Saturday, May 12, 2012

A Night of Nostalgia

It is 7 a.m. on a Saturday. I have no place to be, no cheesecakes to get out and nothing I really need to do and yet here I am....wide awake. I have been up since around 6ish. Did I mention that I didn't go to sleep until around 2 a.m.? Yeah....something has gone horribly wrong in my sleep patterns. Ah assured that I will likely fall asleep while doing something dangerously important later on today. It all evens out. At any rate...why waste good awake hours? Thus I blog.

I was up so late last night because we did something as a family that was kind of cool. Before I spill the beans (those of you on facebook already know what we did last night), let me say that this summer I have a summer bucket list of sorts. I actually hate the term bucket list as its intent is something I would rather not think about. But in terms of my is things to accomplish before summer 2012 ends. I refuse to let this be another summer where all we do is sit around and try to avoid the heat and get on each others nerves. So our summer bucket list has begun.

Any way....last night I gave my kids a first in their life time and we did something that I myself had not done in probably 30 years. Curious? Well be jealous because last night we went to the drive-in!!!!! It was just like I remembered in many ways with a few changes here and there. I remember as a kid up by the screen they had swings and a little playground for kids. That is no more. Also no more are the metal speakers you used to have to place on your window to hear the movie. While the speakers still remain on their stands they are used more as a sound system for music and announcements before the movie. Now in order to hear the tune your radio dial to a certain fm frequency and viola....sound!!! The cool thing about this is....if you get chilly you don't have to leave a window down in order to hear. You can roll those windows up, be toasty and still hear the movie. Ain't technology grand?!

I have been trying to get to the drive-in for years with my kids. It seems like every year though...something (usually life) happened and before I got turned was closed for the season. I refused to allow that to happen this year. I mean after all...who are quickly becoming extinct and we are fortunate to still have one. Before we know it....the Starlite could go the way of Dragging Douglas or Joyland (Wichita references) and once again my kids would have missed out on a piece of my youth that I would have loved to have shared with them.

When I was young...the Wichita area was full of drive-ins and being a kid growing up in the late 60's, 70's and 80's it is what we did in the summer time first with our families and later on with our friends. I remember as a really young kid, us kids would get in our pajamas and mom would always make egg salad sandwiches. Don't ask me why egg salad but apparently to my mom....egg salad was drive-in food as we never had it otherwise. Anyway, we would take pillows, blankets and our drive-in food and head out to one of the many drive-ins Wichita had to offer. When I was really young we would always go to the Meadowlark were I saw such greats as The Jungle Book and Goldfinger.....and as I got older we usually went to the Landmark (now the Starlite) because of location.

As a teenager, many a summer Friday and/or Saturday night was spent at the drive-in. Truck loads and car loads of teenagers with blankets and lawn chairs hanging out and seldom actually watching the big screen. It was a right of passage to go from sitting in the folks station wagon and watching to sitting in the bed of a truck with your friends watching, socializing and yes.....making out to whatever the latest drive-in flick was.

After high seemed like one by one the drive-ins began going dark. Families were no longer doing such family things and for teens....the mall and arcades replaced the the drive-in dinosaurs. It was a national tragedy happening right before our eyes and no one realized it.

I am not sure when it happened but one day Wichita went from having six or seven drive-ins all over the city to just one. I was raising kids and from time to time I would think about the drive-in but then you would hear the rumors that going wasn't really safe. I kept hearing about gangs hanging out there and it all being a bunch of wild teens and as a young family....that wasn't how we wanted to spend a Friday night.

Jump ahead to the last few years and more and more people I know have been talking about going to the drive-in. Every year come March, our radio stations begin the jingle "Starlite drive-in brings you more. Dial 524-2424." And each time I heard the catchy little diddy the impulse to throw on my jammies and make some egg salad became a little stronger. Finally...Thursday I decided that we were long past due and if we didn't do it now...this summer like every other one would be here and gone and no drive-in.

I have to say that as we pulled up...I was pleasantly surprised at what I saw. First of said that the gates open at 7:30 p.m. We got there about 7:15 and there were already lines of cars waiting to get in. Way to go Wichita!!!! I like that one....... we are supporting the last drive-in in the area and two that families and kids are coming back to this type of entertainment. Once is still a two screen theater so we had our choice of which set of movies we wanted to see. Driving in I have to say that I was transported back in time a bit. Drive-ins just have that certain feel about them and as we searched the rows to find that "sweet" parking spot, you could see families....lots of families pulling out the lawn chairs and the blankets getting their pajama clad kids settled in for an evening of good old family entertainment. Through the dormant yet still working speakers the frequency was tuned into some great music and people played catch, visited and walked back and forth to the snack bar waiting for it to get dark and the movie to begin. There were no gangs (that I could see), no wild teens (possibly because they have a strict no alcohol rule and the rows are monitored) and the grounds were neat and clean. Z went to the snack bar and he said that too was clean and the restrooms were surprisingly clean too. I couldn't help but think to myself that this is a piece of Americana that should NEVER be allowed to die away.

I looked around and I saw couples of all ages, families of all sizes ($10 a car load) and teens hanging out. No one got unruly, no one got loud and everyone really seemed to enjoy the movie. While I can't speak for the other screen....on our side it was packed and the snack bar appeared to do a very healthy business. Z I think really enjoyed it and David with his legs propped up and his seat reclined never made a sound other than the occasional "uh oh" or "yee haw!"

We saw The Avengers (that was the first movie) and all of us loved it. It was a great first time drive-in movie, but I am old. One was all I could make it through and being that I forgot to bring Davids night time seizure meds....we made it an early night in drive-in terms. Z assured me though that this was definitely something he would like to do again before summers end and I couldn't help but smile knowing that we had marked something off our summer bucket list and had a really good time as a family in the process.

As I drove home last night, my mind went back to my drive-in experiences. I remembered walking those rows many a time, Berty losing a contact in the rocks and never finding it and my car stalling at the gate when it was time for people to leave. I remembered snuggling in the back of a truck, making numerous trips to the snack bar to see if there were any cute guys and us girls crowding each other out for mirror space in the bathroom. Those were the good old days and apparently I am not the only one that thinks so as there seems to be a resurgence of drive-in nostalgia going on. Finally.....there is actually something that time has not taken away....that I can share with my kids!!!!


Anonymous said...

Pretty cool.

My bucket list for the summer includes jumping out of a plane with my daughter. And no, its not the last thing on my list.

MarniJ said...

What a great memory blog!!!
I went to the Starlite Drive in for the first time in high school...yeah yeah I know. It was a blast to just be able to stay though all three movies!!!
As a mom and Dad we used to dress our kids in jammies....popped bags of our snacks and headed there many many time during the summer. Great memories
I look forward to visiting and getting to go back there!!!!

Anonymous said...

Okay, this just makes me want to go. Sounds like you had a great time and thank you for reminding us that sometimes the old and simple things are still the best.

Anonymous said...

Oh the drive in. What good times and good memories. I had almost forgotten that in some places drive ins were still an option for entertainment. So glad your kids got to help you relieve such nostalgic times. What a great blog piece. I hope as you delve into your bucket list this summer that you take us all along for the ride. Seeing the world through your eyes is always such a treat.