Nancy Roman


You know what I miss?

I miss the Drive-In.


drive-in. (Photo credit: eaortmann)

Drive-Ins were such a weird invention. Some nut-case (actually his name was Hollingshead) way back in the twenties decided that it would be a great idea to sit in your car and watch a movie.

It took about twenty years to perfect the screen and the sound… and boy, was it far from perfected.  But I loved it.

When I was a little kid, we used to go to the Plainville Drive-In. We’d get there early, because we wanted a good parking space, and because they had a great playground. The playground had trampolines. Oh my God, that was the coolest thing.

My little brother could not figure out the trampoline. He was barely more than a toddler, and he couldn’t jump with both feet at the same time. It was hysterical–for me anyway. He was the baby boy after three girls in a row (me being number three), and everyone adored him. So naturally I was delighted by his stupidity.

I loved the movies but sometimes it was a toss-up whether I would watch the movie or jump on the trampoline all night. (My mother solved that dilemma for me.)

Most kids wore their pajamas to the Drive-In, which I thought was especially festive. Like Christmas Eve in the middle of summer. But my mother didn’t like us to go out in pajamas. Sometimes I could sweet-talk her into letting me change into pajamas once the movie started. Then I’d pretend I had to use the restroom, so I could walk around outside in my PJs.

We’d watch the movie – usually a double feature with a long intermission (filled with dancing popcorn and hot dogs and cups of coca-cola to promote the overpriced concession stand) through our scrubbed, but still blurry, windshield. Sometimes we watched through raindrops. There was a post with a speaker that Dad precariously attached to the windshield. The tinny sound was awful and fantastic at the same time.  And there was always someone who would drive off with the speaker still attached, and they’d rip it right off the pole. I loved that part.

If you opened the windows you were invaded by mosquitoes. If you didn’t, the windshield would steam up. My sisters and I would play tic-tac-toe on the side windows. Of course, there were some cars that were extra steamy.

We saw some wonderful movies at the Drive-In. I think so anyway. I can only recall one. We went to see “Hatari” with John Wayne. My Daddy loved The Duke.

It wasn’t playing at my beloved Plainville Drive-In. We went to the Watertown Drive-In, which we had never been to before. My father couldn’t find the place and we drove around for a long time, so naturally my father had to stop the car twice so I could throw up. We got to the movies late, and my mother let me watch standing outside the car in the cool air. I could hear the sound from the big speakers blaring from the concession stand. Baby elephants followed around a very pretty actress.

When I was sixteen, the Drive-In changed. And changed me.

I went to see “Two For The Road” with Audrey Hepburn – and with Kenny. My mother reluctantly gave me permission. Kenny’s mother did not, but he was embarrassed to tell me, and so he snuck out of the house. We double-dated with kids I don’t remember at all. I do remember the movie. It was exceptional, and it’s still one of my all-time favorite movies.

And then the second feature came on. I don’t remember it any more than I remember the other kids in the car.

The windshield steamed.

Bye Bye, Trampoline.

Hello, Tramp.


  1. Great stories and memories. Oh, I remember wearing pj’s and bringing our pillows. And my dad in the front seat, smoking up a storm. He was always going back to the concession stand for something or other. I loved your line about your brother, “So naturally I was delighted by his stupidity.” I had five brothers so I was exposed to plenty of delightful stupidity.


  2. I loved the drive-ins, too, both the kid memories of wearing our pajamas and taking our own popcorn and sodas to those wonderful teenage memories. Thanks for the trip down memory lane!


    • But homemade popcorn never tasted as good as the concession’s stand fake buttery popcorn.


  3. Your last line is priceless!!

    I have memories of our local drive-in, The Plantation. As a child, I went with my sister, brother-in-law and their 4 kids in their station wagon.

    As a teenager, well… kids, no station wagon.


  4. classic: bye bye, trampoline, hello, tramp. you are genius


  5. Ah yes, drive-ins were really fun dates even if you didn’t steam everything up (which apparently you did!) Although there was one time……


  6. Loved drive ins!!! By the time our boys came along they were few and far between but we found one and let them have the experience. I don’t think it was as cool for them as it was for us! And oh yes—the steamy windows….memories.


  7. “The windshield steamed. Bye Bye, Trampoline. Hello, Tramp.”

    Hilarious!! My boyfriend took me to a drive-in movie theater for Valentine’s Day. It was fun and something different. 🙂


  8. When I was a child we used to go to the Skyway Drive-In in Las Vegas (where I grew up) every Monday night. Dad worked nights and had Mondays and Tuesdays off. It didn’t matter that it was a school night because the movies my parents liked were so boring that my brother and I quickly fell asleep in the back seat, only to be groggily aware of being carried to bed when we got back home. One movie I remember staying awake all the way through was “The Man with the Golden Arm.” I don’t know why, since it was not at all child-appropriate, but something about it kept my attention. Good times!


  9. Thanks for bringing some very fond memories to me today. I loved the Drive In too. Every time I have Raisonettes (which is about once a decade now) I think of those nights in the old station wagon with my family at the Drive In.


  10. I still remember seeing “Mary Poppins” at the drive-in as a child. Sadly, I never had the opportunity to go on a date there. I did return with a group of friends when I was in college, home for the summer. We sat on the hood of the car, smoking cigarettes and feeling very superior (as only college students returning home can feel). Thanks for bringing back some memories!


  11. We still have a drive in where I live. I’ve gone once as an adult and it’s just not nearly as fun. I did not tramp it up or jump on a trampoline or do both so maybe I’ll try that next time.


  12. We have a couple of Drive-Ins near my home and I made sure my children made at least one trip to enjoy this magical experience. It wasn’t the same. I especially hated tuning in on the radio for the sound. I too loved the boxy speaker and the inevitable drive off by someone with the speaker.
    Nice memories.


  13. I remember seeing Lady and the Tramp at the drive in. It’s nice to know Tramp is still there!


  14. Kay

    Come to Illinois!! We have a drive-in! I’ll pop the popcorn and bring the yard chairs!


  15. Katyoparty

    Love the post! I can’t believe my kids never experienced a drive-in (28 and 20) as it was such a part of my life growing up. I pretty much followed the same progression as you except there were no trampolines on our playground. In high school…my boyfriend had a VW bug to pick me up and then we’d go switch to his parent’s conversion van—egads–I put the T in tramp for sure.


  16. Best last line of a blog post, ever.


  17. Great post! That last line was fabulous! I remember my mom making a big brown grocery bag full of popcorn to take with us. She put so much butter in it, the outside of the bag was always splotched with grease, but it was the best! We went to the Candlelight in Bridgeport.


  18. What a wonderful post – you took me right back to some great memories of the drive ins. I remember how it just felt like a big block party. And when I was in my late teens a bunch of us would go together and I remember we would go in my friend’s big boat of a car because we could sit 4 across on the windshield (i.e., 2 couples). Lightening bugs, popcorn and a very forgettable movie – what alot of fun!
    ~ Barb


  19. You truly have a wonderful way of telling stories! Very engaging post!


  20. I think there are a lot of us that can relate to the last line–that we all like so much.


  21. I enjoyed Hatari immensely when I was younger. I loved all of the animals – especially the elephants. (Though I am envious you got to see it at the drive-in.)


  22. Dor

    I think I heard there are only about 8 drive-in movies left in the whole country. We have one here near our little town and it is maintained by the local residents. It’s such a great part of American history and so many people have lovely memories. Your post is wonderful because it recalls all the fun from a child’s perspective, and all the steam from a teen’s. 🙂


  23. I loved drive-ins. We had one still operating in my town until I was in junior high. And then there was one in the town where I went to college — it’s still in business and is one of the last ones in the country. Good times.


  24. In high school, there was the challenge of sneaking in as many people as possible by stuffing kids in the trunk and having them lie down on the floor. Of course, sneaking in alcohol was also a big tradition. Not for me, of course, but I heard about it from others!


  25. Your last line is fabulous and the post is hilarious!
    I hated going to the drive-in. Can you imagine sitting in the backseat with four siblings who wouldn’t stay put? Then the baby would start crying and get handed into the front seat to be passed back and forth between the parents. I was the oldest, a new teenager. Do you think I wanted to get caught in such a situation. By my friends? Righto. With all the activity going on who could ever see the movie playing anyway? I rest my case.


  26. hehe this is cute.
    i remember one of the first times i went, our van wouldn’t start after the movie!
    another time, fog came rolling in! we got a free movie pass for that one!


  27. Fun story. Really fun ending.


  28. Aaah yes…the good ol’ days when the best parts of the drive-in movies happened in the back seats of cars. What fun!


  29. Oh jeez, this is SO taking me back. My dad would take a passle of us, fully jammied, to the drive-in in the old station wagon. I think it was solely to give my mom a break since they ended up with 9 kids, all 1 year apart. He took us to these terrible, B-horror movies, then he’d sit outside in a lawn chair being eaten alive by mosquitoes while we jumped up and down and hollered in the car. I still remember one of the movies.

    Thanks for the trip down memory lane, you tramp.


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