Looking Back to the '70s—Going to the Drive-In

Did anyone really watch the movie?

Although the was our hangout throughout grammar school and junior high, our rite of passage as teenagers was getting behind the wheel and heading to the local drive-in. There, the screen seemed larger than the Empire State Building, and the parked possibilities inside an American sedan seemed endless.

I remember dating a fellow named Bob Sosnick, a handsome horned-rimmed lad who used be a busboy at that Russian restaurant, an architectural wonder near the Kirkwood Bowling Alley on Ventura Boulevard.

On Saturday nights, flush with tips, we'd head to the drive-in. The one I remember most fondly was the Van Nuys Drive In, at 15040 Roscoe Blvd., which was built in 1948. Originally, it could hold 890 cars, and at one point, its capacity swelled to 1,400. Can you imagine hundreds of teens groping and guzzling in the front and back seats on a hot Saturday night? I remember it well.

The parking lots of the drive-ins had these cement moguls. I think you had to park your car a certain way so that the viewing of the screen would be optimum, not that we were watching much of the movie.

My date would pull into a spot, crank down the window, and shove one of those wire speakers inside where it would grab and claw onto the glass, it’s ugly metallic face staring at you while the movie played.

Looking at the speaker gave me the creeps as it reminded me of my mother’s Catholic wrath had she known what was going on inside our car. I’m sure when I went to confession on Sundays, my litany of sins included my escapades at the drive-in.

Sometimes there would be two couples in each car, all four of us in hot pursuit of one another. I don’t remember much of the movies that were playing for obvious reasons, but I do remember the concession stand, and all the wonderful food that was there to help punctuate the evening.

Remember Good ‘n Plenty (what a name for a candy!), chocolate covered raisins, the endless soda and those huge tubs of popcorn?  The beam of the daisy-colored lights at the concession stand promised all types of treats.

The drive-in was also a great escape for families, since the theater only charged by the car. When I was a toddler, eight of us managed to cram into our Ford sedan. In the back seat, we were all wailing and screaming while the movie soundtrack tried to make itself heard.

As a teen, I had other boyfriends who also took me to the drive-in. One in particular was named Alan Cirlin. His parents' car was a jade-colored Plymouth, as I recall, with the dashboard looking like some sci-fi movie of push buttons, scary green lights and a host of knobs.

The fins at the rear of the car stuck out like big fish tails. I think the upholstery was some print pattern of Naugahyde, a popular vinyl fabric of the day.

Whether you parked at the Pickwick, Victory, San-Val, Reseda, Sepulveda, Winnetka or Van Nuys drive-ins, a few bucks was all you needed to have a night filled with pleasure, fright and a little cozy companionship.

teresa mcgrath July 12, 2011 at 01:08 PM
great article mary, many kids snuck in thru the trunk too. on a hot evening, it was the place to be, the neon beckoning, the concessions tasty. the '50's era cars were beautiful with all the chrome, running boards, and metal visors.
Mary McGrath July 12, 2011 at 01:18 PM
And there were very few bucket seats, which made it even easier to enjoy your date!
teresa mcgrath July 12, 2011 at 03:01 PM
right, bucket seats were for the mustangs. no seatbelts and regular seating allowed many to cram in.
Andy Steiner July 22, 2011 at 07:42 AM
Pshah! The bucket seats on my 65 Dodge Dart posed no problem. Slide both seats as far forward as possible, lean the seat backs forward, climb in back and see if you could steam up the windows before the trailers were done.
Andy Steiner July 22, 2011 at 07:48 AM
I remember when $5.00 on a Friday night, would fill the car's gas tank, buy two admissions to the drive-in of your choice. Triple feature horror shows were best for good mileage if ya know what I mean. There was enough left over for burgers at Big Boy on Van Nuys Blvd. and a wee spot of cruising. After all that, there was still plenty gas for two days at the beach and getting back and forth to school the rest of the week.
Mary McGrath July 22, 2011 at 01:15 PM
Right, all the steam! Go Andy, go!


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