Drive-Ins: Still an Option for Bad Parenting

Believe it or not, there are still drive-in movie theaters all over the country. Not where you live, of course, but everywhere else. There are lists online of all the drive-ins all over the heartland. At first glance, you might think there are tons of them, but many of the listings have “dark” written after them. As if they’re a Broadway theater and they could open back up as soon as the actors get a little rest.

It’s too bad there aren’t more of them, because drive-ins are the most fun way to not be able to concentrate on a movie that you’ve paid for. It beats your own living room, where your wife keeps asking, “Why is she doing that? Is this a flashback?” and “Hey - you know what? I’ve seen this movie before!” and someone keeps getting up and turning on the dishwasher and making phone calls.

In the ‘70s, we would fill someone’s mom’s car with a bunch of teenagers and go to the drive-in. I can’t remember a single movie I ever saw, but not because I was getting into trouble. Movies at the drive-in were impossible to follow because you couldn’t hear through the speakers, 12 pounds of metal through which you expected to hear “Watson, come quick!” And you couldn’t see the screen between the cars coming in late with their headlights on, the dirty windshield, and the subliminal flashes of popcorn and hot dogs.

If you were lucky enough to get there before dark, you could pick a spot where you could see the screen and a speaker that worked. And then you’d hope you didn’t get a big family truckster pull in front of you and unleash a bunch of little kids. Families in the ‘60s and ‘70s would often take their kids to R rated movies at the drive-in just for something to do to get them out of the house. They’d put the kids in their nightgowns and toss them in the car, as if the presence of pajamas on their bodies would make them fall asleep on the station wagon hood and the parents could get some peace and quiet.

My memories of being a youngster at the drive-in include playing at a little playground before the movie started. I met some kids from New Middletown, which I thought was on the other side of the globe, but which was about a 20-minute drive from my house. My next memory, chronologically, is when I saw The Godfather with my mom and my Aunt Annamae. The Godfather really pushed that R rating to the limits of its day, showing the “meanwhile-inside-the-house-while-the-wedding-reception-is-going on” scene with Sonny and the bridesmaid, and then the Italian-bride-topless-on-her-wedding-night scene. I thought my mom and my aunt were going to go find the owner of the drive-in and put a horse head in his bed.

Then, when I got married, during those two short years before we had kids, my husband and I used to go to the North Side Drive-In, which was right at the end of our street, and take iced tea and hard boiled eggs to snack on. The cars next to us always had either a bunch of teenagers or a van full of little kids in their pajamas.

I took my kids to one drive-in. It was several years ago, in New York. I was surprised to find that the speakers are gone and in their place, you’re given a radio dial number and you pick up the soundtrack to the movie right through your radio. We saw Without a Paddle and stayed for the second feature, some movie about two people who get forgotten by a scuba boat out in the middle of the ocean and eventually get eaten by sharks. A lot of F bombs ensue.

Wake up the little kids! There’s blood in the water!

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