Bruce Austin writes about the resurgence of drive-in theaters in this issue, noting the movie venues have found new popularity in the social-distancing era of the COVID-19 pandemic.
For many baby boomer kids the drive-in was either a treat (depending on the movie) or the economical answer to the parents’ need for a babysitter. There remain a few surviving (and successful) drive-ins within reasonable driving time of the East Aurora, NY, home of the Collector, including the Silver Lake Drive-in near Perry, NY. Linda’s family cottage is a few minutes from that drive-in and one of her memories of going there as a child was a roving theater employee offering to fend off insects with a shot of bug spray from a FLIT gun into the car. And she lived to tell about it! There’s a drive-in collectible you probably haven’t thought about.
A recent news report on television showed an employee walking among the cars with a tray of what would have been “concession stand” items to sell. I don’t know if that was ever done at drive-ins pre-pandemic, but it shows a certain ingenuity that difficult business conditions require.
Another auto-centric activity that has received new attention during the pandemic is “carhop” restaurant service. The drive-through window at fast-food restaurants has largely replaced the idea of a server bringing an order to a car window, however the Sonic chain has revived this form of service (including servers on roller skates). While not quite a drive-up, park, order and wait for the delivery arrangement, many restaurants improvised while table service was banned and created some form of carhop service. We even enjoyed a dinner, a-la-curb delivery, from the historic Roycroft Inn in East Aurora before restaurants were allowed to reopen in limited fashion. Adding a bottle of wine was an option as well!
For some of us, recalling the drive-in speaker hung on the car window or a food tray resting on the door of the car brings back fond memories. Somehow the thought of attaching either to a $20,000 or $30,000 family car today is a little concerning, but memories of the 1950s are free.