DRIVE-IN PICTURE SHOWS WHERE
As I have said before, the
years of 1953 through 1963, were 10 years of the most unique times ever, and those years are much of what this website is
all about. I am grateful I got to experience them, and these ensuing thoughts
of them are meant to hopefully convey to later generations just how good it was.
to believe those years and the living of them should have something said about the effects of Drive-in picture shows in our
lives. Where Tommy’s offered us fantastic visibility and access to our
friends, those drive-in picture shows allowed us and our date to get away from all those people, therefore they impacted our
lives by offering us privacy and even screen entertainment sometimes. Odessa
had a proliferation of drive-in movies and even twin drive-in movies in those
days, and they were hum-dingers.
Cactus drive-in back then that was on the eastern edge of town, almost out in the country. Today, if you head east
on second or eighth, those two streets end in a convergent intersection, and just north of that intersection is a large
group of apartments. That is the land upon which the Twin Cactus Drive-in movie theatre was built in those early days
of the fifties. I remember every detail of it.
The ticket buying
side of that twin drive in was to the east side of the complex and the entry into it consisted of tall walls on each
side of the paved entry driveway. In the early years, and in our new 1953 Oldsmobile
98 four door sedan with a factory installed air conditioner, our two parents and their four children would motor down that
driveway excited at the proposition that we could have the opportunity to see two new movies for the price of one,
and we could watch from the crowded car, or we children could go to the area just beneath the screens where outdoor chairs
in a line were available for watching.
In front of the chairs and
even closer to the huge screen was a huge children's playground area where there were swings, see-saws, merry-go-rounds, you
name it; we children could stay busy without bothering ourselves with drama on the screen that had no interest for us anyway,
most of the time.
There were always
new kids to meet and buddy up with, and that was exciting. The smell of freshly
popped buttered popcorn wafted through the air to agitate our stomachs, and that was mixed with the aroma of hotdogs and hamburgers
and it was just too much at times so all it all had to be experienced.
So, orders were
taken within the Oldsmobile and the two oldest children, boys, ran, not walked, to the huge concession stand located midway
between the two giant screens. The new and glitzy concession building was two
stories high and it had two glassed in and enclosed viewing areas on the second story above. It was yet another area
where adventures waited and tempted us, especially as we got older.
While in the long line in
the concession area and waiting for our orders to be filled, orders that included bags of popcorn, cokes peanuts, hotdogs,
the works, you name it, our stomachs called out for the fine salty taste of those food items. It was a kid’s heaven. The food and
drinks were piled onto gray cardboard trays that had supported holes to steady the drinks for carrying them back to the cars
where our parents and sisters awaited their junk food supper.
This was a ritual to be finished
before the screens came to life in the summer evening. It was a ritual to be
finished before the kids were turned loose to experience the sweet freedom of being able to roam the play grounds, and the
outdoor viewing areas to check out the concession stands again and to see who was in the enclosed viewing areas. Surely this concept of entertainment would be built forever on distant horizons and surely the experience
would last forever! It was a kid’s paradise, after all. Sadly, within a twenty-five year period, nearly all the outdoor
theaters disappeared into a higher use for the land.
After our junk food meal
was hurriedly finished, the kids left their parents in the car to go outside in the beautiful summer night when a cool south
breeze met our faces signaling us we were lucky to have such a pleasant summer, a desert summer. We ran forth hither and yon to burn up the stored energy of highly charged youth with full stomachs, and
to seek out the company of others for whatever adventure came along. After fully
exploring the grounds and searching out the approachability of any possible new friends through the evening, the two movies
finally ended. Exhausted sweaty kids returned to the Oldsmobile and without too
much chatter, snuggled in together into our own spaces and fell into a deep slumber for the ride home, where upon arrival
our parents would awake us to send us off to our rooms, and the smaller ones would be draped over a parents shoulder and taken
to their respective beds. The long day was over.
passed and age changed our little bodies into those of young adolescents, and our thoughts changed from those playgrounds
to the thoughts of the opposite sex. Becoming a teenager was like walking into
a whole new world.
Those young ladies were no
longer just little pesky girls. They had changed in the blink of an eye and within
one quick summer, that summer between the end of grade school and the beginning of junior high school. There were no longer playgrounds at the school we attended. Instead
there were gyms and football fields for the band and sports people and for those who chose to watch all that. It was the world of a new chemistry. It was the world of youthful
validation. It became the world of exploration of places, minds and even hearts. It was a world with realities we couldn't have imagined a few months before and it
was all happening in the rock and rolling good times of the mid fifties. An electrifying
It became a world of
girlfriend and boyfriend, no matter what crowd you were in. I doubt anyone would argue with that statement. It
was also a time where we learned just how valuable was the time we could spend with the special someone with whom we would
Time with our sweethearts
of those times was a treasure because the limited mobility of youth dictated the available amounts of time spent together.
At age 13 we yearned painfully for the age of fourteen when a drivers’ license meant freedom, and that yearning was
a constant companion until the coming of that magical date.
Before that date, it was an outlandishly lucky fate to have a friend who had access to a car at a young
age that would allow friends to see other friends, especially those friends who were the objects of our affections. Eventually the age of driving the family car on a date arrived, and the era of both double dating and single
couple dating flourished. Before that age, we were dropped off and picked up at parties and movies and sports and school
events by parents, and that did not seem very grown up to an emerging teen. But, when the dating started in the teens
it was nearly all done as a double date.
Double dating was just so
natural because friends innately knew how important it was to share the bliss of being together with a steady sweetheart. Double dates epitomized the excitement of growing up and courting and socializing.
Gosh, it was great to walk
up to that sweetheart’s front door all bathed, scrubbed behind the ears, hair combed and slicked, shoes shined, new
shirt and new pants gleaming and then ring her doorbell. It was heaven after meeting the grinning interested mom
and then walking hand in hand to the car with your date to where the other excited couple waited. Wide-eyed, euphoric, wired and whatever, off we would go to a private party, or to a downtown theatre or
to a drive-in picture show. Privacy and even semi privacy was worth more
parties were the destinations while on those double dates and memories made at those homes lasted a lifetime. To accent it all, was the memory of the music to which we danced on those outside concrete patios where
excited youth learned the mastery of human chemistry. Hi-fi’s played 45
rpm records of Elvis, Buddy Holly, The Platters, Nat King Cole, Johnny Mathis and others.
Partying couples often would explore the back yards of those homes hand in hand to seek the darkened recesses near
peach trees and elms in the summer night. There was often privacy found there
and closeness was experienced. The messaging was mutual through the holding of
hands, the closeness of bodies, and the first real serious kisses of our lives was done, and never forgotten. It all added up to wanting more, and wanting more in the environment of not just privacy, but total privacy,
just once, just for a while. It was never talked about, but it was yearned for
by all serious couples.
Eventually, the most awaited
birthday of all came, age fourteen, the blessed age of attaining a driver’s license that made driving at last legal,
and no driver's ed was required for my age group in those days. Oh there were many of us who pushed the envelope early
and drove anyway with a parent or friend or older sibling, so driving itself was nothing new. But driving legally was another dimension in precious freedom because the possibility of being with a girl
friend on a date just got easier.
Attending a Drive-in theatre
on a double date was okay, but without double dates such a proposition was not the most accepted thing to do. In fact, in those early-on days of dating, the mothers of the young ladies strictly forbid it, even if
they did not say so to you, the male. Their daughters knew it. Moms wanted two couples in those cars; so, probably
everyone of that time period probably remembers that first date to a drive in movie without that customary second couple.
Sometimes that could have been a mere happenstance.
We were a pretty
well controlled group of children. Our parents were very clear for the most part
about what was expected of us. The social mores of the times were exhibited and
accepted by most of us everywhere, in church, in school. The morals for the most
part were supported on movie screens, and on television. We knew what our parents
thought was right or wrong and we were never too far off centerline in that respect.
However, there were subtle temptations and some of them were really hard to ignore.
The words sexual revolution was not even a phrase in those days, and the birth control pill was not even a thought. So, we were probably the most controlled group in this country's history because of
what our parents had been through with a war and a depression. We were always
in a group and not far from supervision of one type or the other.
happen. For instance, consider the temptation presented by a broken plan, a plan of double dating that failed at the
last minute, and maybe it was due to one of the couples not being free to carry out a plan because of some transgression that
resulted in being “grounded.”
Those were often extremely
embarrassing moments, and were not to be discussed among peers at all. Dignity
was still dignity, after all. But the truth of the matter was that the surviving
couple of the plan was left with a decision to be made. And that decision
was a mighty temptation. It was a temptation full of compounding components.
An example of
those components could be explained by saying the year was 1957, a great year. And you were 14 years of age with that
new precious drivers license, and you knew it was the best year of all, and you were lucky enough to have one of the most
beautiful cars of that year at your disposal, for a change. That alone would
Say you were
going steady with one of the cutest things ever to come your way. That would step up the euphoria even more. Now assume the new Chevy Bel-Air was red and had a red and black interior, and it still smelled and looked
brand new. Step up the euphoria yet another notch and common sense would almost
not be a factor. That would produce another level just beyond euphoria. Next
add all that heady mix to the intoxication factor of yearned for youthful intimacy.
It added up to a huge factor of teenage empowerment.
All the components of euphoria
and all the broken plans of having another couple along on a double date just could end up with the two of you in a mentally
impaired state. Many might argue that the age of the folks involved made impairment a given.
That is all too understandable when talking about teenagers.
After all, it was time. You wanted to be alone with her because it had just never happened before. You
had never kissed in total blessed privacy before, the privacy provided by a beloved 1957 Chevrolet and the Drive in picture
show of choice, so why not give it a shot? The chance might not come along again for a long time. The decision was silently made.
The name of the
movie was not important. The parking place and position of the car on the rolling
parking lot was not important. It could have been a cold rainy winter night at
the drive in picture show. It didn't matter what was showing and nothing is remembered
except the closeness, psychologically, emotionally, and even physically. The
sounds coming from the speaker were not even a factor. The view of the silver screen was not important. Full attention was focused on togetherness never before experienced, and never to be forgotten.
As stated before, our morals
and mores were in control of our behavior at that so tender age, so the experience was sensual and not sexual at all except
maybe in the still innocent imagination for that important first time. Yes, there were moments lost in harmony with nothing
else to remember at all in the short and quick two hours alone. No inappropriate lines were crossed; the specter of
all past warnings and future admonishments were vivid in both minds. It was totally
innocent and it was mutually blissful and it was private.
Indeed, it was a first time
it and it enabled a complete communication of acceptance of one another. The
evening progressed to the end when the Chevy’s clock showed the last hour available to the two of you. The two occupants were content to just lean up against the drivers door comfortably embraced and silently
filled with the knowledge that both of you were finally together and free to express a total and silent validation of the
relationship. Then, it was over; time was up.
She had to be home.
It was a benchmark experience. Both young people left one another at the doorstep that night as slightly different
people, not feeling guilty and not in conflict, but definitely feeling a little bit older and maybe a little bit more mature
and responsible for having done things right, except of course, for the decision to go there alone in the first place without
another couple along! It was worth it.
Those years passed rapidly
and relationships changed over time and different ladies came and went and inevitably life got more complicated, but that
night at the drive-in picture show was perfect because there was nothing in the past with which to compare it. Now those memories of the cars and the ladies of the 50’s and the places in that time are now
mostly just distant dreams, unforgotten, but very long ago.