A friend mentioned that he recently saw the latest episode of Rocky (and really liked it!), which caused a flood of memories for me. Back in the Carter era--Sweet Jesus, I'm old enough to recall another "era"--I was just at that age where going to the movies was something of a rite of passage.
It was, after all, the best place for a pre-teen kid who lived between two mountains to meet chicks.
There were lots of terrific movies in 1976. I didn't see a damn one of them at Grove's Theater, though. And I blame Rocky! Week after week I'd glance up at the theater marque, only to see, again:
"Held Over For The [insert week number here] Week: Rocky!"
Week, after week after week after freakin' week...Summersville loved them some boxing.
Sometimes when the theater was so booked, my parents would load the kids up in the car and head to the Craigsville, WV drive-in. Dressed in pajamas and surrounded by snacks smuggled in, we kids would gorge ourselves on popcorn and soda until we fell asleep. This usually happened about the time John Wayne shot his first bad guy in The Shootist, or sometime before Wayne figured out who killed his best friend, in McQ.
My Dad sure liked The Duke. Still does.
Me? Never cared much for the guy. His movies were too predictable, his characters too superficial.
But, I loved the drive-in! Everything about it. I loved that you paid by the carload and not by the individual. Loved that you had to walk outside to get popcorn (after you finished the popcorn you smuggled in, of course), and could smell that carnival, state fair smell that comes from damp, packed-down grass and hay. Loved the speaker you had to attach to the window, before drive-ins went high-tech and began using the better-quality-but-less-cool radio frequencies to deliver the sound.
And, chicks loved the drive-in. A lot. That--in addition to the damp hay smell--was enough for me to fall in love with the drive-in.
The first formal date Mrs. Film Geek and I went on was at a Huntington drive-in. Looking back on it, I don't think she was that keen on packing a cooler of snacks, a couple of blankets and watching Edward Sissorhands from the hatch of her Ford EXP. Beside cars full of people we didn't know. But the night was magical for me, at least.
It was the night I knew.
That drive-in, like most in West Virginia, closed in the mid-90s. A Wal-Mart was built there, then later a medical center. I was sad when the lot was torn down; it was as if part of my life was deleted.
A really important part of my life.
While traveling to Cincinnati this past weekend, Mrs. Film Geek and I drove past what I suspect is one of the last functional drive-ins in the area. Somewhere North-West of Portsmouth and South-East of Cincinnati was an honest-to-goodness movie drive-in, less than an hour from my home.
Gotta stock up on the Jiffy-Pop.