So there I am watching the Academy Awards, when I'm suddenly inspired with this great idea for a new business. (Bear with me here because I know it seems crazy at first listen.)
You take a giant movie screen, let's say approximately a thousand times bigger than at your neighborhood 18-screen Chainoplex Theater. You get a plot of land about the size of six football fields. You build these long lines of bumps across the plot, about 30 feet apart. On the bumps you plant posts with tinny sounding metal speakers, and …
Wait. You're right. It could never work.
But it did work in Delaware County (and the rest of America) for 30 years or more. That's two generations of station-wagoned families with kids ready for bed, parked next to hormone-raging teens performing acts generally reserved for bed.
The quality of the movies ranged from Santa Claus Conquers the Martians and Plan 9 From Outer Space (generally considered the worst motion picture ever unleashed on the public) to The Godfather, Funny Girl and most high level features. The top movies usually showed outdoors many months after their initial release, but if you were patient you could see last year's best movies for the drive-ins' signature bargain price … “$4-a-carload.” (Actually the price per carload ranged from $2 to $8 over the years as we learned the perils of inflation.)
In Eddystone there was the Chester Pike Drive-In, known for its great snack bar (order the french fries if you ever go back in time) and occasional live music shows. If you're too young to remember drive-ins ask your parents to explain Mr. Dee-Lish to you.
At MacDade Blvd. and Oak Lane you could find the appropriately named MacDade Drive-In. I think that was the biggest one in the county with a capacity of around 1,000 cars. And I'm pretty sure I saw M*A*S*H there a year before I was technically old enough to.
The Airport Drive-In in Essington ran triple features that took you well into the wee hours, and was also known for its gigantic playground.
Then there was the Family Drive-In on Baltimore Pike in Clifton Heights. During its heyday it showed the films you'd expect … Pinocchio, Love Story, Billy Jack. But as the years became leaner the management made the decision to go to adults-only movies. Now, this gave rise to a few problems since the screen could be seen from parts of Baltimore Pike not within the bounds of the drive-in. No sound was available, of course, but that didn't seem to be a drawback in the adult genre as it might be in, say, the mystery genre.
Given the name of that establishment, I'm pretty sure this is what they call irony.
One last memory I have of the drive-in experience. If anyone remembers a green, spiral mosquito repellant that you lit with a match and burned like very bad-smelling incense, please let me know. I can't find any reference to that sort of thing on the Net and I'm starting to think I dreamed it.
Say … maybe that's my great idea for a new business!