Perna discusses Edgemere Drive-In on ‘Chronicle’

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By Melanie Petrucci, Senior Community Reporter

Michael Perna/Courtesy WCBV Channel 5’s “Chronicle”
Michael Perna/Courtesy WCBV Channel 5’s “Chronicle”

Shrewsbury – When the popular WCVB Channel 5 show “Chronicle” was looking for someone to talk to about the former Edgemere Drive-In, which was to be featured on an episode about abandoned places, they found the right person when they connected with Michael Perna Jr.

Perna is a lifelong Shrewsbury resident and is a published author of several books depicting Shrewsbury history. He is a member of the Shrewsbury Historical Commission and the past president of the Shrewsbury Historical Society.

The segment recently aired Oct. 16, but in actuality was filmed on a very hot day in August, according to Perna. Most of the clip features Chronicle reporter Erika Tarantal interviewing Deborah Packard of the Worcester Preservation Society about the Olympia Theater in Worcester but then switches over to a short clip with Perna.

“The Edgemere Drive-In opened in 1955 in the era and heyday of the drive-in, 50s and 60s,” Perna said in the segment.

Perna shared that he stood outside the entrance and talked about the history of the drive-in with the film crew.

“Compared to the Shrewsbury Drive-In which opened in 1938 (one of the first of its kind in the country) on Fruit Street and Route 9, it was state of the art,” Perna noted in a conversation after the episode aired.

The demise of drive-ins began as VCRs and cable channels such as HBO became more popular. Little by little it diminished. Then the film industry went from reel to reel to digital format and drive-ins couldn’t keep up, technologically nor financially.

“Long vacant and overgrown, the large imposing sign of the Edgemere Drive-In still juts out onto Route 20, a fragmented reminder begging for thoughts of days long gone,” stated Tarantal as she wrapped up the segment.

The drive-in went through ups and downs over the years before finally closing in 2004.

Although now vacant, The Market Basket supermarket is expected to anchor a development to be built on the property, located on Hartford Turnpike and owned by the Route 20 Nominee Trust.

The proposed development will include a 120,000 square foot mixed use, retail and residential project. Zoning changes were made at Town Meeting in May of 2017 to allow for the development to progress. So far, the town has not seen any plans or issued any building permits. Building was to have commenced this year.

To watch the full clip featuring Perna, visit https://www.wcvb.com/article/this-worcester-building-may-be-run-down-now-but-it-has-a-storied-past/23851498.