Experiencing Real Life Inside a Drive-in Theater

Updated on February 1, 2018
kenneth avery profile image

Kenneth is a natural-born southerner and grew up his entire life in the south where he has resided now for 63 years in Hamilton, Al.,

This Introduction is Sad

and written in a truthful spirit. I make no promises that every grammatical discipline has been instilled in this narrative, but I do promise you my best effort about the text below. Naturally I would love it if you liked this narrative enough to inspire you to call your best friend who resides in another state and tell you about this hub. That will be my reward for presenting you a slice of life when I was a kid living where I still do, in Hamilton, Ala. Thanks for reading this. Kenneth.

Milford Drive-In Theater at dusk.
Milford Drive-In Theater at dusk. | Source

Have You Ever Wondered

why when God, the Creator, was creating everything that was made, He knew His business well--no matter if it was a piece of Pine bark or a toothpick, He knew everything about "that" creation from top to bottom. He never made one piece of junk, just good things. And In my humble opinion, He did a tremendous job.

Now, I take you to "my" all-time favorite place: our local drive-in theater--that went by the business name, Ford Drive-in Theater. The owner, one, White Bedford, a throw-back to the Carnival Barker Era, who could talk you into driving into the movies that he had playing even though you were not the mood to watch the escapades of "James Bond, 007," Bruce Lee: "Enter The Dragon," to name two classic films that Bedford played.

If you were among the thousands whose thinking went just so far and judged that a drive-in was just another place to make-out with a hot girl in the backseat, you, pardon my candor, didn't know much. The drive-in theater was more of a Life in and within itself. Every speaker on every pole had its place. So did Mr. Bedford's popcorn, soda's, and other treats. Even if Mr. Bedford were asked, and I'm sure that over his time of owning Ford Drive-in Theater, he was asked if his creation was more of a business or something that was alive? More people than you think would go with the latter response--for in any given Friday or Saturday night, most of my hometown, Hamilton, Ala., was at that one drive-in. And everyone, Mr. Bedford and employees, had one great time.

Drive-in near Ft. Payne, Al., Drive-in's like this one are still in business due to the patrons all being so tight-knit in their hometown.
Drive-in near Ft. Payne, Al., Drive-in's like this one are still in business due to the patrons all being so tight-knit in their hometown. | Source

Would-be patrons would drive-up to the entrance of the theater, read (from those big posters) what "shows" as it was known, were on the huge screen made from solid-white tile and was held up by 12 or 14 huge Pine logs that endured high winds, hail, and thunderstorms that came roaring through the area. The screen and log frame's durability were living testaments to the pride of those who designed and built the structure.

Customers who wanted to watch a "hit" movie, would drive past the entrance to where one of Bedford's employees would meet them to take in the ticket price--$2.50, adults, and $1.00 for youngsters from one to 10. Mr. Bedford was always thinking of ways to improve his drive-in. The most creative invention was his PA system which consisted of two speakers that sat above the big box (that held the movie posters) at the entrance of the drive-in and Mr. Bedford, who was in the office, could "bark" out coming attractions, and other notices--the low cost of his World-Famous Bedford Beef Burger. This was the main draw to the theater, not his "B" movies. But Bedford was a business man at heart, and never complained about more people buying his Beef Burgers than who watched his film selections.

When I turned 16, like every teenager in the USA, went to get his Driver's License. Not as much to drive his family's car, but have access to "wheels" on the weekend, and head to the Ford Drive-in where another form of life was always near: couples who started kissing in the front seat while "James Bond" was on the movie screen, ended up in the boyfriend's back seat for the rest of the "show." The place was packed every weekend, but on a week-night, the draw for customers was small. My hometown was made up of Working Class people and they had their own routine--get up around 6 am., get to work by 7 am., get off work at 3;30 or 4 pm. and be in bed by 9 or 10, Monday through Friday. But on Friday and Saturday night(s), it was movie night at the ONE drive-in. But during all of Bedford's prosperity, he never once raised the price of his tickets.

I told you earlier about the drive-in being (a) life within life itself, well besides the die-hard movie fans, even those who owned TVs, loved to be somewhere on weekends and have something to look forward to. Mr. Bedford was not "just" a thinker, but a visionary. He knew that by hiring only the best cooks to cook the best beef chuck into his "Bedford Beef Burgers," along with the hot dogs, scooped ice cream, name-brand soft drinks, coffee, and french fries, that he could keep customers coming back to see a movie and eat supper and still have money in their pockets. I am proud to confess that I would meet my buddies, Steve and Billy Mullins; James; Gary and Glenn Childers; Donnie Avery and Dwight "Oz" Ausborn, the eight of us were like a gang, but not in the 2018 sense.

On any given Friday or Saturday night, you could detect every known brand-name perfume, cologne, men's shaving lotion, hair tonic, and the smoke of those name-brand cigarettes and cigars. Most everyone knew everyone in our drive-in, so "going to the show" meant meeting other friends that you maybe had just talked to in school or on the job, and talking to each other in an outside-setting such a drive-in was thought to be special, or at least we thought our times at the drive-in in that way.

A group here, another group there--all talking, laughing, and of course there would be those off-color jokes someone would tell and one could tell the quality of the joke by the amount and depth of laughter it produced. And the most important aspect of the Drive-in Experience (to us) was: finding out who was going steady or breaking up. That news was first. Then one time, one of us, I forget who, told news of some lady in her early 20s had just married a guy, but was seen with another man at this very drive-in. We suspected that either Mr. Bedford or someone he paid to do it, started racy rumors like this one to attract customers to see which man or woman who might be cheating. Now do you understand why a drive-in was a lot more than just a place to sit and watch a movie?

We would sit at the drive-in and leave our car doors open and while the movie was playing we would just be talking away about what was new in our lives, what girl was available and what jobs are coming open in our small town. Life was like Real Life: made up of the sum of a lot of small things in life namely those wonderful memories of our own Teen Haven: Ford's Drive-in Theater.

___________________________________________________Feb. 1, 2018

This has to be THE saddest sights ever. It is not as sad as some tragedies, but I saw our drive-in grow, live and slowly die.
This has to be THE saddest sights ever. It is not as sad as some tragedies, but I saw our drive-in grow, live and slowly die. | Source

Closing Remarks____________________________________

for me at this time, are tough. I saved the third and bottom photo of a drive-in theater that is now just a shell of a business--like a lot of those empty buildings in small or big towns in our country. Sad is not the word.

I remember the day when I learned that our own Ford Drive-in Theater had been shut down. My friends and I did not have the courage to even drive by and see what happened to one of our icon's in our younger days.

Then one day, my wife and I drove by the place where my friends and I did a lot of our growing in and about life. The only reminders of our Life Back Then was the big screen---now almost slumped to one side, making it look like a wounded soldier trying desperately to make each step before taking his last breath.

Now, this was SAD.

Thank you for reading my articles.


Questions & Answers

    © 2018 Kenneth Avery


      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      • KatWin profile image

        Kathy Burton 2 months ago from Florida

        I missed the opportunities to take my kids to drive in theatre because they were gone. And I miss my high school days at theatre. They were fun. Thanks for bringing back the memories.


      • kenneth avery profile image

        Kenneth Avery 2 months ago from Hamilton, Alabama

        Hello, Robin -- you, John, and myself need to pool our cash, fly to a central site and all agree to attend a drive-in and I will pay for the rental car.

        Do I have a deal?

        I can dream about drive-in's with none of them open. But like CB radios, they resurfaced as Cell phones. I would not rule out that drive-in's make a comeback when society grows weary of TV, CDs, DVDs and get in some Real Entertainment, but I seriously doubt that everyone will like them--the elite, high-class wealthy folks.

        All I can say is: you are missing a real treat.

        Robin, thanks for the sweet comment and write me anytime.

      • kenneth avery profile image

        Kenneth Avery 2 months ago from Hamilton, Alabama

        Hi, John -- my friend, you do not know how to life in (the) setting of the drive-in movie in my day. Robin makes a great point about people communicating better then is true. Now if I see a friend, I stand and hmmm, uhhhh, fumbling for what to say, but in my day Talking to Friends in a drive-in was what an outing was all about.

        I appreciate you stopping by and write me anytime.

      • profile image

        Faith-Hope-Love 2 months ago

        I have seen Drive ins but never had the experience of being in one. So, I cannot comment in any way. I have heard other people lament of their demise. I have also heard Folks express their regrets on the Loss of Dance Halls / Ballrooms. I did enjoy reading your essay. Thanks. John

      • RobinReenters profile image

        Robin Carretti 2 months ago from Hightstown

        Love that drive-in theater too many icon places have been closed we need to reopen them again and let these places live on. How people communicated so well then.