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Sunday, December 1, 2019


 When I was a young lad with a newly acquired driver’s license the place to go was the drive-in.   In New Jersey there were drive-ins a-plenty.  Within a ten mile radius of my home there were three drive-ins. 

The Amboy drive-in’s giant screen was highly visible from the northbound Garden State Parkway when approaching the Driscoll Bridge.  In the 70’s the Amboy Theater occasionally showed X rated movies.  I don’t recall any accidents, but traffic over the bridge often backed up during certain scenes.

Generally the drive-ins showed two movies, one would be a crappy Annette Funicello "Beach Something" movie, the other would be a seriously crappy movie.

We didn’t go to the drive-in for the movies, we went there for the freedom to be kids; kids in our own cars without rules.  There was no one to shush us, no one to tell us that we couldn’t smoke, couldn’t sneak in some rum and coke, or couldn’t just ignore the screen and make out with your date.  

The seven words that would ruin any Saturday night were, “Why don’t we just watch the movie?”

My first drive-in experience was with my parents and brothers at about the age of five, “Gone with the Wind.” I fell asleep after an amputation scene.  I’m pretty sure that scene ruined any chance of my ever becoming a surgeon. 

Years later I entered the drive-in from hiding in the trunk of a car to avoid paying for a ticket.  I don’t think the theaters minded, regardless of how many people were in a car, the car only took up one space…more kids meant more popcorn sold.   We thought we were beating “The Man,” and the owners sold extra bags of 2 cent popcorn for 25 cents.  Now that was a “win-win.”

Later, the drive-in became the venue of choice for getting close with your best girl.  A lot of action went on during those crappy movies, but I never came close to needing that precaution I bought from Billy Hopkins for a dollar.  It remained in my wallet leaving a telltale ring which told all your friends, “Yeah, I’m prepared…just in case.”

My last trip to the drive-in came when my first born was still a baby.  What money we saved by not needing a baby-sitter,  we paid in frustration because that little dickens cried during the whole show. 

I think there are still a few drive-ins left, but they are clearly not long for this world.  Movie theaters in general may not last verses the competition of DVD’s, Netflix, and paid TV; drive-ins do not stand a chance as real estate becomes more valuable. 
I guess the drive-in’s time is past.  Hell, you can park anywhere and watch the latest movie on your i-phone.  There is no need to sneak in anywhere when it is free on the internet, and the internet doesn’t know who you are or where you are.  Want to get away with your best girl?  Apparently there is no longer a need for any “movie” pretense.

I pretty much experienced the circle of life at the drive-in theater. 

I saw my first movie at a drive-in.  I thumbed my nose at “the man” for the first time by hiding in a trunk and sneaking in to the drive-in.  I smoked my first cigarette at the drive-in and drank too much booze for the first time at the drive-in.   I experienced my first outside boobage at the drive-in, and I tried to rock my first baby to sleep at a drive-in.
Good-by drive-in theaters.  We just do not need you anymore.

Still I am glad you were around when I was growing up.
re-run from December 2013     


  1. Aw Joe... I enjoyed this so much, I went right back to the top & read it again! (Have to admit, chuckled at that idea of traffic backing up on the bridge during certain flicks!)

    I can remember plain as day the very first movie I saw at the Skyview Drive-In back home--my parents piled us kids in the backseat to see "Mary Poppins", but when we got there "HELP!" (the Beatles movie) was on the marquee--Mom said let's see it anyway. I was only 5-6 years old, didn't have a clue what was going on--but who DIDN'T love the Beatles in the mid-60s??

    My first drive-in date was "Saturday Night Fever". My girlfriend was there for ONE reason--to see the movie :)

    I also remember the last movie I saw at one, 'Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home' in 1986 with a couple of my nerdy friends. But there sure were lots of good (and pretty lame) stuff in-between... I sure do miss those times!

  2. I don't remember going to a drive-in movie as a kiddo. We usually hit the local theater. As a teen it was a different story. I remember going to one with Jack before we married...and throwing up the booze we drank when I got home! Ha! When we moved here we took our oldest as a baby to the one and only in town and I believe it was the remake of King Kong..anyway, there is one still working in Mansfield but we haven't gone there and probably won't ever. For us those days are gone too I guess! Loved your memories...thanks for making me laugh tonight!

  3. Drive-ins, sigh. I have not seen one in a decade at least.

    Mom and Dad took us to see Cimarron with Glenn Ford when we were about 8. We raced around, pounded on steamed up windows. I went to a movie in my teens. Sat in the backseat, necking with my then boyfriend.

    Oh the memories that you stirred up with your post!

  4. Growing up, we used to live right next to a drive-in. We could hear the movie but barely see it the way the screen was turned. Weekend mornings, my brother and me would go over to collect the aluminum cans to recycle until we were chased off by someone who claimed to have rights to be able to do so. We were young teens, we didn't challenge (too much) authority then so we didn't go back. When a popular movie was playing our street would be packed with people waiting to get in.

    Took my kids to at least 1-2 drive-in theaters while they were growing up. I do believe there is still a drive-in theater here in the Phoenix area. Will have to look that up.


  5. I remember going to the local drive-in as a kid, dressed in pajamas, with a paper sack of popcorn Mom made on the stove (no Jiffy Pop for us), and a couple glass bottles of 16 oz Pepsi and some Dixie Cups. We'd pile into the Olds 98, my sister staking claim to the "back windshield" ledge as a bed for when she grew tired. Amateur! I was usually the only one left awake for the closing credits of the second feature.

    I remember The War Wagon, and Angel in My Pocket, and Support Your Local Sheriff. The most shocking movie I saw at the drive-in as a kid was Twisted Nerve. I was on the edge of the back seat, caught up in the suspense, while everybody else snored with their mouths hanging open.

  6. I remember Drive-Ins were more popular in summer when whole families would park their cars and then sit on the wide terraces by the kiosk, or send the kids down to the small playground in front of the screen. As we kids got older, Dad only drove us to the gates and we would walk in while he drove home for some peace and quiet and picked us up after the movie if he was still awake. Often enough we'd start walking home and meet him halfway. I always went for the movies, too shy to be socialising.

  7. I never knew drive-ins but I do remember seeing films where families watched whilst sitting in their cars. I was kinda jealous!

  8. What a fantastic post, Joe. I saw my first movie at the drive in in my pajamas . . . Jungle Book. It's actually one of my earliest memories. I also remember a drive in that was adjacent to the highway. We'd be so excited to see the screen at night and catch 5 seconds of a movie. Sadly, most disappeared by the early 80's, so I never got to go to one on dates or take my kids.

  9. Drive ins were the date standard when I was in high school in Florida. The speakers had a dual purpose as an air conditioner. Cool. I frustrated many a young man by wanting to watch the movie.

  10. Yes, there were two drive in theaters here. My dad took me the first time I went when I was in grammar school.
    The movie was Thunder Road. I fell in love with cars watching that movie.
    The second movie was God’s Little Acre. I didn’t understand much of what was going on, but it made my dad laugh and laugh which was something he rarely did.

  11. It's one of those things everyone should get to experience once. We went once or twice when i was little, i remember being fascinated by getting to go to the movies in my jammies.

  12. drive in sounds like fun place dear Joe
    i can understand it's emotional importance for you :)

    times are being change so fast ,now we have no solo cinema around ,only huge expensive malls have cinemas where people go for shopping ,eating and add movie in their plan if they want ,how businessmen have modified our life and used our psyche to improve his income is mind blowing
    i bet one trip to drive in with crying baby is almost impossible to forget ,i could not lol

  13. Growing up in California, we went to the drive ins year round. I remember as a kid, going in PJ's and my mom would pop popcorn and put it in a brown sack. We'd get there an hour or so before the movies and all the kids would be at the jungle gym in PJ's. Some would just stay, but my folks made us come back to the car. We had a VW bug in 1960 and I got to sit in the very back seat. Can't believe I was once small enough to totally stretch out and it was my special place. Good memories.

    Then when I was a teenager, well that was different. If you went on a date with a boy that was different than going with all of your friends. Technically I wasn't allowed to go to the drive in with a boy till I was at least 16.

    I believe the last time I went to a drive in, was when all three of my boys were younger. They didn't enjoy it as much as I believe I did. By then, they were already biased - prefered the movie theaters, and the BIG sound.