The Drive-In

Last night I traveled back in time. Accompanying me on my trip were Husband, Charlie, and his friend George. Our destination: the drive-in movie theatre. We drove out of town a ways to a renovated drive-in that had been redone in a tiki theme with grass-hut ticket booths and tiki-themed bathrooms (that were clean). Tiki torches and Easter Island heads were sprinkled here and there.

Husband pulled the car in and parked on one of the asphalt berms, jockeying the car a bit to get just the right angle for viewing, and I was flooded with memories of my childhood, of the playground underneath the massive screen, the snack bars that smelled like grease, and the endless rows of cars with lawn chairs lined up alongside them. Our family would go and watch mostly Disney B movies like "The Swiss Family Robinson" and "Blackbeard's Ghost," usually double features. Once we saw "2001: A Space Odyssey." Another time, "The Poseidon Adventure" -- the greatest movie ever, at least then. There were trailers for horror movies like "Centipede" and "Tarantula" that I was terrified of and wanted no part of. I have a vague memory of my sister Mary trying to smuggle in the family dog Duke one time by hiding him under a blanket. Husband's memories include the requisite egg salad sandwiches, Fritos and Ovaltine prepared by his mom, and his dad falling asleep every time.

So it was like old times, except there weren't any clumsy speaker boxes that oftentimes didn't work, forcing you to find an open space with a working speaker. Now the theatre narrowcasts the broadcast and you tune the station in on your car radio. It was wonderful to be in control of our own volume for a change and not get blasted out. The movie screen was framed by trees, the half moon was bright, and I watched the airplanes that flew by from the nearby airport. We left the car windows down and enjoyed the cool breeze. Train whistles off in the distance seemed to fit right in with the movie's soundtrack. We brought Bugles, Boston Baked Beans, Kit Kats and marshmallow cups. The snack bar was respectable-looking enough, but the grease smell brought back memories of every little league or horse show or drive-in movie theatre snack bar I've ever been to.

Gone were the intermission ads, those ephemeral films with the dancing popcorn and the kind-of-creepy anthropomorphized hot dog and bun. (The hot dog really wanted to be eaten). No retro films, not even a string of trailers to wade through. Our movie, "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," started at its scheduled time and we enjoyed it. It served its purpose as a solid series installment (and the young wizards have grown up before our eyes); not so much a movie that would stand on its own, but entertaining and not confusing, which was a plus. So sometimes you can go home again, it's just a little different. And we will definitely go back.

What is your favorite drive-in memory?


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