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The Big Picture

I have many fond memories of crazy, often stupid, and sometimes even dangerous things my friends and I did as teens. But one of our milder shenanigans involved trips to the drive-In movies. We’d cruise across the bridge at the edge of town, passing the state line into Illinois, and be ready for anything. 

We had several money-saving strategies to make the event affordable. Buck Nite provided the most straight-forward alternative. Yep, you guessed it. No matter how many of us were crammed into my chariot, Smoke, it only cost a dollar. Dividing the cost among us left money to blow at the concession stand. Another less honest method was to cram kids into the trunk of the car and drive through the entrance, paying only for the visible riders. My friends never did this, uh-hum, since they hated the cramped stuffiness. 


drive-in movi

Once we found the perfect spot with a good view of the screen, I’d crank down the window glass, grab the speaker off its stand and hook it to the glass. The squawk box had a coiled cord to attach it to its “mother ship,” and a dial to adjust the volume.   


Besides our rowdy crew, there were a couple of other customer profiles:

1.       The family with a bunch of kids. It was a cheap night out for them, and if the kids got bored, they could use the playground slides and swings. If they REALLY got bored, they could crawl into the back seat and go to sleep.

2.       The dating couple doing everything but watching the movie. Though we wanted to investigate the action, their windows were usually too steamed up to see much, unfortunately.

We always arrived well before dark, so we’d pool our money and buy whatever junk food we could afford. Sometimes it was popcorn and Cokes, but other, more flush times, we’d get a pizza or hot dogs and fries. 

One of our friends persuaded her besotted boyfriend to let her drive his car home after the movie. As she pulled away, she forgot to take the speaker off the rolled-up window. Later she told me the front seat looked like a fairy had sprinkled sparkly confetti everywhere.   


Old School drive-in movies are long-gone and so is the cheap fun they provided. Like bowling alleys, they took up too much valuable land, and no one needs to leave home to see movies anymore. Today’s kids don’t know what they’re missing.


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