BY DAN MILLER
(originally posted June 6, 2005)
I recall many things about drive-in theaters.
Some of the later memories are quite pleasant....
But my earliest recollections of going to the drive-in are of oppressively hot Georgia nights, with my Mother and one of her sisters in the front seat, and several of us kids stuck in the back seat, craving more popcorn, trying to sleep, or at least sit still... needing to go to the restroom... trying to endure the inevitable growing pain and cramps in my leg... occasionally glancing at the black and white movie through a bug-stained windshield... trying not to fidget and make noise, while the grownups somehow seemed to actually enjoy the never-ending sappy love story that always starred Van Johnson and June Allyson, or Clark Gable and Lana Turner, projected (slightly out of focus) on the giant outdoor screen, with dialogue barely discernible through a scratchy little speaker hung on the side window.
But my Mother, and her sisters, had found a way to go to the movies -- with all the kids -- and I'm sure that was a good thing for them.
And, as with so many things in life we took for granted, what I would give now to go back to that place -- even for one night -- with those same people.
Drive-in theaters are like '57 Chevys.... some are still around.... but probably their greatest attraction is the memories they stir up.
The first drive-in opened on June 6, 1933 in Camden, New Jersey, and over the next quarter century, they popped up everywhere -- peaking at around 5,000 by the late 1950s.
Then came a rapid decline.
The experts say it's because of daylight saving time, television and videos, and the high price of the real estate to put them on.
But I believe the main reason drive-ins went away is because it's so rare anymore to find movies that a family -- consisting of parents in the front, and squirming kids in the back -- can feel OK about watching together.
Say what you will, those old Van Johnson - June Allyson movies were never too suggestive or embarrassing to watch.... they were just painfully boring to us kids.
So, go to a drive-in theatre when you see one.
Get out and get under the moon.
I fear it won't be long before the only title you'll see advertised on the marquee will be "Closed For Good".