What happened to drive-in theatres?


Herb Day Staff columnist

Herb Day Staff columnist


Recently, I posed a question on my station’s Facebook page asking if anyone could name any of the old drive-in theatres that used to dot the landscape back in the day. Let me tell you, the responses came in for days. It seems that I am not the only one who holds the old drive-in theatres in high regard. It really makes me wonder why so many of them closed.

I’ve heard it said that you can never move ahead if you’re “looking back” all the time. While I suppose that is so, there are certain memories that we find so near and dear to our hearts that occasionally it is healthy to look back with fondness, and for many, the drive-in theatres were that.

I found it interesting that while most talked about having fond memories of the outdoor venues, few ever mentioned the specifics of those memories. Perhaps it’s like the motto of Las Vegas. “What happened at the drive-in theatre stayed at the drive-in theatre.” And, it doesn’t take a rocket-scientist to figure out why. I wonder how many can trace back nine months prior to their birth and identify a visit by their parents to a drive-in theatre. I’m not saying it happened, I’m just saying, I wonder.

The latest technology was provided at every drive-in theatre I visited. I remember those cast iron speakers that you drove up alongside of and hung on the partially rolled down window. Some respondents told me that there was a drive-in in the Cincinnati area that even had heaters you could pull into the car to keep warm on those chilly nights. I guess I never frequented such classy joints.

I do recall the anger of other movie goers if you forgot to turn your headlights off as you came into the movie or were exiting early. The lights washed out the movie on the big screen.

I also recall hating to be the one to go to the concession stand. Usually because either my cheap buddies would stiff me for their snacks, or I never got the order correct and I would have to return to rectify it. On those occasions when someone didn’t pay up for snacks, they got to ride in the trunk of the car at the next visit to the drive-in, which was usually every Friday night. We would appeal to their sense of being cheap by telling them if they rode in the trunk, they wouldn’t have to pay to get in. Of course, remembering that they owed for last week’s snacks, they would spend the entire movie this week locked up in the trunk (please children don’t do this at home. I am a trained professional)!

And parents, how many times did you forbid your daughters to go to the drive-in movie because of the plethora of horrible things that could happen to them if they entered that den of iniquity? And, of course, your daughter and her boyfriend promised not to go to the drive-in because you asked them not to. I have news for you. I saw them all there. I didn’t take them, because I usually couldn’t get a date, but I saw them there. I’m just sayin’.

Some of my fondest memories of the drive-in theatre was going with my older sister and her date. Yes, my little brother and I were sent along as spoilers. Chaperones, if you will. No amount of bribery could make us keep secrets, even if we promised to. Yes, we were liars. Feed us pop and candy, listen to our promises to keep quiet, and then brace yourselves for the groundings when we got home. That was as certain as the sun coming up in the east each day.

Yes, fond memories of drive-in theatres. Some still exist, but you must search high and low, near and far to find them. Now the abandoned sites of drive-in theatres are apartment complexes, shopping malls, or just grown up useless pieces of unused property. Almost enough to bring a tear to your eye. Unless you are my sister. Sorry about that Sis (not really).

Herb Day is a longtime local radio personality and singer-musician. You can email him at HEKAMedia@yahoo.com and follow his work at http://www.HerbDayVoices.com and http://www.HerbDayRadio.com.

Herb Day Staff columnist
https://www.timesgazette.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/33/2019/08/web1_f-herb-day-mug-3.jpgHerb Day Staff columnist