July 11, 2014

At The Drive-In Movies


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We had three in Topeka, all starting with the letter "c": the Chief, the Community and the Cloverleaf. While I went to some drive-in movies with friends when I was in my teens, it's my childhood memories that linger.

When Mom and Dad traded our VW bug for a station wagon with fold-down backseats, drive-ins were perfect. We always arrived in daylight and each time, I was surprised by how plain and vast the drive-in really was.
We pulled up to a speaker and took it from the stand and hung it on the partly open car window. Inevitably there were speakers that didn't work, so that meant moving the car to another location. If it was still not dark, we went and played on the small playground right in front of the huge movie screen.

The general rule was that the first movie would be a G-rated flick: "Angel In My Pocket" is one I remember loving. But the second movie was adult fare.
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The concession stand was ridiculously expensive so Mom would make hotdogs ahead of time and wrap them in foil. She put them in a cooler along with candy that was otherwise forbidden and a couple of cans of pop each and we each had a
bag of chips. Such food never tasted better than it did while watching that first movie.

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After intermission, it would be about eleven p.m. and we kids would be tired. That when the back seats of our station wagon got folded down and Mom spread blankets and pillows out for us. I slept beautifully at the drive-in. I do remember watching parts of "Catch-22" one time when I didn't sleep so well.

For my tenth or eleventh birthday party, Mom and Dad took two cars to the drive-in. They backed the station wagon in and my girlfriends and I sprawled out on sleeping bags and watched both movies. We had bags of popcorn and candy and we were noisy, but Mom and Dad were in the Buick and just let us be rowdy. I suppose it must've been a relatively tame second movie that night, because we watched them both.
All three drive-in movie theaters are gone now. The Chief sign remains, but it's posted with the new Walmart's sale prices.

As far as I know, the Community and the Cloverleaf have left no traces except for the memories of a generation of Topekans.

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