Reflections: The Drive-In

Hindsight: Laura Hinds reminisces about growing up in Danvers.

In the 1970's, and probably long before that, the Route 114 Drive-In located in Middleton was the place to be on a Friday or Saturday night. You could catch a double-feature, get some eats at the snack bar, and hang out with a wide variety of people. Families came by the station-wagon-full and teens who had cars packed them full with their friends. 

Although I never did it myself, I know that people even found ways to sneak in on foot. I don't remember the exact price, but I'm guessing that it was only about five dollars a car. They offered these clunky speakers that you hooked on the car door with the window rolled down, and you had the option of two different movies, one on the front screen and one on the rear, with each offering at two movies, sometimes even three. 

There was an area for kids to play and places to set up lawn chairs as well. The snack bar onion rings were legendary, as well as over-sized tubs of popcorn that were continuously being made fresh. It was fun to watch the kids run around and play until it grew dark enough for the movies to start. Then, families would settle down to watch the commercials, the previews and then the first feature film. The mosquitoes would be out in full force and the smell of DEET-laden bug spray permeated the air, although it was cut by the odor of countless cigarettes- including those of dubious content. 

By the time the first movie was over, the little ones would be petering out. It wasn't unusual to see a parent holding a toddler by the hand as they made their way to the restrooms for one last visit. Pajamas, robes and slippers were a common sight, and if not slippers, at least footie pajamas to keep the little toes from getting stubbed on the pebbles that were everywhere.

 The speakers crackled, but the sound was OK. Preteens often stretched out on the hood or the trunk of the car, sometimes even both so they could watch some of each screen's moving picture. Teens were either hunkered down in groups, laughing and joking and hanging out, or in pairs, holding hands and sneaking furtive kisses. Although if they had their own car, some teens, well- I'll let you imagine what went on- although probably nothing more than some serious making out. After all, the other kids would know your car, and they would be merciless about banging on the hood or suddenly opening the doors! 

There aren't many drive-ins left around here.  It's really too bad, as it was a ritual a great many of us enjoyed and it truly was fun for all ages. I bet most kids today, if asked about a drive-in would be hard pressed to answer about anything other than a drive-thru restaurant, and would even correct the asker by saying "its drive-thru, not drive-in." 

I don't know exactly when the Route 114 Drive-In closed. I don't know when I last went there. Surely it was after I had graduated from in 1980, but I don't think I ever went with my husband, not even when we started dating in 1982. The drive-in was torn down eventually and the area now is the home of Middleton Market Place, where Market Basket is main feature.

I can summon a vague sense of sadness at hearing the drive-thru was closing, but it means more to me now than it did then. Although, if I face the reality of it, watching a movie at home where I can stop and start it at will, have my own bathroom facilities, and be in a mosquito free environment, I can understand why drive-ins disappeared.  

Yet somewhere, deep inside, a sense of nostalgia is stirred and for a brief moment I can smell the food from the snack bar, hear the unique local commercials before the movie, and summon the images of the movies "Alien", "Jaws" and "Animal House" to name just a few.  Ah, those were the days!

Dale Marino July 30, 2011 at 12:39 PM
Hello Laura! Another wonderful trip down memory lane.....I like how you speak about the vague sadness...yet feel it more now. Me too! I never really enjoyed them due to the mosquitos....I used to look around and think...don't these people hate the bugs? Yet sad...to see such a simple time gone.
Denise July 30, 2011 at 12:55 PM
loved rt. 114 drive in
Cathy Price July 30, 2011 at 01:09 PM
When to the 114 Drive in on a first date with my now husband back in 1981. We have been together now almost 30 years. Also, I think towards the end, we didn't use speakers anymore. I think we were able to get it on the car radio. Have many memories about my parents packing up six kids, paper bags full of goodies and lots of soda and hopping into the station wagon in our jammies.
Rhonda Giarratana August 01, 2011 at 02:51 AM
My husband and I have long since thought someday we would try to open a Drive-IN. I really miss being able to share that experience with my own kids. I grew up on Andover St and frequented the Drive-in as a child and a Teen. I do remember when they mentioned they would be closing, however it stayed open 1 year longer than they originally claimed and Yes, it did switch to obtaining the sound from the radio. I remember being able to continue to listen to the movie as we drove out or pick it up if we were mearly driving by. The Sub shop that was right there next to the drive in had Excellent Italian and American subs. Thanks for taking us down memory lane, Laura.
Marcia Greene August 13, 2011 at 05:07 PM
That big old weeping willow tree is still there where the entrance to the drive-in was located...definitely remember going with my family as a kid...in our pj's....my Dad would back into the space and we would sit in the back of the Chevy "beachwagon" and watch the movie..we used to think it was a riot when he would take us to the playground up front and we could see our giant shadows on the screen!!!!!..


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