Thursday, June 19, 2014

Drive-in Memories Revisited

So I talked about my very young childhood memories of the then-common drive-in movie theater. I've got another clear memory of them, and another reason I like them so much, that I'd like to share.

When I was about nine, my mom went back to college. She'd been divorced a few years, spent some time at crap jobs trying to stretch those ends, since my dad never paid a dime in child support, and she soon realized her much earlier decision to not attend college on her parents' dime wasn't a great one. As a result, she worked a lot of jobs that allowed her to work her classes and caring for me into her schedule. In those days, it was a lot easier to find jobs that would also let her work "under the table" and get paid in cash to get maximum financial aid. This meant many nights I spent sleeping on people's couches, on couches in ladies' rooms, etc.

One summer, she discovered Mrs. Pittman, the lady down the street, managed the local drive-in that was a ten minute ride from our house. Mrs. Pittman was this short and round little woman whom I was eye-to-eye with at the tender age of 10. She had lovely red hair sculpted into a complex bouffant, and she had a penchant for helping people. She gave opportunities to all kinds of people. They didn't always work out, but she always tried. Even though she wasn't even five feet tall, I saw her lay into men over a foot taller who dared to cross her. She spent her time managing the drive-in, but she spent her life giving out life lessons to teenagers and people who'd gone off the beaten path.

My mom worked in the ticket booth.  It also enabled her to bring her books and get reading done in between rush times. We would have dinner at home, then drive over to the theater, where she'd park super close to the concession building. I'd have blankets, pillows, and books to keep me busy until the movie started, and there I'd stay until close. The great thing was, when I was bored, I'd wander into the concession area, where, if I brought my own cup and bowl, I had unfettered access to popcorn and drinks. Yeah, I took advantage of that, but I went in more to help out the teenagers and observe them. As an only child, I was always comfortable with people who were older than I was, and MAN teens make for great entertainment! I was always aching to help, and that counter is where I learned customer service. I could make piping hot batches of popcorn, warm up hot dogs, get food orders out like nobody's business. The teenagers loved me doing their work, and I loved doing it.

Far and away, though, the best part of my non-employee youngster status at the drive-in was watching the movies.  My mom, ever the optimist, pointed our car in the direction of the movie she let me see.  It was a "twin" drive-in, meaning there were screens at each end, usually a family friendly side, while the other side had primarily scary movies, but definitely the choices were what we'd think of as R-rated today. Yeah, I turned around a lot. The sexy movies didn't interest me, but the scary ones did. Let's just say I STILL can't watch Amityville Horror without hiding my eyes.

At some point in the second movie, I'd fall asleep, and I'd usually wake up enough to stumble into the house in the area between 2 and 3 am. They were a couple of awesome "frat-boy living" summers, when I felt like a mini adult in some ways. My kids won't get what I did out of the drive-in, but I still make sure to take them anyway.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Know What Time It Is?

And no, it's not Hammer time. It IS, however, DRIVE IN SEASON! I get SO stinking excited about it, it's just not even funny. I love going to the drive in with my kids. It's SO worth the 45 minute drive, the messing up of the schedule, the crabby attitudes the next day. I LOVE it!

I've got two extremely fond memories of drive in movies from my childhood. The first features my mom and one of her best friends, Linda, prominently. We moved in next door to Linda and her then husband when I was about two years old.  As young couples in the 70s did, they formed a fast friendship built on proximity, barbeques, and card games with cocktails on Saturday nights. When I was about four, their daughter Sheri came along, and my mom and Linda bonded even further as young parents. About another year later, both husbands left their wives and children to do whatever it is abandoning dads do, and that's when the ladies truly solidified a friendship that would last a lifetime.

Our families did everything together. At four years younger, Sheri was the victim of my plans.  I know at one point I insisted on playing school and taught her to spell her name. Wrong. I taught her how to spell HER name wrong and insisted I was right. I'm sure Kindergarten was fun for her. Our moms thought of things to do that didn't cost a lot, and one was the drive-in. I must have been about six or seven, so Sheri was two or three. My mom had a big old station wagon that could have fit a twin sized bed in the back. She tossed my old crib mattress and some toys back there. Linda took her car, and off we went. They parked their cars so there was a space in between where Sheri and I could play.  When we tired of that, we went in the back of the station wagon and played with the toys there.

But THIS, this was the never ending drive in experience! Because the movies showing weren't just a plain old double feature, no.  It was a Planet of the Apes marathon! So even though Sheri and I were passed out in the back of the station wagon, we'd awaken every now and then to monkey faces sniffing and fighting with other monkey faces and humans too! I have a vague recollection of the light of dawn just starting to peek over the back of the drive in screen as the cars moved to the exit. Right then, I thought it was AWESOME that my mom had taken me to the drive in and let me stay out ALL NIGHT. I'm sure both moms paid a heavy price the next few days with kids who were totally off schedule, but in that moment, it was righteous cool.

Tomorrow, my other drive-in memory. . .