I’m old enough that drive-in’s were a part of my summer experience as a kid. There are few left in thedrive-in country, which is kind of sad, but understandable. Drive-ins belong to a more innocent time. A time the whole family would take to spend a cool summer evening under the stars. And it wasn’t just the movie, the entire evening was an experience.

Dad would pull the Chevy convertible into a space (Mom drive? speakerCertainly not!), grab the dull gray metal box with a single volume knob, testing the tin speaker playing elevator music to make sure it worked. Twisting the knob back and forth produced a cacophony of static crackles and sound drop outs so on we’d move to another space. Sometimes we’d hit half a dozen spaces looking for the best sound, as if a five inch radio speaker would be all that different from place to place.

Arriving at twilight the grounds would be dotted with kids dodging cars, all running full force to the playground or yanking Mom or Dad’s hand to hurry them into the snack bar. The snack bar was a magical place were delicacies easily makable at home tasted so much better. Cheeseburgers, hot dogs, popcorn, soda.

As the skies grew darker, moviegoers honked their horns in playful nudging to get the projectionist going.

One drive-in in particular we visited frequently was the Wellfleet Drive-in on Cape Cod during the annual family vacation. It was usually some Disney fare starring Fred MacMurray like Son of Flubber or Follow Me Boys. Occasionally something a little more daring like The Nutty Professor (the original one). At that time I was scared to death of Frankenstein, Dracula, the Wolf Man. I had pictures and statues of all of the them but the movies terrified me. I remember hiding on the floor of the backseat during the transformation scene in The Nutty Professor. OK, so I was a wuss. Every so often we’d go see a “grown-up” film. I think I slept through most of Lord Jim with Peter O’Toole. I woke up just in time to hear him get shot in the end. Sorry if I spoiled it for you. I think we saw Von Ryan’s Express as well. My friend Peter, whose family also vacationed on the Cape, cried at the end of that film.

Back in Jersey we had the Union Drive-in. I don’t remember going there often but I’m sure we went a few times. It just wasn’t the same at home as it was on vacation. The last I heard Wellfleet got smart and built a multi-plex next to the drive-in so they could make money during the off season and keep the drive-in going instead of selling the land for yet another shopping mall.

I’ve been to drive-in’s twice as a driver. The first time was on Long Island with my girlfriend-later-wife while visiting my grandparents. It was a double feature (as most of the were) – Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry and Convoy. About twenty minutes into DMCL, some guy started pounding on my window. Seems I kept tappingIvory Snow the brake peddle. Kids. Sheesh.

The second time…well….see, there was this drive-in in central PA called The Point and this was prior to the video and internet age and all so there weren’t a lot of resources available for a certain type of film and The Point saw this as a need in the market waiting to be filled. It was always interesting to figure out which of the four college friends packed into my VW Bug was going to get dropped off on Rt 11 to sneak through the neighboring yards into the lot as The Point charged by the head. Pun absolutely intended. Ah, those were the days, trying to spot the cars rocking back and forth…

Always something special about drive-ins. You know something is an American icon when PBS produces an hour special about it…



Filed under america, culture, movies, vacation

7 responses to “Drive-Ins

  1. At the first place I lived, there was lots of undeveloped land behind our back yard. About five blocks away was a drive-in theater with the screen oriented so that we can see it. Dad would sometimes sit on the porch with binoculars and watch the movie before deciding whether to pay to really watch it; if the wind was blowing out of the north, we could sometimes barely make out the sound from all of the speakers.

    WordPress apparently changed something with their SSL certificate this morning. I am using an old browser on an old computer and I cannot log into my blog, so I may be down for awhile until I figure it out.

    I *hate* change…


  2. sigh….you just brought back a flood of pleasant memories from both childhood and adolescence…aaaahhhhhh…..

  3. Antique Freak

    I don’t know about the multi-plex (is that true?)…….however, the Wellfleet Drive-In is alive and well in the form of a heavily advertised, well known, well attended mecca of treasures for my ilk…an enormous Flea Market.

  4. askauntb1

    …those were the days my friend we thought they’d never end, we’d sing n dance forever and a day…

    I loved to go to the Drive-In when I was a kid too. My fav one was in Merrifield, Va., the area I grew up in Falls Church, Va. Last I knew it was a Multi-Plex.

    We couldn’t wait to jump outa the car and go to the playground almost under the screen. Yes, my friend, those were magical days. My dad bought an old Edsel Ambulance from his F.D., where he worked. That was cool as shit to go to the movies in. The whole back of the vehicle was empty and we’d take our blankets and pillows. Then when we got back to the house, Dad would just let us sleep in the ambulance. He’d park in the front yard and my brothers and I would stay the rest of the nite in there.

    Yea, you took me way back with this post. You’ve gotta check out You Remember That

    Click, on the sidebar, on the 60’s and 70’s. If you’ve not seen this site, I do believe you’ll love it!

    Chow Coop

    P.S. Is that your Kit pictured up top?

  5. askauntb1

    P.S.S., Where’d you live on L.I.? I lived in Kings Park near Smithtown. I just moved from there a few months ago.

  6. I’ve been to one drive in, but it was really fun. By the way, interesting library. I love Stephen Fry and might now have to read The Hippopotamus.

  7. I remember “sneaking” into a drive in once. The sheriff who lay in wait for varmits like us blinked his lights. Then he walked up to Daves (69 El Camino) and asked “you two plan on watching this movie or turning around?” We turned around .. hee hee heee.

    My daughters dream is to open a drive in. I hope she suceeds.

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