Monday, June 7, 2010

Drive-In Movie Theatres


Yesterday was the 77th anniversary of the opening of the first drive-in movie theater. It happened June 6, 1933 in Camden, NJ. (This blog was supposed to be published yesterday but I got too involved with HGTV, NASCAR and Masterpiece Mystery.)
When I was growing up there were drive-ins in the nearby towns of Creston, Red Oak and Clarinda - as well as in or near dozens of other towns in the state. Now there are only four left in Iowa - Newton, Maquoketa, Spirit Lake and Grandview.
I'm sure I had been to a drive-in with my family as a child even though I don't remember a specific occurrence. What I remember most is going to the drive-ins after I began dating. I knew the outdoor theaters were referred to as "passion pits" - a convenient place to park and make out. I didn't like 'necking' for hours on end so I insisted upon watching the movies - which were usually "B" grades and not all that good.
Often there were two movies and since the first one didn't start until 9 p.m. or later, that meant getting home after 1 a.m. My curfew was midnight on weekends which meant I had to spoil the evening for the other couple when we double dated. I remember pleading for a later curfew after my Junior Prom but still having to be home by 1. Other kids were staying out all night, but not me. The Creston Drive-In was showing four films that night, but once again we had to leave in the middle of a movie.
When my kids were little, we went to the Plantation Drive-In at 63rd and Grand in Des Moines a few times. I remember once letting Doug take the car before he was 16 so he could take a visiting cousin to the movie. I was at a friend's a few blocks away and told him how to leave the Plantation by a "back" route so he would take less of a chance getting caught driving without a license.
There was another incident with Doug at a drive-in. This time a few years later when he and a girlfriend had gone to the Red Oak drive-in. He became ill while there. I got a call to go and get them because he was too sick to drive and the girlfriend couldn't drive a car with a manual transmission.
I believe the last drive-in movie I went to was in Red Oak in '83 or '84. I took Kari and Preston to see Star-Trek II: the Wrath of Kahn with Ricardo Montalban.
I have heard that drive-in theatres are making a come back - indeed the one at Grandview, Iowa was constructed in 2007. I'm pretty sure my drive-in movie days are a thing of the past, however.

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