Never take anything for granted. A few days ago I was in my garden and a thought flittered by: I haven’t been to the drive-in since I became disabled. I should go. Black clouds rolled in a few hours later — the kind where you run to get all the windows closed or else you have to run to get towels to clean up the mess. The rain came down in sheets so heavy you couldn’t see out of the windows, but the only damage for me was a broken herb pot. A mere 5 miles to the north, windshear wreaked havoc on Minetto, New York.
When I saw on the news that the screen at the Midway Drive-in Theater had been destroyed, I was very sad. I was sad for John, the owner, who I count as one of my friends. I was sad for all the kids who might never get the chance to experience childhood summer nights watching movies under the stars. I was sad that something that had stood since 1948 had been destroyed in a matter of minutes.
BUT I always say: one should focus on what one wants. Not on what is — not on what used to be — not on the negative. So today, I will share a few memories of the Midway Drive-in so that I think of happy times and draw more happy times to this special place.
Growing up my brother loved B-rated horror movies. I did not and do not. It was his birthday, and of course, by the Law of Attraction — the drive-in just happened to be showing a triple feature of B-rated horror movies. I still have visions of the frogs and snakes taking over a little kids birthday party and the serial killer brothers — one restaurant owner and one mortician. If the lady killed had the last name Lamb then there was leg of lamb on the menu. You have to love your brother a lot to sit through that much “horror”.
Many years ago when I went through my divorce, I had no money — I was in grad school, living with my parents, with a small child. At that time, my son was under six so he got in to the drive–in for free and my admission was $4. We brought popcorn from home. As my son played with other kids on the field in front of the mammoth screen — and watched the great movies from the front seat of the car — he learned about the richness of life.
History of a First Date
My first “official” first date was at the drive-in. Like my brother, my date, also manifested by the Law of Attraction. My boyfriend happened to love cars. He had restored his own GTO. Playing at the movies — a triple feature of car movies. One of which was “Smokey and the Bandit.” Years later I was talking to John (the owner) of the drive-in and somehow this came up in conversation. He was able to go into the projector room and pull out a book and tell me what week I had been there and what each of the movies were that played that night.
I love the drive-in’s fries — they are thin and crispy perfection. When I was employed and could afford food — my pre-movie snack was fries and a hotdog. I am very particular about my hotdog being cooked medium brown and crispy all around. One of the cooks also was a friend and he saw me get in the concession line — he yelled, “Burn the dogs. Burn the fries.” The man behind me got all nervous. And said, “This is my first time here. I don’t like burnt hot dogs. What do I do?” I just laughed and told him not to worry — I was the only special one who got her food that way.
Years later, my bestie and I took our kids to the drive-in virtually ever week. We paid our admission at the little building went and parked, gave the boys their money to go get snacks and that’s when my friend turned and said the now famous words, “I didn’t have time to go the bank. I only had enough money to get in and for the boys’ snacks. But I know you always have cash on you, so I can get some fries.” And I said, ” I didn’t have time to go the bank. I had only had enough money to get us in and to buy my son snacks. You always have cash on you so I figured I would borrow from you.” My friend said, “But we can’t watch the movies with out french fries.” We figured it probably wasn’t the motherly thing to do to go make our kids give the candy back so we started digging. We opened the glove compartment and looked under floor mats and stuck our hands down between the seat cushions and we came up with enough money to buy one order of small fries to share. We went in the concession stand, a united front of crazed french fry fanatics, and with the coins and bits of hair and garbage from the floor mats — I held out the coins cupped in my hands. John looked down at the money and up at me as he pondered whether he wanted to touch this offering of money and assorted other bits of dirt. When he brought our order there was a small container of perfectly golden brown french fries sitting in middle of a large card board tray. The entire cardboard tray over flowed with what had to be near a whole package of fries. My friend and I at every one.
And yet again, the Law of Attraction at work.
Between the first and second movies, they draw the other end of the admission ticket stub — winner gets a free pizza. I had gone to the drive-in since birth. Never did I win a pizza. One night there were only 9 cars and still I did not win. I watched the Oprah show one night and the guest spoke of making a list of all the things he wanted to do before he died — now referred to as a Bucket List. So I made myself a list. Number 25 on the list, I wrote “Win a pizza at the drive-in”. And the next time I went on July 3, 2001 — I did. The following week my son and I went to the drive-in with my bestie and she won. A short time after I went with my son. He was about to take off to go play with the kids in the field in front of the screen so I handed him his ticket stub. And without a reason, I asked for his stub back. He gave it to me and asked, “Why?” As I handed him what had been my stub I said, “Because I’ve already won a pizza. I want you to win. And this is the winning ticket.”
During the intermission between the two shows I happened to be standing with John while the person drew the ticket up at the ticket “booth”. He asked, “So are you winning the pizza again tonight?” At first I said, “No.” and then I said, “Well my son is.” and I explained what I had said to my son in the car. He just shook his head at me. They read the numbers over the loud speaker and when a few minutes passed — John turned and smiled at me — the better-luck-next-time smile. And up ran my son yelling, “I won. I won the pizza. You said I would.” And John just said, “You freak me out.” Or something complimentary like that. Need I mention the Law of Attraction?
We went to the movies at a “regular” theater when my nephew was young. He seemed most excited to go…until we sat down with our popcorn and he started to cry so hard he could barely speak. Somewhere between the sobs I managed to make out that Aunt Colleen had broken her promise to take him to the movies. Everyone within ear shot of this comment was mildly dumbfounded. My nephew started repeating, “You can’t watch a movie in a house. You watch a movie in a car.” I guess our family has spent many a night at the drive-in.
With a half a century of memories these are just a few. Although you may not know John or have been to the Midway Drive-in or to any Drive-in at all — I would ask, so that more children get the chance to have memories of movies under the stars — that you give a happy thought today — that the drive-in will open better than ever — really soon.
Have you ever had the joy of going to a drive-in? What’s your favorite memory?