Drive-ins: Not so much a movie as an experience

By Jeff Salter

We’re blogging about experiences at Drive In movies and whether we miss them.  I had quite a few experiences … and, frankly, I don’t miss them at all.

This time period was very late 1950s and possibly into the very early 1960s.  The only drive-in my family frequented was somewhere along the Mandeville Highway, south of Covington LA.  At one time, it was initially the Park Drive In and later became the Jet Drive In.

My dad seemed to like drive ins because he could get all five of us in for less money than the real theaters … and we could bring the popcorn (or maybe other treats) my mom had made at home.

What I most remember (a lot more then the content of any of the films we saw) was the discomfort — poor vision from the back seats of our Plymouth station wagon, scratchy and/or un-adjustable audio speakers, and (owing to the warm weather) incessant mosquito bites.

Yeah, there was a swing set up near the screen where kids could play before the feature started.  But one time my brother and I were playing there right as the movie began… and the film was Horror of Dracula, which opened with a very scary image.  We ran so fast that I’m surprised we even stopped at the family Plymouth.

I recall visiting the snack bar – especially before the show and during intermission – but don’t remember any particular favorite treat.  When we had any money to purchase items there, we probably had to stick with things already packaged, because my mom likely would not have approved of their hotdogs and other edibles prepared on-site.

It’s possible I went to movies there as a teen, though I don’t recall doing so.  I’m told (by acquaintances in Covington) that particular drive-in closed in about 1973-74, but I was in California during that timeframe, so I wouldn’t know.

I do remember there was still an operating drive-in somewhere in Hammond LA in about 1970.  Its big draw was that they showed ‘R’ rated films which were considered too raw for the local theaters to feature.  Kids from the small college and local high schools kept that place hopping.

Here in Somerset there is still a functioning drive-in.  My wife has taken the grandkids several times and assures me everything I disliked – from 50+ years ago – has significantly improved.  I’m not convinced… and I’m not actually interested enough to go see if she’s right.

To me, drive-ins are one the several things from the “good old days” that I do NOT miss.

Question:

How about you?  Any good memories of drive-ins?  Would you go back if there was one nearby still operating?

Advertisements

About jeff7salter

Currently writing romantic comedy, screwball comedy, and romantic suspense. Twelve completed novels and five completed novellas. Working with three royalty publishers: Clean Reads, Dingbat Publishing, & TouchPoint Press/Romance. "Size Matters" -- Oct. 2016 "The Duchess of Earl" -- Jul. 2016 "Stuck on Cloud Eight" -- Nov. 2015, "Pleased to Meet Me" (novella) -- Oct. 2015, "One Simple Favor" (novella) -- May 2015, "The Ghostess & MISTER Muir" -- Oct. 2014, "Scratching the Seven-Month Itch" -- Sept. 2014, "Hid Wounded Reb" -- Aug. 2014, "Don't Bet On It" (novella) -- April 2014, "Curing the Uncommon Man-Cold -- Dec. 2013, "Echo Taps" (novella) -- June 2013, "Called To Arms Again" -- (a tribute to the greatest generation) -- May 2013, "Rescued By That New Guy in Town" -- Oct. 2012, "The Overnighter's Secrets" -- May 2012. Co-authored two non-fiction books about librarianship (with a royalty publisher), a chapter in another book, and an article in a specialty encyclopedia. Plus several library-related articles and reviews. Also published some 120 poems, about 150 bylined newspaper articles, and some 100 bylined photos. Worked about 30 years in librarianship. Formerly newspaper editor and photo-journalist. Decorated veteran of U.S. Air Force (including a remote ‘tour’ of duty in the Arctic … at Thule AB in N.W. Greenland). Married; father of two; grandfather of six.
This entry was posted in childhood, Family, Jeff Salter, Life, Random thoughts, Uncategorized, writing, youth and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to Drive-ins: Not so much a movie as an experience

  1. jbrayweber says:

    We still have a drive-in in our area. We took our girls last summer for their birthdays. It was a fun treat for all. I don’t recall going to drive-ins when I was young. Probably because there was only one anywhere near me and it was in a bad part of town. I recall going on a date to one as a teen, but as you can imagine, there wasn’t much watching. 😉

    Like

    • jeff7salter says:

      Glad you could visit today, Jenn. [Missed you last week]
      I guess it’s good they’re making a comeback — or still around — and I’m glad they’re showing kid-friendly films. I probably should give one a try, but I’ll go in and check out the snack bar and restrooms before I pay admission for a 2 hour event. LOL

      Like

  2. Graziela says:

    I LOVE the drive-in! When I came to Somerset I can’t tell you how happy I was to learn one still existed here! As a child we’d go to drive-ins a lot, and it wasn’t just us, it was with our favorite cousins so it was a treat for us to be together. Also, one of my favorite aunts took us to go see The Goonies when it opened at our local drive-in back home, which is one of my favorite all time movies. Darius and I set up a movie night with another mom and her son this summer at the drive-in and had a great time. I would love to go any chance I could get, we don’t go as often as I’d like because Warren (who’s 3) just won’t sit still for that long, I won’t put him or us through that. But, as soon as he’s old enough and if the drive-in is still open you bet I’ll be there with the kids during summer months. I can’t recall when the drive-in back home closed down? It must have been in the 90’s since The Goonies was released in 1985. Because of my love of drive-ins I found it fitting that our local drive-in is called 27 TWIN Drive-In, ours back home was The Twin Drive-in. I suppose many of them had “twin” in its title because or the two screens provided, but still, it gave me the warm fuzzies.

    Like

    • jeff7salter says:

      Glad your D-I experiences were pleasant ones, fondly recalled. Sev. of the folks I canvassed from my home town also had positive recollections. Perhaps I was too young and fidgety at the time of my own experiences. Or maybe the skeeters just ruined it for me. Denise swears by this one in Somerset. So this coming (late) spring, perhaps we’ll see you out there.

      Like

  3. Awww…I’m sorry Jeff.My memories are mixed, (and you’ll see them tomorrow), but since Denise takes the kids, give it a shot! You might even find inspiration there…LITERARY inspiration…Although beautiful Denise will be there, so will the grandkids!

    Like

    • jeff7salter says:

      Thanks, Tonette. Yeah, I want to read your story here tomorrow.
      I guess it’s only a matter of time before I try again. I’m willing to believe that some of the conditions could have improved after 50+ years. But those old metal speakers were really the pits!

      Like

  4. They really were, Jeff! I remember my father pulling in and testing the speakers right away Sometimes we’d change parking places a number of times to get a good one.
    Time got away from me again, so I sat down to dash something off for tomorrow.I am afraid it is longer than I expected.Hope you have patience with me!

    Like

  5. I remember drive-in movies with my family! I’m sorry your experiences were bad. I don’t remember bad speakers and mosquitos, although I’m sure there were bugs. Dad would park toward the screen (probably so we wouldn’t be near the cuddlin’ couples in the back) and we’d spread out the blanket next to the car and watch. I only remember going to one on a double date. My date had apparently been hitting the beer pretty hard before they picked me up because he kept leaving the car to use the facilities – so got to watch the movie with the whole back seat to myself.

    Like

    • jeff7salter says:

      Patty, I guess the skeeters would vary depending on the region. If you were in Mich. at that time, skeeters prob. weren’t as much a problem as they are for about 8 months a year in S.E. Louisiana.
      From what I recall of the restroom facilities, it was not a place to linger…

      Like

  6. I never much cared for the Covington drive-in either. What I remember most was the absurdly poor, scratchy sound quality on the speakers. And it didn’t help to move from one speaker to another, as we often tried if we got there early enough. All of them were bad, always. The drive-in in Iowa, where the family moved next, seemed to be a little better. Shortly after getting married, my wife and I went to one in Florida. That was about 40 years ago, and that was the last time I ever went. I thought the movie GREASE portrayed the teenage drive-in experience better than any other cinematic portrayal I’ve ever seen.

    Like

    • jeff7salter says:

      Interestingly, I recently saw that scene in the movie, Grease, while exercising at the Y. I had little to compare it with, since I don’t recall going to the D-I as a teen. But I do think I remember being bothered by the people walking back and forth in front of our car during the show.

      Like

  7. Denise says:

    I do not remember frequenting the Covington drive-in, however I DO remember coming to the one here in Somerset a few times as a teenager. Once I went with a couple cousins. We hid one of us in the trunk so we paid for only two. We saw The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly! (I was the “good” one!) Now, the drive in experience is as good as your lawn chairs and stereo system in your car! I take the zero gravity lawn chairs and kick back to enjoy the movie. I also take a blanket to wrap up in since the evenings quite often are cooler than this Louisiana girl is comfortable with! I also love that no one shushes me if I ask questions during the movie! Drive-in movies are wonderful for the younger kids. They can snuggle, sleep, eat, play, and not be bothering other movie goers!

    Like

  8. Iris B says:

    Interesting post, Jeff … although …. it still doesn’t agree with the movies I’ve seen. LOL. Uncomfortable? Mozzie bites? Scratchy sound?
    I slowly come to think I haven’t really missed out on anything when it comes to drive in movies 🙂

    Like

    • jeff7salter says:

      Yep — sadly my recollections are mostly negative. The fact that I can recall only ONE title of a drive-in film that I saw in those many family outings is quite significant, I believe. But I remember all the discomforts or adjustments … and the “Pic” (I think it was called) — a spiral of some chemical which was supposed to keep away skeeters, but actually just smelled horrible to human children.

      Like

  9. Cathy Graham says:

    I used to love going to drive ins with my family when I was a kid and I have fond memories of them. My parents would give my brother and I sleeping bags in the back seat and we’d usually fall asleep during the movie. Gee, that’s where I got that habit from. I still do that!

    Not too many drive ins left around here in Canada anymore but I think there are a handful. With our short summer, I imagine they’re not that profitable. Something so nostalgic about them just like going to A and W where the waitress used to bring the food out to the car on a special tray and put it on the window. I tell my sons these stories and their eyes glaze over. So much for the good ol days!

    Like

    • jeff7salter says:

      thanks for visiting my Hound Day blog, Cathy.
      We never had any sleeping bags but I imagine we probably had blanks in the very back of that station wagon. My little sister likely fell asleep at some point. I’ve never been able to fall asleep during a movie… at least not since I was old enough to remember.
      Here in Somerset KY, we still have a drive-in burger joint — can’t recall the name — where the waitpersons come out to the car and take our orders.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s