We watched excitedly as two big and burly farmers, clad in their bib overalls, strung the giant white sheet between two huge elm trees and secured the bottom of each corner to the earth with a pitching horseshoe. They were preparing for my first drive-in movie experience.
I hear drive-in movie theaters may be making a comeback due to the "virus." Since it is a problem for humans to gather in enclosed spaces, many movie theaters are either shut down or handicapped by regulations during this frustrating time. I've heard of two different businesses in our area that are going to give the drive-in movie idea a shot.
The movie screen I mentioned at the beginning of this column was put together by the farm and town folk in my mother's growing up community of Westfield, Iowa. My sister and I had never seen a movie of any kind so this was a truly exciting thing we were about to witness.
Someone on the grounds had brought a popcorn popper and we were each welcomed with a brown bag full of the butter-covered kernels. Some guy wearing a tie showed up with a projector and we were seated on the grass in front of the giant white sheet and awaited the black and white production.
As I remember, the film was "Ma And Pa Kettle Go To Town." There was sound, but no one could hear it; but that didn't matter. This was pure magic!
Over the years, drive-in movies became the rage. Giant screens could be found in almost every fair-sized town or nearby in the countryside. As the mid-summer sun began to sink in the west the parking spaces filled in, each with its own post and sound system. Usually there was a popcorn and pop stand somewhere on the grounds.
Most of the movies were not first run, but that didn't matter. It was the atmosphere that we were after.
Someone once told me that many of the kids of the Baby Boom era were a result of drive-in movies. I can't prove that, but I do know that many of my classmates' parents did attend these outdoor cinemas. It could be true. It could have happened.
Although we farm kids were taught not to cheat or rob, I know of some who hid other classmates in the trunks of their cars to avoid paying full ticket prices. That usually worked but could be dangerous if the guy's car you were riding in had an exhaust leak in the tailpipe. Saving a dollar could have cost you your life.
I drank my first beer at a drive-in movie. Yes, I did sin, but somehow that beer didn't taste very good. The neighbor kid that I had in the back seat got sick and threw up on my new floor mats. We hauled him home before the movie was out. We never did see Godzilla knock down the Empire State Building.
My summer job stint at a feed mill had me working the night shift a number of weeks. There was a drive-in movie theater across the highway from the mill. We took our first lunch break at 10 p.m. and a cohort and I usually climbed to the top of the mill and sat there eating our sandwiches while gazing across the highway at that big screen. We couldn't hear the sound, but that didn't matter.
That ended when the manager found us up there one starry night. No sense of humor.
So, just maybe a drive-in theater will be popping up in a town close to you. Instead of sitting next to a bunch of people you don't know and breathing inside air, you may be able to roll the window down, put your arm around your wife/girlfriend, eat some popcorn and rediscover what many of my age already know.
Outdoor theaters were fun. If you didn't happen to sneak in by hiding inside your friend's car trunk. That could be dangerous.
See you next time. Okay? Be safe!