Picture this…

November 29, 2007


It was a sign of the times when this open air theater closed in our little town. Larger chain theaters with big plush seats and surround sound speakers had stolen movie goers away from what once was the place to be. The 1997 season was the last and by 2004 nothing but dust remained. It was a hard pill to swallow. After all, many of our youthful memories were rooted here.


My mom wasn’t much for it, but my dad sure was. I saw every Elvis movie, sitting alongside my dad in the front seat of the car. We always took a pillow and blanket just in case I couldn’t make it to the end. Which didn’t happen often.

If we got there early enough we visited the play area, complete with swings and slides. There was even a small zoo. The concession stand had turnstyles which guided long lines of people through a maze of popcorn, cotton candy and other tasty but costly delights. I learned the etiquette of the drive-in somewhat quickly. Talking loudly or idling too long in front of someone else’s car was not taken lightly.


In return for my attentiveness, which really wasn’t hard to gain, he took me to see Hard Day’s Night. This was a difficult task since he was not nearly as infatuated with them as I was. 90 cents to see a movie. Imagine that.

At its heyday in the 70’s, the 28 acre drive-in showed movies on three screens which parked a total of 1600 cars. They would line up bumper to bumper on Broadway coming from the North and the South hoping to be settled in, with the speaker box resting on the window, at dusk. By this time I was in high school and my dad was no longer my date. There were triple features Friday and Saturday, and fireworks during intermission.


This was all we saw for some time after the the theater closed. Every time we drove by I got a rock in the pit of my stomach. Another sign of an aging and changing community.

Last week our Town Council voted to secure a bond for $13.8 million to build a Boys and Girls club on this site. A 72,534 square foot center with a natatorium, classrooms, a competition-sized gym and an auditorium. I am so excited. It just doesn’t get any better than this. I always liked a movie with a happy ending.


15 Responses to “Picture this…”

  1. mjd Says:

    That is wonderful news for our town, and the Boy’s and Girl’s Club is offering fabulous use of the town’s old drive-in theatre property.

  2. tod Says:

    I have always been curious about drive in movies. We don’t have them here. Our local art deco cinema was closed for years before it was demolished. Shame.

  3. Susan Says:

    It’s sad that the days of the drive-ins are pretty much over. There are two here that I know of…both about an hour drive.

    What a great way to make use of what has become a bit of an eyesore.

  4. Hilary Says:

    I miss drive-ins too. These days there are just so many other options available with which to obtain/see a movie. It sure isn’t the same.

  5. dilling Says:

    I love drive-ins. We still have one back home(in the rainy state of Washington)…It starts showing movies in the late Spring every weekend, once school is out for summer it is open every night, then after labour day, weekends again until the weather is too rainly and cold. It’s always full, the cars line up for hours and folks “tailgait” until it is dark enough to open up the drivein. I love that I can take the dog, the kids, my own snacks,pillows, blankets, we can talk together during the movie without disturbing anyone. They show three movies a night…one G rated, one Pg and one new blockbuster(whatever the rating)…you can stay for one or all three, depending on the needs of your carload. It is something I look forward to when I go home for a visit in the warm months…sometimes I go several times in one visit.

  6. I miss drive-in movie theaters! I can’t remember the exact year ours closed down. It was quite a few years ago. I think it is really neat that the elementary school where I teach is built on the old drive-in property. Sort of like your Boys and Girls Club…..a happy ending!

  7. coffeypot Says:

    My first wife and I use to go to the drive-in every weekend. There wasn’t anything else to do, and we were only allowed to date one night a week. Remember those days?

    Anyway, we would go by the barbeque restaurant, eat and head out for the drive-in. After we got married we saved up enough money to go back again for sentimental reasons. Man, what a surprise. Did you know they had movies there?

  8. Betty Says:

    I loved the drive-in theaters. It was so nice to sit in the car with all the windows open, and the cool breeze blowing through. Good times!

  9. Willowtree Says:

    I too mourn the passing of the Drive-in. I have so many great memories.

  10. gawilli Says:

    Mjd – I agree 100%. My experience with the Boys and Girls Club has been outstanding. In my old neighborhood they partnered with the schools and provided excellent opportunities for kids that otherwise would have walked the streets.

    Tod – Outdoor theaters were the best. I guess the others reading here felt the same. We had an older indoor theater in Gary (Glen Park really) that we went to, but it really didn’t compare. It’s interesting because the picture wasn’t fantastic, you can imagine looking at the last picture. And the sound came out of a metal speaker attached to a wire and a pole, that hung on the car window. Sometimes you would have to jockey to another spot to get a speaker that worked. But it sure was fun.

    Susan – It is a shame, but according to Dilling, there are some survivors. Just not around here.

    Hillary – I hadn’t thought of the impact renting movies would have had on this. But you have a good point there.

    Dilling – That sounds like a real blast from the past. It’s good to know there are still some up and running. Tailgaiting was not common in those days, but it should have been! I would love to have that experience again.

  11. gawilli Says:

    Songbird – It’s interesting that you say that because the other piece of property they were looking at was the the high school driving range, however is was not as large as this. I agree. There is something right about the use of this land for kids.

    Coffeypot – I do remember only dating one night a week! I also remember when girls did not phone boys – it just was not appropriate! But that’s another post all in itself. And yes, it was quite different going with a date besides my dad…

    Betty – And the bugs!

    WT – I too have great memories. Many more than I shared in this post.

  12. daddy d Says:

    Great local history. Hard Days Night was my first date with my wife. Great wife. That movie provided a great start to life with her. Remember, the line that Ringo had to the grandfather … “You can learn from books, you know.”

  13. gawilli Says:

    Daddy D – Yes, I remember that line. And I always thought Ringo was the dim bulb. Pretty cool that was your first date! And what a start it was!

  14. dilling Says:

    One of my favorite Children’s book…has nothing to do with your post, but mine….Into the Painted Bear Lair. Have you read that? It’s out of print now but it was SO VERY GOOD. I have a copy, if you want to read it, but you’d have to send it back.

  15. katy Says:

    like Tod i too would like to attend a drive in movie.
    wow every Elvis movie, i envy you that!
    it s good that the neglect is now going to be turned into a great cause

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