Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Drive-In Theaters

I watched the movie, "Lone Star" last night before bedtime, and during the scenes when I woke up to see if I could still follow the plot, the Sheriff was sitting in his car trying to remember things from his youth. He was parked in an old abandoned drive-in theater parking lot much like the one pictured above. That brief glimpse of Americana gave me a warm tinge and stimulated some of my remaining, functional, synaptic gaps . I decided to pursue the memory and the feeling . We still have a functional and often used drive-in called the West-Mer. It is located on Business highway 83 between Weslaco, and Mercedes, Texas. The shows are current run features and because people in the Valley like to go places with the entire extended family in tow, it is a popular place.

The photo on the left is evidence that drive-in theaters were a natural extension of entertainment industry following the proliferation of the automobile. The photo on the right is the old Beverly Drive-In in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. It operated from around 1948 through 1987. The grounds were maintained for many years after that in hopes it might open again. I'm not sure if it ever did or not. The family who owned the theater and ran the show lived in a house built under the screen. R-rated movies were not shown at the Beverly in all the years I can recall. I watched many movies at the Beverly, and I went to many more there. It was a safe place to park and smooch. Safe because you were surrounded by a lot of other folks, and the parking lot was patrolled during the features. If your windows got too steamed up, the attendant would tap on the driver's side with a flashlight to remind you to take it easy. Drive-ins were a great place for groups of kids to go and have a good time. This usually meant that some got in by being locked in the trunk until the patrol passed and they could be let out. Guys without dates could go there and check to see who was lucky enough to get a date. The middle picture depicts the old window speakers that hung from either side of a speaker pole. A cord of sufficient length attached to the speaker-head provided the sound. The window on the appropriate side was rolled down enough to accept the speaker which hung from the top of the glass with a hook. The speakers were often in need of repair when love struck young men drove off with them still attached to the window. A cousin of mine made off with one of them, accidentally I'm sure, and made a portable radio system for his house. He lived with his grandmother in the country and managed some pretty good red-neck engineering for a country boy. He took the outer housing off an old table top radio and removed the speaker. He then got a piece of speaker wire long enough to reach anywhere in the house and attached it to the radio. The other end was attached to the drive-in speaker. He took the speaker with him into whatever room he wanted music and hooked it over whatever was available. The volume could be controlled with a knob located at the bottom of the speaker. Some drive-ins still remain and I'm always tempted to go just one more time for old times sake. Technology is making them passe and I don't imagine they will survive much longer.

Elections are won by men and women chiefly because most people vote against somebody rather than for somebody. -
Franklin P. Adams