Adventures at the Roselawn


As the cartoons faded and the sounds of the main feature started crackling through the speaker attached to the driver’s side window, we’d stretch out in the back of our station wagon, prop our heads up on the back of the front seat where our parents were seated, and settle in for as long we could keep our eyes open.

Those are my first memories of the Roselawn Drive-In in Allensburg, which for the next couple decades served as setting for many memorable evenings as I came of age.

In some ways those early trips to the Roselawn — where I saw my first movie on the big screen — with my parents were the best. It’s hard to beat the coziness and security that wafts over a young kid parked in a dark vehicle with his parents and siblings as the light from the big screen casts a warm glow over the entire drive-in.

Around the time the movie started Mom would break out the popcorn and drinks she’d packed for us, and we were primed for a big night at the movies. Nights like that were a real treat back in the 1960s.

Since I was the oldest of us kids I’d usually make it a little farther into the movie than my siblings, but sooner or later the comfort and coziness of the station wagon’s long back area — where Mom always made us a comfy bed — would win out and I’d drift off to sleep, never waking until we pulled back into the driveway at home.

The names of most of the movies from those days have faded with time, but two that seem to stand out are “The Ten Commandments” and “Swiss Family Robinson”.

As the years passed the attraction of going to the movies with my parents wasn’t quite the same, and instead I mostly started going to movies at The Colony Theatre in Hillsboro with friends. But the Roselawn was never far from my mind. It was located right along U.S. Route 50. Since most of my parents’ families were from the Lynchburg area — in a time when extended families seemed to get together a lot more than they do now — we made lots of trips from Hillsboro to Lynchburg and back. If it was the right time of year, driving westbound down U.S. 50 the Roselawn’s big screen was clearly visible, and the number of times we stretched our necks to see what was playing were immeasurable.

A few more years passed, the driving and dating age came along, and the Roselawn became a regular destination again.

I went with friends some, but mostly it was with a date. One girlfriend liked horror movies. I despised them. But I watched lots of them at the Roselawn. Because the more scary the movie became, the closer the girlfriend snuggled up against me, and suddenly those scary movies didn’t seem so bad.

I saw the first ”Rocky” movie at the Roselawn. I was staying overnight with an older friend that evening. There were at least two movies each night at the drive-in, but I didn’t see “Gator”, the second movie that night starring Burt Reynolds. Or at least not very much of it. At intermission between the movies I got in a car with a bunch of guys older than me, and, well, let’s just say I was a little too young to hang with the big boys. I spent the second movie with my head hanging out a car door, trying to empty my stomach long after there was nothing left to empty.

The next day I had to go shopping — all day — with my Mom. I don’t think she ever figured out why my throat was so sore that I could hardly eat.

There was a time I lost a car window at the drive-in. When we were getting ready to leave one night, my date and I were laughing and talking while I put the car in drive. Suddenly, there was a loud crashing sound and glass started raining down my left side. For a moment I thought someone I had thrown a bottle at me, and I started glancing around for the culprit. Then I looked down and saw the speaker that had been hanging on my window laying on the ground.

It was not warm that night. It was a long, cold ride to the girl’s house and then home without my driver’s side window.

A few years passed and I took a young lady — now my wife — and her young son to the drive-in. We didn’t have much money, so we told the son to hide under blankets and pillows piled in the hatchback of my Ford Pinto. He hid really good. As we pulled up to the place the pay, there was a sign saying kids got in free that night. The son was so excited that we never bothered to tell him the hiding was not necessary.

Somewhere not long after that videocassettes and movie rental stores came along, drive-ins started dying a slow death and the Roselawn faded away.

The Roselawn Drive-in opened on Aug. 30, 1947, and could hold 275 cars. I suppose it closed in the mid 1980s.

I miss it to this day.

Jeff Gilliland is the editor of The Times-Gazette. He can be reached at [email protected] or 937-402-2522.

Jeff Gilliland Staff columnist Gilliland Staff columnist

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