“Pretty cool – sitting in a car and watching a movie” — This was the reaction the first time we took our grandchildren to the drive-in theater. They were so impressed that it has evolved into an annual summer tradition. Definitely a Bucket’s Choice on the Kids Trail.
We had taken our children during the 1970s and ’80s and were so glad it had survived to take our grandchildren decades later. My husband and I had grown up going to the drive-in movies. The one near Winchester is almost identical to the 1960s venue where we spent many an evening with friends and family.
But back to the present — that first visit with our grandchildren has become an yearly family outing when our four grandchildren, ages 4 to 12, visit at the same time during the summer for our annual grandparents camp. A trip to the Family Drive-In on U.S. 11 south of Winchester is at the top of the list of activities for the week.
Over the years, we have honed the procedure so everyone is accommodated – they all have special requests that we want to make sure are met. We take the car and the truck so everyone is comfortable. The car is to get them there and the pickup truck becomes the main setting for watching the movie – lawn chairs, blankets, pillows, etc. are arranged so everyone has the best, unobstructed view!
The smaller kids are positioned in the front and the taller in the back while the we take up residence on the ground on each side of the tailgate to monitor activities during the movie and quick bathroom breaks.
Trips to the snack bar are arranged by age – we get there early enough to get what we want before the movie starts. Wouldn’t want to miss a second of the film — although when necessary bathroom breaks must be taken, the volume from the speakers is loud enough so you can hear the movie and see it while maneuvering the path to the desired destination.
The whole experience is definitely a trip back in time as the speakers still attach to the windows of the vehicles. The snack bar in the 1950-1960 vintage retains the authenticity with no do-it-yourself soda machines, and popcorn is still very visible in the familiar large machine, spewing kernels out, filling the air with a delectable aroma that no one can resist. Some people opt to pay a fee and bring their own food – we have thought about it but the snack bar is so enticing and a fun experience.
One addition in this 2000s edition of the drive-in movies is someone from the management driving around all evening making sure everyone is happy and satisfied. Any needed assistance is given quickly. Also, a second screen gives many more movie choices than in former days so there is always a movie for children.
Another observation is the large number of families in attendance as child after child is visible in pickup trucks and vans or on blankets on the ground. It is especially noticeable at certain movies that appeal to the youngest of the movie-goers. The small voices ring out in unison for something only a four-year-old would enjoy. Our grandson was one of those at a Minion movie last summer. His sweet little laugh could be heard, joining with other small voices throughout the property.
We usually don’t stay for the second feature due to the late hour, but this year may be a first as they are a little older. Movies start when it is dark enough to see the screen so it is usually 9 p.m. in the summer.
Cleaning out the vehicle the next day is a challenge but worth the enjoyment of the night before.
If you haven’t been in years or have never been, be sure to visit as soon as you can. There aren’t many drive-in movie locations left in the U.S. We are lucky to have one so close to us in Winchester. Grab the kids, pile in the car or truck or both, and head out for a fun evening as a sentimental journey or as first time outdoor movie-goers. This year The Family Drive In is celebrating its 60th anniversary. Plan to attend and if you have pets there is a weekend for devoted to pets.