The drive-in.

July 6, 2013 § 14 Comments

MV5BODQ1NDk2Nzc4OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMTI0Njk3OA@@._V1_SY317_CR12,0,214,317_[1]Arriving at dusk, the screen had a sorry, patched look, but under the bright beam of Technicolor the repairs disappeared. that no-longer-blank billboard was suffused with glamour.

Hollywood kisses were exchanged, great big smackaroos planted on big-screen lips, and when those stars bothered to speak their voices came, tinny, from a small gray box hung on a partially rolled down window.

I can still see our drive-in—never mind that it became a year-round flea market years ago, the big old marquee announcing bargains, bargains, bargains!

Once it was the place to see the white hats overcome the black, go around the world in 80 days, and watch beautiful people with lips the size of Buicks exchange closed-mouth kisses.

I wish I could say I went to the drive-in with a boyfriend in his first car, but the drive-in was the make out spot of the 50s and I was under ten that decade.

By the time I was dating we were way too cool for the drive-in, and almost too cool to make out. Instead we went to Jefferson Airplane concerts, ruining our ears for future use.

My trips to the drive-in were made in my PJs and I always brought my pillow. Chris, Claudia and I shared the backseat, our parents up front, their heads two silhouettes against the screen.

Those of us in the backseat sometimes wondered what was going on in the dark of the other cars, but quickly got distracted by the gigantic drama unfolding beyond the hood of our car.

At intermission, we watched the cavalcade of wax cups fill with chipped ice and carbonated drinks, watched the popcorn cascade from the machine, all pictured in mammoth detail on the screen.

We never left our car. The food was too expensive and the bathrooms questionable.

We ate our movie snack out of a brown grocery bag. Always pinching pennies, my mother popped our corn at home; a little salt, a little margarine.

We watched the clock in the corner of the screen tick off the minutes until reel two.

Only eight more minutes to showtime!

At two more minutes to showtime, people would begin to wander back to neighboring cars carrying cardboard trays of refreshment stand food. As we chewed our cold popcorn,the smell of hot butter wafted through our open windows.

I remember, if I was awake when the credits rolled, watching the headlights of departing cars sweep cones of light up onto the big screen as they drove away. Hugging my pillow, I held the stories against my heart, the excitement, the drama, and most of all those Hollywood kisses.

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§ 14 Responses to The drive-in.

  • lcjameson says:

    Takes me back! Love your imagery…can smell that popcorn…even the cold stuff! Thanks!

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    • My family, the happiest I think I’ve ever encountered, was also the cheapest. The Depression put a lasting crimp in our spending habits–for me it persists until this day. Buy popcorn? Really?

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      • Sheila says:

        As my granddaughter would say, “Off subject:” Gosh, I thought I was the only baby-boomer to still feel impacted by the Depression (and losing the Civil War, but that’s another story entirely). Now I realize that we could be classified as having been wealthy. But I never knew it! Life was very frugal even though I was the last child. No family movies and earliest memory is with my older brother. I was allowed to go with friends. I never would have snuck into the drive-in. I was terrified of what my parents would think if I got caught. Note I said “think” and not “do”. Because they trusted me so much I was very afraid of their disappointment. I guess I was a prude, no I didn’t think the other kids were wrong–I was just chicken.

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      • Sheila, I too was a goody two-shoes–and the worst punishment in my home (at least for me) was my parent’s disappointment. That sneak into the drive-in was a very rare transgression for me.

        And it sounds as if I was preachier than you. I told those other kids they were wrong.

        The biggest difference in our childhood worldview may be the Civil War. In New Jersey it was ancient history. It is only in the south that the War of Northern Agression is still in dispute. Growing up I felt closer to Washington crossing the Delaware than I did to Sherman burning Atlanta.

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  • Audra Supplee says:

    We did the same thing! My older sister, younger brother and me in the back seat in PJ’s; parents in the front; the home made popcorn in a bag. At our drive-in they also had a playground for the kids before the movie started – but we were NEVER allowed to go play there – well, we were in our PJ’s after all. But I remember seeing those kids playing and wishing I could be out there too. Still, it was a great memory. Thanks for the reminder! I hadn’t thought about that in years.

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  • Deb Reilly says:

    One of my most embarrassing memories involves the drive-in changing their “one price per carload” policy to a “per person” entry fee. My father, most likely after a beer or two, pulled off the road in front of the drive-in to put my two brothers in the trunk. The hot popped corn never tasted the same after that.

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  • kathy says:

    I do not remember a drive in from our childhood-not even Geoff’s.with Kerry we went to movies in Princeton-with Geoff we went to movies at Quakerbridge mall.All 3 of us saw fireworks at Palmer Stadium on the 4th of July though.I remember correctly your family took Kerry and me to church ad to see yellow Submarine

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  • Somehow you make it sound like you got the short end of the stick being stuck going to Fillmore East Amy… lol. Yeah, I remember the drive-ins. I remember thinking it was so neat that we got to see 2 or 3 films larger than life on that screen. I actual went a couple of times with friends, not just family. It was a chance to drink illicit beer, talk smack with my friends and watch a show, all at the same time. When I was in college there was a drive-in way outside of town that always showed “X-rated” films. I actually never went, where’s the intimacy when it’s 20′ tall?

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  • Sheila says:

    Wonderful imagery. Did you have mosquito spray trucks go up and down the aisles before show time so that the windows could be down without being assaulted by the stinging armies? We used to wish we lived in the nearby houses so we could watch al the movies for free. Sometimes , in college it was the best, safe place to be alone. Alone in such a crowd. What an interesting solution.

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    • No spray trucks–but that would have been so in keeping with the times. I remember running outside to stand in the fog from the planes spraying for gypsy moths–back when nothing could kill us.

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