Monday, July 19, 2010


Growing up, I lived a few streets away from the Jolly Roger Drive-In theater. When I was really little, we actually went to this theater a few times, but into the 1970's, and I have no idea how they got away with this, the theater started showing some hard R and maybe even X rated movies, it’s a little hard to remember, except that my parents were outraged, of course. And, so you understand, this was not in the middle of nowhere. This was in the middle of a suburban neighborhood and any kid was free to go over to the street that ran next to the theater and feast on carnal knowledge better left unknown.

But they showed other things too, especially in the late sixties and early seventies. I remember watching one of the Ray Harryhausen movies on the street that ran next to the theater, trying to figure out what the people were saying, but still amazed at the images on the screen. I believe it was one of the Sinbad movies, but it’s hard to remember.

Almost all of my movie viewing during the first 10 or 13 years of my life was done at a Drive-In theater. I saw Disney’s The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes (good old Dexter Riley, played by the incomparable Kurt Russell). I saw some Disney Animated films, and I always loved every minute of it. I would watch my siblings slowly doze off as the night wore on into the second show, wondering how they could stand to miss the movie.

I loved the popcorn and the “shrimp” roles that had who knows what really in them. I sure don’t think it was shrimp. I loved the atmosphere. I loved the way the gravel made noise under the car as you slowly made your way to just the right spot to park and see the show. I loved everything about the Drive In. The whole thing.

I think my favorite Drive In experience was when I saw Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory at the Ecorse Drive-In. This was in a suburb outside of Detroit. I would have been a very impressionable eight years old at the time. My family and I were eating at a little burger joint we went to a lot that was across the street, near the Ecorse Drive In. When we pulled out of the restaurant, instead of turning left for home, like we usually did, we turned right and went into the Drive In. I still vividly remember this moment. We all shouted and screamed, we were so happy to be going to the show. My parents laughed at us.

You need to understand that we almost never did this. We couldn’t afford it. So it was once, maybe twice a year at best. For us, this was a very big deal indeed.

And it was Willy Wonka. And it was amazing.

This movie still holds a special place in my heart, partly because it’s such a great movie, with strong songs and a performance by Gene Wilder that is completely worth the price of admission. But also because I can still remember the light of the movie shining on my parents faces in the front seat. I remember looking and thinking about the shape of their faces. I remember the smell of the popcorn and the glow that filled our car as we huddled together quietly in the dark, listening to the little speaker hanging on the window.

Entranced and at peace, we were a family. We had scars. We had been broken. Life was not perfect, but this was one of the good days. We were one.

Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2010


  1. I never did see this movie in its entirety, but Gene Wilder is really creepy if you ask me. I'm not sure I could get through the whole thing.

  2. That kind of creepy, yet not, kind of nice, but mean, kind of cruel, but funny, is all what makes the characterization so great, in my opinion. It has a complexity you don't usually see in kids movies, and yet it's not really threatening at all in a way that would make you want to keep your kid away from it. But it's not for everyone, I know. A friend once said this was one of the worst movies she ever saw. I just smiled when she said it. But I find the movie to be wonderful.


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