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.

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