Sunday, July 9, 2017

The Sunday Memory Drawer - The Outdoor Movies

Ah, summer memories continue.

Even when I was a kid, I could pick up signals. The summer nights were warm. The sky was clear. And my father was suddenly washing the windshield of whatever Buick he was driving at the time. These signs could only point to one thing.We were going to the drive-in movie theater.And I would anxiously await the end of the day. This was one of my most special memories of childhood. And one that, unfortunately, later generations can't appreciate.

This is a 1954 aerial photo of our preferred drive-in venue, the Elmsford Drive-In. Sadly, the place got torn down in the early 80s and was replaced by a Sam's Club. Indeed, the theater tried to survive even with dwindling attendance. In its later years, it tried to attract audiences by showing porno films. The town got up-in-arms as a result. It turns out that teenagers were lingering in the strip mall across the street at night. Cheap thrills with binoculars. And who needed the in-car speakers to imagine the sound track? 

That shut down the Elmsford Drive-In for good. 

But it was in its glory days when I was a kid and chomping at the bit for my next drive-in experience. Now, within driving proximity to my family unit, there were two such outdoor theaters. The closer one was the Whitestone Drive-In down in the Bronx. But my mother hated that place. 

"It smells." 

It really did. Because it was right near the end of the dirty Hutchinson River, the humid nights overcooked the foulness of the water and it all wafted into the Whitestone Drive-In somewhere in the middle of the first feature. The rancid air also brought along a heft amount of mosquitoes. You might enjoy the movie, but you'd come home with itchy bumps from head-to-toe. 

So, the long drive up Route 9A into Elmsford was the better spot for us. The drill was always the same. The double feature usually didn't start until dusk, but we'd head up there about an hour or two before. They had a nifty playground underneath the screen and the area was adorned by big posters of my favorite cartoon characters. That would keep me occupied for a while. And then I'd head back to the car. The sound of my footsteps on the gravel sticks with me to this day. The noise was fine as long as the picture wasn't on. But, during the movie, there was always some joker who was making his way from the bathroom. And you'd hear... 

"Crunch, crunch, crunch, crunch." 

That would provoke some other idiots to voice their displeasure by honking their horns at the annoying pedestrian. Before you knew it, your cinematic experience was completely disrupted by a soundtrack that would rival Times Square at rush hour. 

My father would drag me over to the snack bar so we could load up with goodies for the first movie. And then it was time. For my wardrobe change. 

I'd have to toss myself into the back seat of the car and somehow manage to get into my pajamas. Because I was only parentally cleared for the first part of the double feature, which was always some kind of family-oriented fare. Dad would hook up the speaker on the car window and then I'd hang over the middle of the front seat to enjoy the movie. 

When that would end, most of the patrons would watch the cartoon intermission countdown. Replenishing of snacks was turned into a virtual game show stunt. Get your popcorn and soda now because the second feature was starting soon.
But, there would be no more Milk Duds or Pom Poms in my evening. I was commanded off to Dreamland.

And, sometimes, I actually did go to sleep.  Last week you heard about me being stirred awake by the haunting theme music from "A Summer Place."   Depending upon the content of the second feature, my parents urged me to sleep in varying degrees.   Or maybe they simply wanted to...

Oh, God, let's not think that.

Dinner last night: Chicken salad sandwich.

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