Sunday, September 21, 2008
Back in the early 80's, drive-in theater were still operating in my home, Hampton Roads. There were a few, but one of our regular stops was Thursday nights at the Anchor Drive-In, on Jefferson Avenue.
We went on Thursdays because it was the last night before the new ones opened on Friday night. Admission was only a dollar that night and the place was always jammed.
We saw some damned good movies out there: The Beast Within, Angel, Psycho 2, The Evil Dead...dozens of them. We saw some real stinkbombs as well: Burt Reynolds and Goldie Hawn in Best Friends and Miles O'Keefe of the Apes, with Blow Derek. Of course we preferred it when good ones ran, but we never let a bad one ruin our night.
We had a tradition. Me and a friend would go to a local park. We'd start drinking beer and we'd throw the Frisbee for an hour or so. Then we'd head to the drive-in and be there right when the gate was opened. Once in, we'd secure our place in the front row, center. And we would commence to drink more beer and throw the Frisbee some more. We'd also gorge ourselves on burgers, shrimp rolls and the like from the snack bar.
A bunch of us would usually turn up and we'd all line up in the front. I worked at this seafood/trucking company and almost the entire crew would make the Thursday night party. So much so that it became company policy that if anyone called in sick on Friday, they'd get written up. Which was a fucking joke. The pay was so poor that they were fortunate that they could keep people with all four limbs in working order there.
We always made it in to work the next day, even in the thick of Summer when the second feature ran past midnight. We were tough.
When the first feature began, the serious drinking would commence. Beers flew like the wind and jokes did too. We watched the movies, sure, but we also made a game of it. Of course, we were quieter when a decent film played and much, much louder when crap was rolling.
By the time the second movie would begin, the beer would be beginning to catch up with us. I always brought a large bag of peanuts in the shell. I'd break them out about the time when the second one started, which kept our hands busy and away from the beer cans.
All that drinking. It was crazy. Overeating and drinking up a storm. It's a wonder that we even survived. And it was customary to drive home drunk as a lord. That was bad shit. I didn't drive in those days, so I wasn't actually behind the wheel, but I was just as guilty. I often talked people into coming and I always bought a ton of beer, to 'make sure that we wouldn't run out'.
That was wrong. It's amazing that no-one ever got busted or had an accident. Dumb luck, but then we were young and all of us were hard workers and we played hard too. We had constitutions of steel.
I guess I should regret all the madness, but I don't. Not really. I treasure those memories today. Looking back, it was paradise. But I also remember the lousy jobs, the constant fear of maintaining a place to live. You can't stay young forever.
I look at the situation today and I pity kids. Where can they hang out? The mall? One is being built in our area and they have decided to not have a food court, in an attempt to keep the kids from hanging out. I think that sucks. The game/pinball parlors are all but gone too. Everyone has their complex gaming systems at home. There used to be a couple of hamburger joints where kids drank sodas and had fries and hung out, but they're all gone too. Nothing but plastic fast food dives left.
The drive-in theaters were the perfect place for kids to hang. You could bring your date or cruise the place looking for action. You could party all night and unless you were being really intrusive to others, you were left alone. The manager of the Anchor even requested that we leave our beer cans there, because he recycled them. I guess there wasn't a lot of money in the theaters by that time.
Now it's all gone and I can only hang on to my memories, which grow cloudier every year.