On this, the inception of That’s So Last Century! Wednesdays, I wanted to share a remembrance of a real ‘blast from the past’!
If you were born post 1970, you may not have experienced the ‘Passion Pit‘. That was a nickname for the drive-in theaters that speckled the country. Having grown up in the 50s and 60s, our family spent most summertime Saturday nights at the drive-in.
The five of us would pile into our 1960 Buick convertible and head out for the 2-mile drive to the Salina Drive-in. Little Sis and I got cozy with our blankets and pillows, lying down on the backseat watching the treetops pass as we rode. On the way to the drive-in, Dad would pull into the lot at our local frozen custard stand. If you’re unfamiliar, frozen custard is made with eggs, cream and sugar to give a thicker, creamier and richer flavor than plain, old ice cream. Dad was a connoisseur and could devour an entire gallon container in one sitting. However, before a movie, he’d settle for a large cone of vanilla bean custard, along with the rest of the family, in smaller sizes of course. Except for me, I always ordered chocolate. To this day, I have not tasted anything richer, creamier or more chocolatey and would love to go back in time to hit that stand once more.
Big sis sat in front with Mom and Dad. We younger ones were made comfy so we could snooze after the cartoons during the war movie. I grew up thinking that nothing but cartoons and war movies played at the drive-in, because that’s all Dad would watch. Little Sis would be passed out before Roadrunner dropped the anvil on the coyote’s head. I was waiting for the real movie to begin. War movies intrigued me, even at the age of ten, and I would always make Big Sis slide closer to Mom so I wouldn’t miss one bomb bursting from the backseat. (This and my Dad’s stories are undoubtedly what instilled in me a passion for the WWII era.)
I fell hopelessly in love with the sultry Gregory Peck as Captain Mallory in The Guns of Navarone. Mallory is one of a team of commandos sent to attack and destroy a German fortress and disable their guns so the British Navy can rescue soldiers marooned on the Island of Navarone. One of Mallory’s men, Franklin, is injured badly during the first attempt and believes he should kill himself to save the others. Mallory lies about their mission in order to stop his friend, played by Anthony Quayle, from committing suicide. I believe I actually swooned at that moment, later realizing what it meant to be courageous and a true friend.
Great movies and even better memories of family times are held there in the ’50s and ’60s. When I became a teen, drive-in movies were the coolest Friday date night destination. The privacy of a boy’s car in the darkened drive-in parking lot was, to 16-year-olds, impossible to resist and much giggled about in school on Friday afternoons. Puppy love blossomed on the bench seats of the old ’64 Chevy. Hence, the drive-in’s moniker ‘Passion Pit’. I’d given up the frozen custard and war movies with Dad for a forbidden cigarette and bottle of beer while hardly watching Planet of the Apes with Tommy.
Enter daylight saving time, color televisions, VCRs and video rental stores. There went the attraction of sitting in a closed up car in the middle of summer humidity and fighting the mosquitoes. The decline of the drive-in theater was a depressing period of time for me…the end of an era – of watching war movies in my pj’s in the backseat, moonlight kisses with my current love, mediocre pre-formed, re-warmed veal patties, which I loved, served up at the barely clean concession stand, and the girl’s restroom, replete with lipstick messages on the one tiny mirror, with 3 stalls and 20 girls waiting in line, passing along more gossip than an old party-line telephone.
Today, a few drive-ins have been revived, thank goodness. I’d hate for my children and grandchildren never to know the summer joy of spending an evening making memories.