We asked readers of South Carolina Living to share their memories of memorable drive-in movie nights. You can still share your favorite stories and pictures from your best night at a drive-in theater. Just click here. We'll share some of our favorites.
Meanwhile, here are some memories from your fellow readers.
My first experience at a drive-in theater occurred in the mid-1960s when my mother piled all seven of her children into the blue Rambler station wagon and drove us to the Star-Lite Drive-In on Fort Jackson Boulevard in Columbia. They came out with a deal that charged by the car load rather than per person, so we could all get in for a lower price. We were excited to see a movie outside on a big screen, but there were several things we had to do before leaving.
My mother began making popcorn on the stove by putting a small amount of Crisco shortening and a cup full of corn kernels in the pot, vigorously shaking the pot until the last kernel popped, and then poured the popped corn into a paper grocery bag. She popped enough corn to fill that large bag so we could all have something to snack on during the movie. She filled our small picnic cooler with lemonade and ice. We each brought our pillows, and mother took several thick blankets and spread them out in the back of the Rambler. I can still remember the excitement and the time it took to get the popcorn and lemonade ready! Finally, after all the preparations, we piled in the car and headed to the theater. We lived about a mile from the drive-in, so it wasn’t a long drive, but the anticipation and excitement made it seem a longer drive.
As we approached the theater, the line of cars seemed so long, and I worried whether there would be a spot for our car. As we paid and drove through, we could see that we were early enough to pick a good spot. My mother tried to park in the middle row in the middle of the lot so we would all be able to see. We parked the car next to the speaker and of course had to test it out to make sure we could hear the sounds coming from the speaker. The movie had not started yet because it was just dusk and not quite dark enough to see a picture. The theater had a concession stand at the back, so you could smell the popcorn and French fries cooking. The sounds in the speaker were the advertisements from the concession stand enticing the listener to get popcorn, Coke and candy. We already had our snacks and were eager to get started eating it.
The movie finally started and it was so exciting to see the picture on the big screen. The first movie our family saw was The Sound of Music. Whenever that movie comes on television, memories of this special night come to life as if it were yesterday. What made this night special was not just the experience of seeing the outdoor movie, but spending that night watching the movie with my mother and my brothers and sisters. - BRENDA SCHACHNER
Locked and loaded
My enduring drive-in memory occurred during my senior year of high school (1975). There were still a few drive-ins left around my home in Marietta, Ga., and my mother’s car was the perfect vehicle for the job. It was a 1969 Lincoln Town Car—a land yacht complete with “suicide” doors, a back seat bigger than many sofas and a trunk that could easily be a six-person Jacuzzi.
Since the local drive-in charged by the person (a princely $2.50 each if I remember correctly) and since we were all always short on cash—and maybe also because we were teenagers and the idea of getting something for nothing was extremely alluring—that trunk held a world of possibilities. To that end, my twin sister and two of her friends, along with me and two of my friends, headed out one spring weekend night. I was driving, and the plan was to stop a block or so from the entrance and two girls and two boys would get in the trunk, leaving only a “couple” in the car and thereby saving a whopping $10.
Everything was going well. I had pulled over and left the car running so we could see in the reflection of the taillights. Unfortunately one of the boys did not want to get in the trunk. After some argument, I decided I would get in and my sister could drive. Great! We got in, closed the trunk and she took off for the short drive to the entrance. It was at this point that I remembered I had the trunk key in my pocket! My sharing of this information initiated a chorus of screams asserting certain death from asphyxiation from the two girls in the trunk, hysterical “nervous” laughter from my sister and a rather bumpy U-turn to head home for a spare key.
The hysteria continued for the entire 20-minute drive to our house and ended when my sister burst into our parents’ dinner party mumbling somewhat incoherently about “a key, the trunk and no air.” (There was plenty of air—we were more likely to die from massive internal injuries due to her driving than suffocation!)
In the end we were all released from our prison with no more than damaged pride—and a week-long grounding. - PETER MCCARTHY
Guy, car, movie. And the winner is?
It was July 17, 1974. My best girlfriend, Deborah Hoff, was helping me move. We were exhausted, so I wheeled my 1966 Dodge Coronet into a Shoney’s Drive-In in West Columbia. About 9:31 p.m., I caught the eyes of a guy cruising through in his 1970 Road Runner Superbird. You couldn’t miss that car. It had a rounded protruding nose, a 26-inch-high wing on the back with the cartoon Road Runner emblem and the word “Plymouth” spelled out in 24-inch black letters on the back fenders.
Deborah started beating me on the arm and yelling, “Look at that car! Look at that car!”
The next thing I knew, this guy pulled up next to us. I couldn’t take my eyes off him.
When Jerry asked me to go for a ride, I finally noticed his car, a 1970 Road Runner Superbird. (Only 1,593 were made.) He was such a gentleman. He even said, “Your girlfriend can go, too.” Then he asked me, “Would you like to go to the movies?” You know the answer to that one, right?
We went to see Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid at the Fox Drive-in Theater on Highway 321 in West Columbia. Popcorn, stargazing, snuggling. Wow!
So you want to know who the winner was? It was me! It was love at first sight.
Twenty years later we had one precious son, Jeremy Runner Tarte, named after (what else) that 1970 Road Runner Superbird. - DEBORAH PADGETT TARTE
Over the fence
Growing up, we had our own personal drive-in theater, but we didn’t drive to it. The Cheraw Drive-in was in the middle of the block behind our house. The entrance was to the left end of the block if you were facing our house. My brothers built a high-rise bench that had three steps up to the top, and it held about eight people. That way, we could see over the tall fence. No, we couldn’t hear the sound, but that didn’t keep the neighborhood youngsters from having a grand time. We had popcorn, peanuts and drinks. Each family chipped in with refreshments.
I must add a caveat here: We had no car, and even if we had one, we would not have been allowed to drive in. You see, this was the Jim Crow era, and negroes/blacks/African-Americans were NOT admitted.
Nevertheless, we watched the movies and made up our own dialogue. The older boys would try to kiss their favorite girls without us younger ones seeing them, but we always saw them and teased them about it.
I cannot recall any of the movies that played there. I just remember that nothing dampened our enthusiasm during those hot South Carolina summer nights. - SANDRA LONG JOHNSON