In this day of drive in restaurants, drive in banks, and even drive in churches it puzzles me why the idea of drive in theaters so popular in the early ’50’s petered out. You drove into a lot that was in front of a humongous screen. You parked the car and grabbed the speaker off the short post beside the car and put it in the window. Popcorn and cokes could be bought and eaten in the car too. Then while the movie ran, you could laugh and talk if you wanted to or carry on light romance if you had brought your girl friend. You had privacy while you enjoyed a movie on the big screen. This was before TV so there weren’t any small screens at home.
The closest drive in theater for us was over in Springfield. That was close to Lebanon and one evening with Hugh Louis driving, several of us got in the old Studebaker and went to the drive-in. We drove up, paid the admission, bought some popcorn and got settled in for the movie. As we looked around, there were only two other cars there besides us. Must have been “Brokeback Mountain” in black and white playing that night, or some other worthless flick.
Anyway, after the movie had been running about ten minutes or so, it suddenly shut off. We were used to film breaking in those days. When this happened in a regular movie theater everybody would start stamping their feet on the wood floor creating a big racket while the projectionist fumbled around frantically to get the movie running again. But in the drive in theater, there wasn’t much sense in stamping on the car floor so we just waited. Then the lights at the projection and concession building went out. Soon, the other two cars started up and then drove off. We finally figured out that the drive in people had decided it wasn’t worth running the movie for such a paltry turnout and without taking a show of hands or anything, they had just decided to close down for the night.
Not to be treated that way, Hugh Louis got out of the car and went over to the building. We waited to see what would happen. Everything was dark and we strained to hear any conversation over there. In a minute, the lights came back on as Hugh Louis walked back and got in the car. The movie started back up and we watched it completely by ourselves. There was not another car on the lot.
I don’t remember what movie we watched that night but I’ve never forgotten that sometimes you need to speak up rather than slink off.