-in was closed for the season, I subbed at the Colony Theatre and Gallipolis Theatre in their concessions and sometimes selling tickets. I really did enjoy working there.” – Linda Halley Criner
Please enjoy these vintage photos of The Kanauga Drive-In Theatre!