My best friend’s name was Jacqui. She had a navy blue Jeep and we bounced around Kamloops with Ricky Martin’s Livin’ La Vida Loca blasting from the stereo.
We were young, heading for our 30s and making sure we sucked the marrow dry on every last day of our 20s.
Jacqui was my non-softball-playing friend, but she fit in with the crew. We’d all go to the movies together, and we loved the screamers like Blair Witch Project and the (really quite horrible) House on Haunted Hill.
Then there was the night we all met at the drive-in. It was just on the other side of the Halston bridge, in the shadow of Mt. Paul.
The parking lot was always jammed for the triple-bill nights. But so was the side of the road that passed by the drive-in.
Those were the days after the speakers that attached to your car. You tuned in to an FM radio station to pick up the movie audio. So all you had to do to watch a free movie was get there early enough for a good spot and scan your tuner for the right frequency.
Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.
From what I’ve heard, the drive-in didn’t stay in business for much longer than the summer of ’99. I started dating a (really quite horrible) boy and drifted away from my friends.
Thus, it was with fond memories that I kicked around the site of the old drive-in today, remembering one of the best summers of my life.
The hut where we paid to get in:
The snack shack (also where the washrooms were):
It’s been vandalized outside:
The mini golf course under the projection screen:
And a random chair, left on the other side of the fence, maybe by someone who was cheating the pay system without a car:
Drive-ins are disappearing as part of our North American culture.
More recently than FM frequency issues, the industry is switching from 33-millimetre film to all-digital. It’s expensive (about $100,000 Cdn), forcing many locally owned drive-in theatres to close, according to a recent story in the Toronto Sun.
In the 1950s, there were 250 drive-ins across Canada. (I also went to the drive-in in Sydney, N.S., for triple-bill night, but that was a lifetime and a half ago.)
Fewer than 50 remain in operation north of the 49th parallel, while 368 are open in the U.S. The Starlight Drive-In lives on in Enderby, B.C.
Honda is sponsoring a vote-in contest to preserve “this iconic part of American car culture.” The company is starting a drive-in fund and donating five digital projectors to the drive-ins voted most popular on the Project Drive-in website.
But that’s in the States.
Many theatres in Canada will close and we’ll only be left with the memories.