Saturday, June 6, 2009

Honoring D-Day

Steeped in myth, inseparable from the American identity. There aren't enough superlatives to do justice to what happened on this day. All I can say is I sure am glad somebody invented the Drive-in.

With all great inventions (spinning hubcaps, cheese in a spray can, etc.) there's a tendency to assume an organic process in these things we take for granted. So it seems like a big "Duh!" now, but amazingly enough there was a time in this great land when "Hey, let's park somewhere and watch a movie!" wasn't immediately obvious to Americans. All that changed on June 6, 1933. Richard Hollingshead, Jr.

Richard did brave work. The most important factor in Drive-in design was parking, so all cars would have good view of the screen. Richard nailed it first try, and his original lay-out became the template for all subsequent models. And that first Drive-in cost $33,000 to build; a hefty sum for those days, invested in a gamble.

The gamble paid off beautifully of course. It wasn't just that the price was more affordable than walk-in theatres in Depression era America. Big selling point was you could pile the whole family into the car, let the younguns do their usual entertainment which involved eye gouging, hair pulling and "He's looking at me!" That crap wouldn't play in a walk-in theatre, but it was just fine in the backseat of an Oldsmobile.

Three decades later I was one of those miscreants in the back of an Oldsmobile. Such fond memories! My dad for some reason thought Jerry Lewis the funniest person on Earth. We never missed a Jerry Lewis film.

Fifteen years later I was a miscreant of different stripe, but still at the Drive-in. The fare on the screen was mostly Biker movies, Bruce Lee films, and Clint Eastwood spaghetti westerns. It was fun times, but most of the entertainment value was off-screen. We went to the Drive-in in packed vehicles, and yeah at times with somebody hiding in the trunk to avoid paying admission price. Once there, it was like, well, a good CCR song. People wandering car to car, some flirting but mostly just socializing. Barefoot girls in tank tops, leaned back on car hoods and talking too loud. It was largely things like, "Yeah I heard the Metal Plant's hiring too" or "New tires?" Doesn't sound like much now, but it conveyed we were a sort of ad hoc community, and cared for one another, as much as teenagers can manage to care about anything but themselves.

So tonight I go to the Drive-in!!!! 52 years old, better for it all, and able to savor the experience. I will kinda miss the whole eye gouging, hair pulling deal.

That other D-Day, well I have to see what all the other folks say, then pick them to shreds. That would be the 52yo equivalent of hair pulling, I suppose.
Thanks, Richard Hollingshead, Jr. for inventing the Drive-in!

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