Drive in Movies and Dashboard Lights

The day Donna Summer died, “Hot Stuff” was in my head for hours. Now, I was never a disco fan, and I never went to a disco to dance. I was and am a fan of rock n’ roll, the blues, jazz, and alternative (and by that I mean REAL alternative).

That said, I liked Donna Summer’s music, and listening to the videos of her songs posted to Facebook that day I was transported back in time. Back to the 1970’s and the summer of 1977 to be exact.

That was the summer Saturday Night Fever hit the big screen. I loved that movie and probably saw it a dozen times that summer. I fell in love with Barry Gibb and his hairy chest, and I taught a kid I was babysitting that while the Bee Gees were good, they were covering the Beatles who were much, much better. (That Robin Gibbs died this week only added to my nostalgia.)

Not only did listening to those Donna Summer songs and memories of Saturday Night Fever take me back in time, they reminded me about one of my favorite places that summer: the drive in.

There aren’t many, hell, there might not be any drive ins left these days, but back then they were where we made out and sometimes watched parts of a movie.

I have so many wonderful memories of going to the drive in. As a kid, it was an opportunity to wear my PJs while playing on the swings and slides and teeter totters that were behind the big screen. I’d get to play until the movie started and then had to head back to the car. Once there, I would eat some popcorn and promptly fall asleep.

But by 1977, the drive-in was a place I went to with friends. None of us could drive yet, so someone’s parent would take us into the drive in, leave us there, and take off in another car. Later they’d return and drive us all home. I felt so grown up hanging out in the car with my friends. And that particular summer, we danced and sang along with Saturday Night Fever, never tiring of seeing the movie. We knew the dialog, the songs, and all of John Travolta’s moves.

A few years later, we were able to drive to the drive in. Those were the days of switching cars and hanging out with the guy I was absolutely forbidden to see. I no longer remember his name, but I do remember the thrill of breaking the rules. I remember having people hide in the trunk and the bottom of the backseat so we could get in cheaper; I remember the crackling of the speakers;  and I remember having a lot of fun, although any specifics now escape me.

I don’t know when the drive in began to die. I don’t think I went to one after high school. When I was in college, it was all about the parties and late night conversations about the meaning of life and how to solve the problems of the world. By then, too, VCRs were all the rage.

What are some of your memories of the drive in?


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4 Responses to Drive in Movies and Dashboard Lights

  1. shavawnb says:

    Gosh, I haven’t thought about drive-ins in a while. I was reminiscing with several friends from high school over both Donna Summer and Robin Gibb this week as well. Thanks for the blast from the past. I remember the last time I went to the drive-in, vividly now that I think of it. I double-dated with another couple. I was seventeen and the four of us went to dinner…I had such a crush on this French foreign exchange student I was “with” – really we were just friends, like all the guys I knew in high school – and I recall sitting in the backseat trying to watch some drekky movie while the couple in the front seat had a make-out session…Not exactly my idea of fun. But drive-ins were fun when I was a kid. We’d all pile in the station wagon and go (the dogs, everyone). I liked watching movies in my pajamas in the back seat. Maybe that’s why I am such a fan of streaming videos! I can sit around in my pjs and eat popcorn and watch whatever I want. It is like magic!

  2. desertdem says:

    I can’t remember the last time I went to the drive-in, probably because it involved drinking 🙂

  3. Doc says:

    My strongest memory is driving home from a drive-in. I was home for a month before my last year in college, and I was with my former high-school steady boyfriend (insert long story here). He had a convertible–a 1959 Chevrolet BelAire–goddess that was a sexy car, even though it was five or six years old when he was able to buy it. I remember a fine warm Nebraska summer night, driving on back roads between immense corn fields. He taught me how to toss a cigarette out of the car so it would land on the road instead of in the back seat. Different times, different values.
    Oh yeah–we saw a revival of The Ten Commandments. We laughed out loud at its pretension (given our brand new levels of sophistication), and left halfway through so we could spend our time more fruitfully. Of course I mean “by driving through the summer night.”

    • desertdem says:

      I think it telling that we remember the role the drive-in played in our lives. It’s now a relic, but there was a time when it was a staple of our culture. I don’t know that I’d go to the drive-in today if it were possible, but damn it was a hell-of-a-good time.

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