Friday, August 19, 2016

Time to Remember ~ Drive-In Movies

Originally posted as: Drive-In Theaters: PJs, Popcorn & Pillows

ON: Aug 1, ‘06 12:34 AM

It's late summer and soon we'll all go back to school. As old as I am, I still think that way. I wonder what my teachers will be like? Of course, that was long ago, but I still wonder where the good times went. I reposted this article from a former blog site because I was thinking about this - just today and I wondered ... "Are there still Drive-In movie theaters anywhere around here? Why, yes! There is one left with three screens, I understand. But, the fact that Drive-In Movie Theaters are purportedly making a comeback according to Reuters News Services and CBS News, is big news to me.

Be sure to read the entire article; both links arrive at the same article - you choose. A highlight in the early part of the article states:
“While it’s not quite a return to the heyday of the 1950s, when there were more than 4,000 outdoor theaters across the country, 20 new drive-in cinemas have opened up during the past year, taking the national total to 420.”
To me, the impression this article offers rays of star-shine, moonbeams and hope that something of the our generation might become our heritage which might be passed along, slightly improved and to be experienced first hand for the entire next generation family; to the kids of our kids. I remember as kids growing-up in the 1950s, we used to go to the drive-ins in Indianapolis. We had our choice of many venues, each with their good and bad points. While we enjoyed the experiences immensely, we still envied the family next door who had a Ford Fairlane station wagon. We traveled in-style in Dad’s ‘51 Studebaker with the big back seat. We needed it because there were three of us boys back there.
In those days, kids got in cheap or sometimes free, if they were under 12 - which we were until I was about 13 1/2, I think. Mom and dad would ask us what we wanted to see. They had their choices too, but all the drive-ins had double features.

First would be the kids’ flick followed later by the grown-ups’ selections. Competition among theaters was fierce. While some would offer the good movies 2nd, the first one was sometimes a dud. We chose very wisely, in retrospect and always opted for quality. Mom and Dad liked Horror films and Thrillers, but we wanted Disney. Huh, what does a kid really know? Well, we didn’t really; we just knew what we wanted to see as long as there was a Warner Brothers/Looney Tunes cartoon first! They were the best; Bugs Bunny, Yosemite Sam, Tweety and Sylvester. (Ah, the days before they took the slapstick “violence” out. They aren’t the same now.)

Mom had been to a Tupperware party and bought this huge plastic container with a seal-tight lid, which ordinarily she used for either laundry soap (which included a free canon towel as a premium - so the original box was huge), or for flour which she purchased in ten pound bags. But not tonight. It would take her a just a few minutes to make the popcorn to fill that big tub for us, then a smaller container for the front seat passengers - mom and dad. We helped by getting the paper Dixie Cups and napkins down from the cupboard and put everything together for packing up into a double-bagged, kraft paper grocery sack and getting ready to go. As mom was getting the Tupperware “Kool-Aid” container out of the refrigerator, dad already had a three or four bottles of Pepsi on ice in the Coleman ice chest. As we loaded the trunk with the goodies, the last thing we did was grab our pillow and blanket off our beds, pajamas and socks on.

Checklist complete, everybody in, the engine started, clutch pedal down, dad shifted into first gear and eased out the clutch while revving the engine a little. With a turn of the wheel, the Studie pulled away from the curb and we’re off! Indianapolis is a fairly spread-out city. The drive-ins were spaced fairly evenly around town. Greenwood had one, but we never got down there very often. The Pendleton Pike on Route 67 in Lawrence was another we visited frequently. Our favorite was the Shadeland (which is now a Toyota dealership) which offered a real Merry-Go-Round (Carousel) in the playground area. You could only ride it once, but you could get off, go to the end of the line and go again until the Coming Attractions previews began.

Another theater, over near Grandma’s house was the Twin Drive-In. It had, yep! Two screens. Sometimes, we would watch the first show on the east screen and drive around to the west screen for the second show. It was a traffic jam sometimes, but it worked out in plenty of time. In their playground area was a real miniature passenger train that kids - only kids - could ride. It was small.  It queued up like the Carousel at the Shadeland and had a real engineer driver who sat on a seat on top of the engine. It was great! There were the usual swings, slides, that thing that you push around in a circle until you throw up, a big sandbox and teeter-totters. Everything a kid could want and conveniently located next to the concessions stand/bathrooms. And mom and dad were paying for everything. Life was good!

No matter which venue we chose, and we knew them all, even though we didn’t know how to get there, we could tell we were getting close; traffic backed up, rows of red taillights flashing on and off as we inched forward, one car at a time. Sometimes we were unlucky and queued behind an older car that burned oil, which was unpleasant for a while. Then the questions came from the “peanut gallery” (a term used by Buffalo Bob on the Howdy Doody TV Show ), ... “Will we have time to play in the playground? HUH?!” The excitement swelled in our chests as the huge arrowhead with a thousand yellow light bulbs flashing, pointing the way ... THIS WAY IN >>>.

As we neared the bright white, yellow and pink fluorescent lights of the ticket booth - dad waved, his cash in hand out the car window, - "Two adults and three kids", then waited for the usher to give the money to the lady in the ticket booth, who handed the usher the tickets, which he tore in two and handed the stubs to dad. This ticket booth had two lanes, two ushers and only one lady in the booth. I could see that this was efficient to getting people in quicker.

“Will we still have time to play in the playground?, quizzed Davey.

“I have to go to the bathroom.” declared Billy.

“Has the cartoon started yet?” I wondered.

“Just wait a minute.” said mom. Dad drove ahead into the lot and all of us helped look for the supreme parking spot. Well, as good as we could find anyway - it's always first come, first served - up front, near the middle, but away from other cars with kids who screamed louder than us or those with small crying babies. We were lucky if we had that choice. Dad maneuvered into position on the hill with the nose of the Studebaker pointed up at the screen. “Can you kids see the screen all right?, he asked rhetorically.

Well, it was tough for three little guys with small basketball shaped heads to scrunch together and see the screen. After all, dad was on the left. Mom was on the right and the rear view mirror was in the middle. Sometimes, dad would let us roll down the back windows, squeeze through the opening and use the window frames on each side as a seat, using our pillows as a cushion. We could keep our feet on the seats and use our arms to rest on the roof and still hear the sound from he 4” metal speaker that hung from the rear view mirror or sometimes from the pulled-out ash tray to get that thick black speaker wire out of the picture. It was damned uncomfortable after a long while, but we took turns in the window.  Dad never, ever let us lay on the car hood or the roof to watch the shows, though, like some other kids.  We almost never stayed awake through the cartoon AND the first movie before we were wiped-out and fast asleep on that big, backseat. See why we envied the kids next door whose dad had the Ford station wagon?

Those were the days. Today, people go to the drive-in in their pickup trucks, park backwards with the bed toward the screen, slide the back window of the cab open, sit in comfortable lawn chairs with the kids “camping out in sleeping bags” on the tailgate. There are no more little tinny speakers that have been ruined by years of abuse and weather damage.  Now we tune-in our FM Stereo radios to 87.9 and listen to the movie soundtrack on the car’s sound system.

I take my Dodge Caravan, pull-in backwards, tail aimed at the screen, raise the hatchback (where the rear speakers are) unload the chairs, cooler and popcorn & snacks are conveniently stored. Tune-in the stereo radio, switch off the front speakers, adjust the volume, balance, base and treble, (yeah, that’s it) ... then, “Let the cartoons begin!”

Some highlights: I witnessed the International Space Station fly-by. I didn’t know that’s what it was at the time until I checked the NASA website. It was a large, shiny object with flashing lights - could have been a plane, except it was traveling too slowly to be a plane, I thought. Then another time, as the second movie began a fog started to roll-in to the valley there at the Grafton, WV Drive-in. It was so thick that after about an hour, you couldn’t see the screen - like using your high beams in the fog, you just can’t see the road. Another time at the Grafton Drive-In, two small deer wandered into the playground area to munch on the grass just as Neo was learning Kung-Fu.

Then, there was the time, in my Senior Year of high school, I took this pretty blonde to the drive-in for our first date. She was in one of my classes and I took a chance and asked her out. As I picked her up at the door, she looked casual, comfortable and smelled great. Could this be LOVE? I had really cleaned up the old 55 Chevy Bel-Aire that day to make the best impression I could. I was really glad the eight inch square, gray primer painted rust hole was on my side of the car when I picked her up.

We drove to the theater, found our spot, parked and settled in for the evening. We talked some, ate some popcorn, laughed shyly when our hands touched in the big Tupperware popcorn tub. We each slurped the end of our soft drinks at the same time; laughed again. “Things were looking good”, I thought. I twisted my neck to see if the backseat was any larger and could accommodate, know. I’d always driven, I never sat back there. Teenage boys only have one thing on their minds when the pheromones kick-in. I put my arm around the blonde beauty’s shoulder and squeezed her slightly toward me, then leaned over to quietly whisper in her ear. “You want to get into the back seat?”

She answered in her sweetest, most polite voice, “Heck no, I want to say up here and watch the movie with you!”

If that story made you smile, go to the Drive-In Theater tonight. Keep the theater owners in business. They really love what they do. Experience it. It is Americana! Take the kids, make future memories for them too. It’s always a special occasion to go to the drive-in. Don’t forget the citronella candles or bug spray.

When you go, one thing you’ll always remember is how sweet the kids look in your arms; softly sleeping as you carry them, one-by-one from your car and into their beds; as you kiss them goodnight and then tuck them in. I’ll never forget how strong and powerful my dad’s arms were when he carried me into my bedroom. It was a good feeling. It was a safe feeling.  I was a warm feeling. It was a loving feeling. I’ve never forgotten it, or felt anything like it since then.

Go ... See ... Do ... Remember.

BTW visit the website: for another trip down memory lane. It's a great site, award-winning and dedicated to those good old days



  1. I was just talking about drive-in theaters with somebody yesterday :) not any in this area anymore but there used to be, the Trail Drive-In on 60. I think it would be a great comeback for todays teens and young adults! it would make a killin'...

    1. I guess you could drive 153 miles to Paris, KY. Ha! We have one on the other side of Indy that I could visit. No date, though.

  2. Are you saying you wouldn't go to the drive-in movies without a date? I'm driving to Stanton next weekend, near Slate or Natural Bridge somewhere...

    1. I don't really see much point in it, unless some lady wants to get in the back seat with me and fool around a little. Otherwise, I'll wait for the DVD.

    2. What's the occasion to visit Stanton? Business or pleasure?

  3. is that anywhere around Paris? LOL

    1. I dunno. I used the link at the bottom of this post to find the nearest, still-open drive-in and found the family-owned on in Paris, KY.

  4. well, according to son, he has to meet us in Stanton to drive us to this cabin he's rented the weekend that he says we would never find otherwise ... sounds scary ... I thought we were staying in Slade but what do I know (other than yep! I'd hop in the backseat with ya) ... he just says to take the Winchester exit and uhmmm, get off and then get back on I-64 like I'm coming back to Ashland and take the Mountain Pkwy. I should only get lost maybe once ... LOL ... and then I found out he's rented thursday, friday and leaving Sat, and since I can't even get there till Friday, I'm wondering whether I could swing another day down there somewhere. I'd let kiddo come back home with daughter and son in law and take my day of solace! come down we'll drive to Paris to the movies...LOL

    1. The directions seem complicated, but you just might have a good time for a couple of days with the family. Thanks for the invitation, though. It's a two hour drive from Ashland to Paris for a drive-in movie. I don't think I cold do a round trip in one night - even just from your house and back. While I might do it for a friend, I wouldn't do it for a movie. LOL

    2. On the other hand, I've been thinking about traveling down your way again for a visit to the lake. It would be nice to see you, if you weren't so otherwise occupied and working so hard. Call it a late-night fantasy, unfulfilled.

    3. okay I'm not sure I hit the reply back to ya ... but I did leave you a comment to include all those "s" words...

  5. Yeah I'd love nothing more than you see you and I would definitely make arrangements to do so. As far as the "S" word ... well there are several I can think of ... sexy, sensual, softie, sensitive and sweet, yeah, take those!