I just found out that the Twin Drive-in Theatre, just outside of Owen Sound, is being torn down. My heart sunk a little when I saw these words, that was immediately followed by a torrent of childhood memories. Good memories. Flushed with nostalgia, I began to reminisce about hot summer nights, curled up in the back seat of the white, Pontiac station wagon, dressed in our PJs. Anticipating dusk so the movie would begin.
In the summer and even early fall, we spent many Saturday nights at the Owen Sound Twin Drive-in Theatre. With no air conditioning at home, it was an escape from the stifling heat of the century-old, badly insulated Victorian house we lived in. My Dad would pack up the Igloo cooler with bottles of Pop Shoppe cream soda and root beer and it would be one of the few occasions our Mom would allow us to have junk food. We grew up in a household free of it. Fresh popcorn, sugar controlled Freshie and homemade cookies were her snacks of choice for us. Occasionally, our parents would let us buy something from the concession stand.
Before heading out for our night of movie entertainment; we were put into our pajama’s, our parents knowing we would never make it through the second movie. We tried, oh trust me, we tried.
My Dad would always try to get us there early, like many others, he wanted a prime spot. This would mean waiting extra time for dusk and time to play in the rusting structures of the play area. How we didn’t end up with lead poison or lockjaw still confounds me. Running wild with hoards of other children, our parents hoped we’d exhaust ourselves so they’d be allowed enough peace and quiet to hear the voices through the vintage speaker mounted on the driver’s side window.
Since 1950 and when the Owen Sound Twin Drive-in Theatre first opened up, the long line-up of cars would cruise in, set-up the speaker in their window and then make their way to the concession stand. That drive-in saw many cars filled with young lovers, families with kids in PJs, teenagers excited that they could test their new driver’s license and freedom and older couples enjoying a date night. When I think of drive-in theatres, I often imagine the voice of Wolfman Jack drifting from the radio, in sync with the crunching sounds of popcorn and the release of metal pop bottle lids. We usually parked close to the concession stand, allowing our car to be filled with the smells of food cooking and the sounds of beverages being poured into wax-lined paper cups.
One memory that has always stuck with me is that of being scared shitless to go to the bathroom that was attached to the concession stand. It was mere feet away. One of the movies from a double feature that particular evening was The Car. In this movie, the car was possessed and was running people down and starred the very handsome James Brolin. I was so scared of this evil vehicle that I was convinced that it was in the drive-in. I remember begging my mother to take me to the washroom. She was frustrated by this since I’ve never been scared to go on my own before that night. Oh, the 1970s. A time when you’d let your young child wander off to a public washroom all on their own.
It’s sad that drive-in’s and bowling alleys are dying away. They both have filled my heart with so many wonderful memories and I often wonder what could be done to keep them open and popular for today’s society. Would adding fun extras such as live music, trivia contests or some other events to entertain the masses, while they wait for the sun to go down, be enough? I’m afraid it won’t be. Let’s hold onto those wonderful memories and continue to tell others our stories of hot, humid summer nights at a double feature at your local drive-theatre.
Very true to my Cape Breton experience – plus the concession stand offered hot dogs & cotton candy – two things we never could get at the movie theatres in Sydney. The rusty playground must have been a requirement.