Rushville Republican

July 23, 2013

Drive-in movies were very popular

By Bill Ward Rushville Republican
Rushville Republican

---- — The other day a friend brought up the fun we used to have going to the local drive-in movie. There was a lot available locally, one south of Milroy affectionately called the Cow Pasture, which during the daylight hours it was. Cattle were allowed to browse around the parking area during the day and chased out at night. One thing I learned early on was pay attention to where you walked when going to the rest room or concession stand. Connersville had a drive-in, as did Shelbyville, which had two; another was at 9 and 52 and it was a biggie and well attended by Rush County citizens. New Castle had one.

When I was a lot younger it almost became a game to try and outsmart the movie employees. We would put people in the trunk to keep from paying for them to get in. Some would try to come in the out lane for the same reason. Drive-in management figured that one out rapidly and put in metal tire shredders that would allow the cars to go out but tear up the tires of those attempting to come in. A lot of teens went to the drive-in but not necessarily to watch the movie. Making out in the back lanes of the movies was about as popular as most of the movies that were shown.

The movie would have a large concession rest room building in the middle of the area of the drive-in. The projection booth was also in this building so there would be only a ticket stand and concession stand beside the screen itself. The talking aspect came from a speaker one would place in the window of your car. There was a volume control which one could turn the volume up or down. Later on, there were some that even had heaters you could use to keep your car warm when it got colder. The heaters were on the stands with the speakers and managed to elongate the time the movie could be open. Although I went to several movies and needed to use the heaters, at least for me they were less than realistic.

The movies shown were usually first run movies and would run for a week then change, much like the building movie houses. Some drive-ins in later years close to the time they died out would have an evening when pornography was the main attraction, especially during the week. Weekends were usually family oriented films and usually crowded. As my family grew, we decided to pop some popcorn at home, put it in a big grocery bag and take it with us to the movies. This, of course, made things a tad less expensive for us, which we liked. We could and did at times take our own soft drinks and other snacks to help make the evening as cheap as we possibly could.

As my family got older they felt that taking popcorn and drinks from home was not all that great; besides, they could be seen and see if they went to the concession stand. Also, the movie owners came up with more exotic fare being sold at the concession stand. Some drive-ins thought seriously of selling beer as well as food and soft drinks at their concession stand. Of course, hot dogs and other hot foods were available and also were something that would be difficult to bring from home and still keep it hot. If the concession people felt they might make a buck from something they sold it. Cigarettes were available as well as cigars and other tobacco products.

I remember one time going to the Connersville drive-in out on 44 before getting in town. We went with a friend and had a pickup full. There were three inside and four outside in the back of the truck. We had folding chairs, snacks and friends so were well prepared for an evening of fun and movies. A funny thing occurred on the way, too; seems we all saw five lights in the sky flying in formation and stopping, hovering, speeding away. Yes, we thought they were UFO’s and never found out if they were or were not. It certainly didn’t matter to us. They were unusual, not explained and we were right in the middle of the UFO era.

As the drive-in craze began to die out in many of the smaller towns and cities, my family was getting older and were not as sure they liked going to the drive-in and being at times awfully hot, miserable and even wet just to watch a movie. As my children and myself and my wife grew older our desire to be miserable to do something diminished greatly. The drive-in at Connersville, south of Milroy, in Fountaintown and even the big one in Shelbyville all closed down. Sure it was fun and we enjoyed going for a time, but we grew tired of this stuff and did not care much when the movies closed.

As in all things, desires change and old ways go by the wayside and the drive-in did just that. Other newer things started to get our attention as well as our family and we forgot about drive-in movies and many other aspects of my youth. Television came along and that pretty well was the final nail in the drive-in coffin. But we, for a time, did have fun as, I am sure, we will again do the same with some new bright idea.