Man invented drive-in movies so kids could stay up past bedtime.


 


Man invented drive-in movies so kids could stay up past bedtime.

Oh, teenagers and other young lovers -- of movies, maybe -- had their own reasons for going to drive-ins in my day. Perhaps they envisioned kissy-face clenches that fogged the windows. Maybe they merely intended to meet some future loved one in the concession stand, and separate him or her from the pack, so they could talk and toe the concrete or dirt until a relationship developed.

The youngest kids among us, however, just wanted an excuse to stay awake after darkness fell late at night in the summertime. You're sort of an adult if your eyes still are open past 9:30.

At the urging of their offspring, two or three times a season my parents would pack up the brood in the family's Plymouth station wagon and head off to the Parkway Drive-In Theater in Canandaigua, N.Y.

We carried food with us ‹ in a picnic basket during summers before coolers were common. Pillows and blankets were stacked in the storage area of the station wagon, signs that at least some of the children in the vehicle would fail in their attempts at seeing the end of whatever picture happened to be playing that particular night.

I make it sound too much like the nature of the movies was a surprise to my parents. Each movie actually was hand-picked, with a heavy leaning – long before a rating system was developed -- toward "G" movies. "G" meant it was "good" enough for my mother. "G" meant we could go. "G" meant that my mother could get out of the car and use the rest room without being embarrassed if she ran into a neighbor.

It helped in gaining my mother's approval if the film had Walt Disney's name before the title.

This system is much the reason I've seen "Old Yeller" so many times.

I can't recall ever seeing the ending of that film. At least not at a drive-in.

There is something about drive-in theaters that puts children to sleep.

Maybe it's the cold evening air that enters the car when a window is cracked to hold a speaker. Perhaps it's the speaker itself, programmed by parents to subliminally hypnotize their children. In between lines of dialogue are hidden the words, "You are getting very tired" or "will you guys quiet down in the back seat!"

A strong-willed irritator of my old man, I generally stayed awake until some sort of intermission, after the cartoons or between double features. I'd walk with my little brother to the concession stand rest room. We would stop on the way back to pick up more soda and popcorn, and maybe a box of Raisinets.

But at some point, siblings would slump into each other. First, we'd go silent. Then we'd sleep.

I vaguely remember seeing my mother turning to watch my eyes close, and then nestling up against my father.

They seemed very happy to be watching "Old Yeller."

Contact Gary Brown at (330) 580-8303 or gary.brown@cantonrep.com.