Drive-In Memories

Posted: Tuesday, August 7, 2007 at 12:00 am
By: Doug Lund
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What is it hey? Why it’s Buttercup..popcorn.Add sweet cream butter to hot popcornmix it up, wrap it up, buttercup is born.It’s delicious, so nutritious, it’s a taste delightIt’s so munchy, crisp and crunchy, you’ll enjoy each bite.Eat Butter drenched Buttercup, popcorn at its bestServed in a king sized cup.It beats all the rest.Okay, anybody else remember that little ditty?
It takes me back to the 50’s and going to the drive-in movie with my dad, mom and two brothers.
It meant that intermission had started and time for brother, Denny and me to race to the snack bar and load up on food and refreshments before the feature movie started. We only had ten minutes and could watch the time ticking away on the big outdoor screen as they ran a film of a clock counting backwards to zero and showtime.
 Besides Buttercup popcorn, there were hot dogs or barbeque beef sandwiches served in a tin foil type of wrapper. There was some god-awful chocolate drink in a can called “Toddy” which I only tried once. There were all kinds of ice cream treats, candy and soda. Plus if the mosquitoes were bad you could buy a PIC insect repellent coil. It looked like a small burner on an electric stove. It came in a metal tray which you’d set on the car dashboard and light with a match.
Little wisps of purfumey smoke would bad it made us gag.
It too was a one-time experiment. I don’t remember if it actually kept the bugs away or not.
I remember we’d have to do a balancing act trying to carry food and drinks for the whole family back to the car on those flimsy cardboard trays hoping we’d get there before the outdoor lights were turned off and we’d be lost forever amid a sea of automobiles.
When the Sioux Drive-In opened South of Brookings in the early 50’s my dad and mom just loved the novelty of it and we hardly ever missed a show.
The theater gave out movie schedules for each month during the summer and mom kept it scotch taped to the kitchen cabinet so we could plan which ones we were going to see.
We’d arrive early to get a good spot..hang the speaker on the window and people-watch  until the previews began at dusk.
There were rest rooms at the snack bar building but mom always brought along an empty Folgers coffee can for us boys to use so we wouldn’t be roaming around in the dark or have to miss any of Ma and Pa Kettle or Francis the Talking Mule movies.
As entertaining as it was, though, it was hard sometimes for us to stay awake crowded in the back seat and in a rare gesture of brotherly love, there was usually no objection if one laid his head on the other’s shoulder.
South Dakota once had 31 drive-in theaters. At last count there were six left.
For a little nostalgia, Linda and I went to the Verne-Drive-In just outside Luverne, Minnesota.
It wasn’t quite the same.
I’d forgotten that a majority of people don’t drive cars’s those high profile pick-ups and SUVs. The theater manager was constantly yelling at people to park in the back rows so those in smaller vehicles could see the screen.
There are no speakers to hook on the window anymore.
The theater transmits the sound to a frequency on your car radio.
Trouble is, those speaker poles used to keep the vehicles properly spaced apart. Now, it’s sort of like festival seating at a rock concert.
Before daylight saving time came about, shows at the drive-in would start at a decent hour.
Now, it’s almost ten o’clock… when a lot of us are thinking about bedtime.
Some things are still the same, though, and I admit to feeling a little rebellious when I joined in with the chorus of honking horns as we tried to humiliate the projectionist to start the darned movie already.
I had thought about throwing an empty coffee can in the car for old time’s sake..but Linda said no.

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