According to Google, today is the 79th anniversary of the Drive-In Theater. I have very fond memories of summer nights spent at the drive-in; nights that span most of my 47 years. Most drive-in theaters are kaput, and have been for quite some time. However, I am lucky enough to have a fully operational, good old-fashioned drive-in theater in the next town over.

But more on that later. First, let’s go back in time…

My first drive-in experiences were at The Hackensack Drive-in in Little Ferry, NJ, a short drive down Rt. 46 from my hometown. It was located right next to a bridge, and even if we weren’t going to the movies, it was always cool to watch what was playing on the big screen as we drove by. My parents took us to this theater often, but not to see the latest Disney offering.

They would cover the back of the station wagon with blankets and pillows, and take us to see the movies they wanted to see. We were just thrilled to get out of the house and play in the rusty playground right under the screen. Once we were tired, and filled with popcorn and soda, we’d crash in the rear of the wagon, and mom and dad had the night to themselves.

Some of the movies we were dragged to were priceless – movies that no kid would have the slightest interest in seeing – movies like “A Man Called Horse,” “Walkabout” and “Bang the Drum Slowly.” I don’t mean to infer that these are bad movies, but to a 7 year old? Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

When I got older, I’d go to this very same theater with my friends John & Joe. We saw “Moonraker” in the pouring rain, and a plethora of bad horror films like “Don’t Look in the Basement” and “Last House on the Left.” Sadly, the Hackensack Drive-in was torn down in the 80’s and replaced by apartment buildings. Boo. However, there was another theater to take it’s place.

Enter the Paramus Drive-in.

My lord did I have fun at that place. It had always been there, but with the Hackensack theater so close to us, we never went to the Paramus Drive-in. But once John and I discovered that place, we were there most weekends in the summer. One of the pluses to this theater was that the sound came in over the radio. No more scratchy window speakers that let out the AC and let in the mosquitoes.

At first they charged admission by the person. That’s when we’d park outside the entrance and put 3 or 4 people in the trunk of my Pontiac Catalina. The driver and shotgun passenger would pay for themselves and once in and parked (far from the ticket taker and snack stand) we’d open the trunk and let out our fellow movie goers. I think we got caught once and had to pay for our stow-aways, but we got away with it most of the time. Then they changed their admission to one price per carload, which while a bit more convenient, took some of the fun out of the evening.

Paramus had quite a few movie theaters – it was sort of the place to go if you wanted to see the latest blockbuster. Therefore, the drive-in, not being able to compete with the big mega-plexes, showed movies that were off the radar. And those kinds of movies were right up our alley. My best friend John and I loved bizarre, crusty movies, and they would play 2 or 3 of these in a row. From dusk to 1 am we would bust on some of the worst movies to ever come out of Hollywood, and usually drink lots of beer – another good feature of the drive-in.

Uff Da!

I can remember there being a Russ Meyer weekend, and John and I sat through “Super Vixens” and “Beneath the Valley of the Ultra Vixens.” What a pair, and I’m not just talking about the movies! Boobs, boobs and more boobs! What was the plot? I don’t remember!

Saturday nights at the Paramus Drive-in also introduced me to gems like “The Warriors,” “Piranha,” (were talking the original 1978 version), and “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” Seeing Leatherface stalk that group of unsuspecting teens in a drive in was scary enough, but the cut our theater got was really rough, and it made the movie seem like a snuff film. It was super creepy.

The Paramus Drive-In followed in the path of many drive-ins and closed in the late 80’s. I had gone years and years with only memories of my drive in experiences until we moved to Virginia. After setting up residence in our Lake Community, I saw a flyer at a gas station promoting the upcoming movie schedule at the Fork Union Drive in.

What? A drive-in? Really? A few weeks later, we drove in to see Clockstoppers & Ice Age. My youngest daughter was just an infant at the time, but my oldest was 7 and adored it. I have to confess, we don’t go that often – usually because my youngest was always such a handful as a child it was easier to just avoid the movies all together other than renting DVDs.

The Fork Union Drive-In: Small, Cheesy and Utterly Wonderful

But last year my oldest wanted to go to meet a bunch of kids from school, and we all went, and it was really fun. My kids got to run around with friends while my husband and I spent the entire first movie trying to figure out how to keep our hatchback open without the dome light coming on. After that I fell asleep.

Wait, didn’t I do that as a child too?

I’m just glad that we have one of these cinematic gems nearby. Thanks to our lousy HOA, my kids don’t get to live the thrill of chasing the ice cream truck – but dammit, they know the joy of watching a bad double feature under the stars.