A Slice of Americana Pie

The sun dissolves slowly into a pool of red behind the mountains. Cars crawl slowly across a parking lot of asphalt hills in neat rows toward a while billboard. The smell of yellow butter popcorn and the soft fizz of Coke and Dr. Pepper drift between the headlights. Kids climb in truck beds, adults set up lawn chairs. Car radios tuned to the pre-cinematic static on 90.3 FM bleed out through open doors and tailgates. Behind the screen, a two-seater prop plane is prepped for take-off from the regional airport on the other side of the fence. A projector flickers to life and simultaneous sound pours out of a hundred radios.

The past holds power over us. Nostalgia has an undeniable draw, a siren song of simpler times. Old styles reemerge; old technologies are re-embraced. It doesn’t matter how many songs an iPhone can store in hi-fidelity digital form — we hang on to our vinyl records and cherish their low-fi analog sound. No matter how much I love the latest gadgets, I’m still captivated by mid-century design or find myself transfixed by a peeling ice cream advertisement painted on the brick wall of a forgotten alley. I love being immersed in the lost world of the past.

There are places like drive-in movie theaters that capture our imagination and transport us back to a time when we assume that life was less complicated than it is now. Of course, life has always been a complicated, messy business, but for a few hours, we can eat our popcorn and pretend otherwise. The drive-in won’t tell.

Still, drive-ins are dying. In 1958, there were nearly 5,000 in operation across the country. Today, there are just 367 left. In a few years, they may be as extinct as the zeppelin and the Packard. They can’t compete with the multiplex theater forever — but for now, the past comes to life every night at sunset.

It may be hot, the guy in the car facing you might accidentally flip his headlights on several times and the radio may crackle, but it’s a small price to pay for one night to escape the crushing onslaught of modernity. While the screens still stand, a piece of living, homegrown history is just a short drive away.

— 30 —

If you’re hip, you’ll follow my old-school rants and raves on the newfangled Twitter machine: @jonnyeberle. As always, I love to hear your thoughts, comments and stories in the comments.

Published by Jonny Eberle

Writer, photographer, blogger and filmmaker in the City of Destiny. You can find my blog at www.jweberle.com.

7 thoughts on “A Slice of Americana Pie

  1. Ah, memories! What drive-in is this in Vegas? There used to be one I went to all the time as a kid on Rancho, but I thought it had closed.

    1. That’s the one on Rancho. Still open and the only one in the area that I’m aware of. I used to live in Vegas in the ’90s and it was nice to see that it was still running.

      1. Interesting. I was sure I’d heard they closed it; maybe they opened it back up again. That’s fun though for the people that still live there.

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