A grandmother is a mother who has a second chance

Monday, September 17, 2007

If you're under 30 this will mean absolutely nothing to you

On Saturday Ed and I took his father to see the movie "3:10 to Yuma". He hadn't been to a movie in several years and really enjoyed the outing. While waiting for the show to start, he told me about long, long ago when he and Ed's mom used to go to drive-ins. One Saturday they decided to go, but they had been out partying the night before and were really tired. Apparently both of them fell asleep and didn't wake up until 4:30am when someone started knocking on their window.

Do you remember drive-ins? It was always such a treat when I was a kid. There was one particular drive-in in Tucson - the Midway- which was in the center of town. Because it's so hot in Tucson, during the summer there was a section in front of the screen where they had dozens of lounge chairs so people could get out of their hot cars and sit on the chairs watching the movie. We didn't have mosquitos because of the dryness so bugs weren't a problem. It was like a big nighttime picnic.

They finally got rid of the chairs, so we brought our own. My family, my aunt and uncle, and my grandparents would all go together. Each group in our own car. We would park close to each other, but leave at least one space empty between our cars and set up our lawn chairs, BBQ's, ice chests, and anything else we might need. Everyone else did the same thing so it was like a huge campsite with a movie playing. I still remember sitting there with my cousin, Ken, watching the Keystone Cops and laughing so hard our stomachs hurt.

In the winter the theater would give us little portable heaters as we drove in so we could stay warm without the engine running.

I can remember sitting in the car in the back seat trying to watch the movie. Cars would come in late and my dad would be cussing them out because they didn't lower their headlights. Cars with loud mufflers would drive by and you couldn't hear the movie. Or you'd find the perfect spot only to discover that the speaker didn't work or was missing! As soon as you got settled, one of the kids had to go to the bathroom which meant heading out, dodging cars, still trying to watch the movie, starting to get a little cranky.

When my kids were little, the only way we could go to a movie without paying a babysitter was to go to a drive-in. We had a little Chevy Vega station wagon and we would make a bed for the kids in the back, put their pj's on, and head to the movie. Even brought popcorn and drinks from home so we didn't need to go to the snackbar.

The snack bar was always in the back somewhere and a long dark walk. You would pass by all the other cars, all the while looking over your shoulder so you didn't miss too much of the movie. I think the rule was that all snack bars had to be really dirty with sticky floors and surly cashiers. And, of course, there was always at least one kid who spilled the popcorn and drink on the way back to the car. He was usually the one crying through the rest of the movie.

During the trek to the snack bar or the bathroom your parents would always try to divert your attention from the cars with all the steamy windows and the legs up in the air. I do remember once asking my Dad what was going on in "that" car and he told me something about the person was probably sick and trying to sleep. I was young enough to buy it!! I also clearly remember one time when I went into the bathroom while he waited outside the door. When I came out, the conversation went something like this (mind you, I was around 8 at the time):

Me: Hey, dad, they have something neat [we said "neat" in those days] in a machine in there - sanitary napkins!

Dad: Okay, time to go.

Me: But, dad, I want one. Can I have a quarter?

Dad: NO!

Me (whining): How come? If I get dirty eating the popcorn I want a napkin that's clean to use to wipe my mouth and it says it's sanitary!! Why can't I have one?

Dad: Your mother will explain it to you.

She actually did explain it - about 4 years later!!

I don't think there are many drive-ins left anymore. Certainly not where I live. The site of the last one now has a huge shopping area. No more four-plex drive-ins where you had a speaker to hear one movie, but kept looking around at the other three soundless features. Or driving down the road trying to catch a peek at a movie at you were stopped at a light. Ah, the good old days.


Fleur de Lisa said...

This was a hoot to read! We went to drive in movies when I was a kid. Actually, when I was a teenager one of my best friend's parents owned a drive in. I don't know if any still exist around here any more. I wonder how many babies were conceived at drive-ins back in the day? ;-)

Wendy said...

You are making me sad. They just closed the drive in where I used to live in Indiana. I went all the time with my dad when I was a kid...in my pajamas just like your kids did. Mike and I would go when I was pregnant a lot and also the summer after I had Jaykeb. I was so upset when they closed it. I think there is one in Atlanta still. They get rid of everything good!

Desert Diva said...

I remember the "Twin Drive-In Theater." There was a screen on two sides and you got more choices! ;-)

I too recall the station wagon with blankets and pillows, goodies taken in, and lawn chairs for sitting outside.

The last drive-in I saw open was in Santa Cruz, California. They had a flea market during the day and the movie at night.

Autumn said...

We had twin drive in's where I grew up too. I remember we shared the snack bar with both sides, alogn with the bathroom. If you didn't like the move on the side you were own you could drive along the back road to the other side. I lost my virginity in the back of a chevy van in 1971 (I was 17) at the drive in. I wonder where kids go now days to make out? Thanks for the post. It brought back some nice memories

Scoobers said...

I saw a double feature of Apollo 13 and Waterworld at the drive in. That was the last time I went.
Mosquitoes have invaded. No more is AZ a safe haven in the desert.
The NAPKIN! Too funny!

ira said...

try aligning (justify) your posts, they'll look more organised and spacious too.