Once upon a time teenage dating was the best, most wonderful event. Gas was 29 cents a gallon, 4 hamburgers for a buck, sodas ten cents a bottle, and of course, a dollar a car load at the drive-in.
I bring this up as a polished former ticket taker at the Rocket Drive In theater. I witnessed all kinds of ways to use the drive in as the main event for a fun-filled Saturday night. Of course there was the movie itself, but add swing sets and merry-go-grounds in front for the children to play on before the darkness and the movie. The concession stand with hot dogs and pop corn and a natural meeting place to pick up a date if you forgot one. The pickup trucks parked backwards so lawn chairs in the bed of the truck provided a platform for beer drinkers and cat-calling the tight Levi’s as they by with a wiggle when they walked.
From my post at the ticket booth, I began an analysis of the clientele passing by my window. The main difference between the indoor movie house and the drive in movie is the privacy.
Most imagine the stereotypic view of the average car at the drive in. A two-door big-motored coupe and within he has his arm around her shoulder with her leaning in with a single kernel of popcorn tastefully at her lips.
Quite common is the hardworking husband and wife with the three little ones in back. They have promised all week and even remembered the times when they first dated with his arm around her shoulder with her leaning in with a single kernel of popcorn tastefully at her lips. That’s how they got the first kid. Now days, they load the kids up with sugar from the concession stand, then exhausted from their week at work, fall spraddle-legged all over the front seat asleep.
Grandpa and grandma are easy to figure, probably a western, maybe a Disney. The darkness arrives late , therefore, the show ends late. Well past their bedtime, they look like Zombies as they start their way home. Might doze through the sermon at church the next day.
When two cars stop way up the driveway of the drive in on a ‘Dollar a carload’ night, it means the occupants of car one are going to load into the trunk of car two.The amount of money saved is insignificant compared with the excitement of sneaking in.
The most sensational customers were the ‘ score at any cost singles’ that often come straight from the bars. Quite often from my vantage point, I could see across the front seat that her feathers had already been ruffled a little bit. Sometimes, well sometimes, I could tell some things about him too.
They always drove to the back rows where others like themselves had already fogged up their windows. Some were so drunk or fired up that they never even reached out for the speaker, they would provide the audio for the evening. Then there are times when they brought in the speaker only to leave with the speaker still inside the car, breaking it off and dragging it home with the cord dangling on the outside of the car. Cheaper than a motel.
Then, this evening Sara Lynn brings her Buick to a halt at my window. She is alone and that is not unusual. There is a whole dominion of teenagers that don’t yet date. The guys not yet confident enough or ready enough to put themselves out in the vulnerable position of asking a girl out. The girls excited but maybe they don’t get asked out.
Sara Lynn is not even on the radar screen of the boys. Quiet, a little chunky, and totally invisible to the boys whose aim in life is to land a Playboy-looking naughty girl as a trophy. Sara Lynn will make a great and loyal wife, but that is not the scoreboard the boys use on date night.
“Come and sit with me when your done.” taking her ticket and smiling up at me. She drives in alone.
I will probably sit with her when I close the ticket booth down and turn in my money. Most of the time I sit in the left seat and we talk and gossip about school, but sometimes I sit in the right seat with my arm around her while she leans in with a single kernel of popcorn tastefully at her lips. Both wishing that someday in the privacy of the drive in movie we might have someone of our own.