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The Franklin News-Post
P. O. Box 250
310 Main Street, SW
Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
Fax: 540-483-8013

Watching movies outdoors
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Friday, October 5, 2012


When I was growing up, we always had access to our local paper, the Bluefield Daily Telegraph, and I was excited about looking at the paper on Fridays.

That's because new movie listings were out for the weekend.

If westerns were playing at any of the drive-in theaters, I was quick to tell Aunt Ebb because she loved westerns.

She would load a bunch of us in her Volkswagen van, and on either Friday or Saturday night, we would take off, spending hours at the drive-in.

Those were good times.

I was thinking about the drive-ins recently when the weather started changing more toward the fall. Although I've always liked many things about fall, one of the inevitable and sad occurrences was the drive-in movie theaters closing for the cold months.

A few drive-ins are still around, but at one time, they were everywhere. In fact, we had our choice of four when I was growing up in West Virginia, and I even remember their names: Skyway (Bluefield), Twilight and Outdoor (Princeton) and Pearis (Pearisburg).

In Franklin County, I understand there was only one, the Star-Vue, which was located at the current site of Walmart. Many others were nearby in Roanoke and Martinsville, though.

For those who have never had the drive-in experience, it was always quite a treat.

Of course, back then movies were cranked out fast and often, since watching movies on TV was limited and the idea of a VCR or DVD had probably not crossed anyone's mind.

So theaters received a lot of movies, played them for a few days, and then got a new batch.

The drive-ins, believe it or not, were open every night of the week, and the same movies only played for one or two nights during the week, with new ones on the marquee for Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights.

When I say movies, I mean movies.

There was almost always a double feature on the weekend, sometimes a triple feature, and the drive-ins even had all-nighters on occasion, usually for horror films.

Granted, people nowadays would probably not like the sound system, which was one speaker taken from a pole and placed inside the car.

But we didn't care.

After all, you were in a vehicle, or on the bed of a pickup truck, with friends and family, basically having a picnic and enjoying movies.

Food was always great at drive-ins, and cheap.

Here's the usual scenario:

We would drive up and pay at a box office at the entrance, usually waiting in line with many other cars. Most of the time, there was a charge for each person (sometimes people would hide in car trunks) or usually on Sunday nights, there was one price for a "carload."

After entering the drive-in, there were row after row of speaker stands in front of the screen, fanning out and usually with a little elevation, much like an amphitheater. Cars just simply pulled up beside one of the stands (each held two speakers), and the speaker had a hook on top that fit nicely on the inside of the driver's window.

A "snack bar" was located near the center of all those rows, usually about four or five rows back from the screen. But those snack bars sold everything from popcorn to hamburgers to pizza, and the food always seemed to taste so good, probably because it was kind of like camping out.

It was a social event, with plenty of people you knew going, and there was time enough between features to get more food and visit.

All of those drive-ins I Ioved many years ago are gone. I'm told the Star-Vue closed in 1983.

With the accessibility of movies these days, I suppose we'll never see the popularity of drive-ins rise again.

That's a shame because it was such a fun family outing.

I have countless memories of drive-ins, and they are priceless. That's probably why I've always been such a film buff.

And, no, those memories don't include going on a date and ignoring the movie.

I was such a nerd.

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