Thursday, June 7, 2012

Rural Entertainment

When I was a kid, in the nearby town of Buffalo, MO, there was an outdoor movie theater—a drive-in. I know that doesn’t seem unusual since there were many sprinkled across the USA then, but our drive-in movie was special. The Autoscope did not have one large screen but somewhere around 120 screens (opinions vary on the number) positioned in a circle. Cars would pull into individual parking spots facing a screen that was about the size of the old projection screen—give or take. Next to the car on a post was a clunky box with a cord attached. You would hang this box on your rolled down window which would allow you to hear the movie.
The quality of the picture, for that time, was great. And the audio coming from the clunky boxes was good, too.
Memories of my Autoscope experience:
     Hot muggy nights watching a movie from your car
     Food smells from the concession stand
     Cars cram packed with teenagers
     First dates
     Family outings
     Cats and dogs coming up to your car
     My boyfriend (became my husband) wanting me to sneak him into the drive-in in the trunk of his car so he wouldn’t have to pay.  (He’d done it before. I declined. But, I thought it was funny.)
     A violent second date with someone who took out his frustration (can't remember why) on the windshield of his father’s car and thankfully not me. (I can’t believe I dated him 2 or 3 more times before ending it. He was clearly unbalanced. I discovered the reason why—later.)

I watched many movies at the the Autoscope, but I only remember a few. The first (I think) was with my folks: Bonnie and Clyde. I thought the movie was very exciting. I found out later the movie didn’t cover all their murderous ways.
The thing I remember most about this movie was Bonnie’s (Faye Dunaway) hair.  If you know me at all then you may remember my curly hair woes.  I tried to make my puffy hair be smooth and fashionable like Ms. Faye Dunaway, but without the product and machines of today and it was not going to happen. Instead, my best friend who had  straight hair mimicked the style perfectly.   
I can only remember a few titles of the movies I saw at the Autoscope, but there were others.

     Bonnie and Clyde

     And a slasher movie .I can’t recall its title but I can remember the slashing--yuck.

Sometime in the mid (I think) 70’s the Autoscope’s individual screens were replaced by a big screen. We took our children to see movies on it, but it wasn’t the same.  

Read more about the Autoscope
Reminisce magazine has an article and photo of it here. 
You can see a postcard of it here.
An article (1954) from the Box Office Magazine seen here tells about the Autoscope projection process, shows an aerial view of the drive-in and a photo of the concession stand.
Missouri still has a few drive-in movies see here. One of which, I'd like to visit is the Sunset Drive-in in Aurora, Missouri.
You would think growing up in a rural community in the 6o's and 70's would mean a life without entertainment, but not at all. We lived within 30 miles of a couple of towns that held entertainment opportunities. The drive in movie theaters were just one source of fun.  
I will always cherish my childhood entertainment memories with one of those being the Autoscope Drive-In.


Kelly said...

I remember several drive-ins in my hometown, but I don't know that I've ever seen an Autoscope. Very interesting!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Teresa .. great story - and that chap sounds very odd .. I hope you'll give us a glimpse of what happened later on.

I only ever went to those Drive-Ins in Johannesburg .. once or twice - but never thought they'd have individual screens as in the Autoscope .. fascinating to read about ..

Cheers Hilary

Lynn Proctor said...

so cool--i too have many great memories of the drive-in theaters--we have one not too far from us--i have been meaning to check it out

Arlee Bird said...

I have never heard of such a thing. It sounds very expensive and complex to set up and maintain.

I used to go see many movies at the drive-in theaters--with my parents and then when I was older with friends. Saw all those same ones you saw and many more. I can remember feeling so creepy after watching Night of the Living Dead.

An A to Z Co-Host
Tossing It Out

Brenda Kay Ledford said...

This a great posting on drive-in movies. It brought back a lot of memories. We had a drive-in near our home, too. It was a lot of fun going to the drive-in movies.

Judy SheldonWalker said...

I loved our drive in church in Manitou Beach. It showed Billy Graham movies, and we would lay in the grass in front of the big screen with a PIC to ward off mosquitoes. Movies were considered taboo by my strict father, so drive in church was a real treat!!

Helen Ginger said...

What an interesting drive-in! When I was a child, I had a drive-in in my backyard almost. You just walked through the backyard, up a hill and there was the drive-in. My mother was the projectionist. Got to see a lot of movies, but, of course, some were off limits. In that case, I'd lay in bed and listen to the faraway sounds coming from the speakers.

CM said...

This is so interesting! I've never heard of an autoscope theatre! So was this the only one in the country?

Also, just some thoughts on your writing, if you don't mind...this short piece feels more informational. I think if you turned this in to memoir, expanded on the sights and smells, and the intrigue of such a unique experience would draw the reader in more. This could be a great short story, part of the arc of the story could be the contrast between the really bad date (violent one) and ending with you at the theatre with your future husband. Just my two cents :-)