Bench seats and window speakers

There are some of us that wax nostalgically about what once was. And with Valentine’s Day nearly upon us, it’s easy to get sentimental, especially when stories still circulate about how many Boomer “coming of age” stories revolve around what went on in darkened cars with bench seats at drive-in theaters.

About.com’s  Sharon O’Brien writes in her article,  The Drive in Theater Makes a Comeback with Baby Boomers,  about how many middle-aged folk, despite their embrace of  DVD players, multi-screen cinemas and iPods, long for the entertainment icon youth: the drive-in movie theater.

Richard M. Hollingshead once nailed a bed sheet between trees in his backyard in 1933 to use as a makeshift screen. He then placed a 1928 Kodak projector on the hood of his car and set up a radio behind the sheet screen for sound.  Then he lined up cars in his driveway and the first version of the drive-in theater was born. Hollingshead went on to patent his idea.

Drive-in theatres graced nearly 30 states by the 1940s, but exploded in popularity by the 1950s and 1960s, about the time Boomers began to date.  I remember going to the drive-in theater with my parents, trying hard to stay awake listening to the squawking speaker hanging from the driver’s side window.

“The number of drive-in theaters operating today is about one-tenth as many as the 4,063 that dotted the U.S. landscape in 1958, according to the United Drive-in Theater Owners Association,” says O’Brien.

Surprisingly enough, the downward trend leveled off in the 1990s and began to reverse. New drive-in theaters began to be built and old ones were reprised.

O’ Brien discovered, “Twenty new drive-in theaters opened across the country between the summer of 2005 and the summer of 2006 alone, and drive-in theaters are operating in nearly every U.S. state and Puerto Rico.”

One thing I know I miss the enormity of the big screen drive-in theaters offered and how disappointed I was when I sat for the first time in a multiplex theater, with its stark seating area and small screen, relatively speaking.

Want to find out if there is a drive-in theater near you, so that you can cuddle up with that special someone and gaze up at a REAL big screen?   Simply go to http://www.drive-ins.com and cue in your zip code.  You might just discover a romantic new pastime.

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