I admit, I have never smooched at a drive-in. I was too young.
I am fortunate that I got to experience drive-ins during my childhood; before the movie reel broke for the last time and drive-ins started to fade away.As I’ve mentioned, one too many times, I was born in Orangeburg, South Carolina. I remember there being two drive-ins, one on each end of the city. However, in my research, I found that there were once five drive-ins in Orangeburg. I have only been able to identify three at the time of this post.
I write about this today because the very first drive-in was created on June 6, 1933, in Camden County, New Jersey, giving us reason to celebrate “National Drive-in Day.” The “automobile movie theatre” was the brainchild of Richard Hollingshead and featured 400 car slots, a 40-x-50-foot screen and three 6-foot speakers. Window speakers would come later. “The feature at the first US drive-in theater (was) ‘Wives Beware,’ with admission costing a quarter per car and customer,” according to Cinema Treasures.
The two I remember going to as a child with my parents were the Orangeburg Drive-in on Hwy. 21 and the Bon-Air Drive-in on Neeses Hwy. and Bamberg Road. The Bon-Air which opened in 1949 was the larger, featuring 400 car slots. The Orangeburg Drive-in opened a year later, with only a 150-car capacity, but it had a hot food concession stand. That was a highlight for me. I loved when I could walk with my dad or mom (whichever had the task of doing the walking) to get the popcorn. When I was really little, we went in a black Chevy, then my mom got the Falcon. I loved going to see movies in that car.
We saw all kinds of movies there, from Clint Eastwood in westerns, Disney movies, action movies (my dad’s favorite) and Elvis movies (my mom’s favorite). My favorites were Trinity and The Parent Trap. There were a few that I don’t think I even tried to pay attention to. One of the drive-ins had a long swing set in front of the big screen. When I got to go to the swings, it must have been a movie my mom and dad wanted to see without my brother and I ruining it with our chatter.
I actually attended the double feature above in 1970. It’s were I fell in love with Brian Keith and wanted to be like Haley Mills.
The Orangeburg Drive-in operated until 1987, but began featuring adult movies in 1973. I was just seven-years-old and I remember being sad when I was told we couldn’t go to the drive-in any more. (They told us it was closing, but they really meant we just wouldn’t be doing this together anymore.) It was one of those family moments in my life, one that I knew I would really miss. Too bad the drive-in didn’t keep running with popular movies of the 70s and 80s. I know my butt would have been parked there in my step-mom’s orange Ford Pinto with a sun roof, to catch all the hits of my teen years.
If you’ve never experienced the pure joy of a drive-in — South Carolina still has three operating within our state and one under construction. The three existing drive-ins include: Highway 21 Drive-In Theater (Where the Stars come out to Play) in Beaufort, the 25 Drive-In Movie Theater (73 Years in the Making) in Greenwood, and the Monetta Drive-In Theater (The Big “Mo”) in Monetta.
The Center Road Drive-in in Hartsville has met a few unexpected construction delays, but according to their Facebook page, Brent and Wendy Anderson, owners, said, ” We have been slowed by our surprises but not in ANYWAY STOPPED.” The Andersons had hoped for a March or April grand opening, but promise that their “field of dreams” will still come true. Be sure to keep up with their progress and support them as they add another great family drive-in to the few we already have.
If you’re interested in the history of, want a list of or just plain interested in drive-ins, be sure to check these sites — #1 driveinmovie.com, #2 scmoviethreatres.com, #3 cinematreasures.org, #4 drive-ins.com
Even though I never kissed at the drive-in, I did fall in love with two movie icons, Brian Keith in The Parent Trap and Terence Hill of the Trinity westerns. I hope all TCC readers get the opportunity to visit a drive-in this summer. Click here to find one in your area.
Before I go, I want to share one last great thing about drive-ins — those creative jingles that invited us to snack away while we enjoyed the movie.
Here are a few of my memories…
Did you catch that “candy bars are nourishing?” ‘Cause they are! Replay if you agree.
When this “advertisment” was in full swing, smooching might not have happened at that drive-in. The carefully placed, colorful warning about conduct didn’t go unnoticed by me and I imagine it would have been strictly enforced because “public demonstration of affection will not be tolerated here (nuff said?)” Yeah, nuff said; but I bet there was plenty of kissing taking place, anyway. Until next post.
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