Drive-In theaters, what a great concept! In the early fifties when I was a little kid, my dad and mom packed up the station wagon, threw my brother and sisters and myself in the car and off we went. He would park the 1951 De Soto woody backwards, throw down the tailgate and it was ON.
We were released to graze down by the swing sets or sit on the benches up front. That was quite a sight, five welded little heads pointed straight up, eyes trying to take in the whole screen from about fifteen feet away. If we got tired, we just crawled into my mom's lap or grabbed an unoccupied seat.
You were in a safe haven. No one worried about you or who was in the next car. It was like a giant block party.
Movies, fun and food, I can, still, to this day, recall that very distinct smell of what was referred to as pizza. Drive-In pizza was definitely something special. It was an unforgettable combination of tomato sauce, sprinkled with some unknown cheesy matter, served on a beautiful cardboardish crust. Yum!
Those were days of two movies at every performance. You got and "A" or even a "B" list film and a low budget "Second Feature" that was made for some chump change. There were lot's of "Westerns" and they threw in a couple of cartoons. We are talking a four hour experience here, and I don't we ever left early. When you are five years old this was a sweet deal.
By the time I turned fifteen, drive-ins had taken on a whole new meaning in my life. Inside those fenced walls, conveniently corralled, one might say, were car loads of unsupervised young ladies.
The teenage years were difficult ones financially, and my friends and I had to be inventive in our attempts to enter these asphalt heavens. The days of having one guy pay and then just sticking five guys in the trunk of the car were gone. An usher on a bicycle simply would follow you in and wait for you to come up for air. With ingenuity and planning, we devised our own personal entry scenarios for our three favorite venues.
If visiting the Canoga Drive-In, (later know as the Winnetka Drive-In) a wooden board was carried in the car. A lookout was sent. An all clear whistle would sound. Quickly, the board was placed over the chrome tire eating spike strips that protected the dark exit. With all lights out, we slowly backed in the "exit". Poof! The Garden of Eden was laid open and not a penny spent.
The Reseda Drive-In required more direct individual participation. The designated driver would drop everyone but himself off in the nearby industrial park. The single driver would buy a ticket and enter. This ALWAYS brought an usher, for some reason, management found it unusual that a single teenage boy might go to the drive-in by himself. After, thirty minutes or so, the usher would give up and leave. Then, like a Viking hoard we would scale an unlit portion of the fence. Immediate disbursal in different directions was required. They might catch one but never more.
I saved the best for last. The Sepulveda Drive-In, Van Nuys.
In the summer, it was possible that we would visit this establishment as many a six times a week. We always paid the full ticket price. We never even tried to sneak in. However, the event planning was a little more detailed. Usually, it went like this, four cars with four or five people in each would meet at a specified time and place. The sixteen to twenty people would then cram into the biggest car, usually a station wagon. Hanging out the windows was the norm. The station wagon was driven to the box office and tickets were bought. Once inside, watches were synchronized and a exit time agreed. Everyone then disbursed in search of new love unknown.
You see the Sepulveda Drive-In's price of entry was $.99 a car load!
WORLD - AN EDGE IN MY VOICE
Copyright © 2010 Steven Lane
DRIVE-IN MOVIES, Teen Paradise of Days Gone By
Copyright © 2010 Steven Lane
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