Me, attempting my best Rocky Balboa pose, Summer 1977
The first movie I can remember going to the drive-in was Woody Allen's 1969 classic Take the Money and Run, although it must have been at least three or four years after it was made in order for me to remember it (I seriously doubt that I remembered it as a 10-month-old!).
But it was the summers of 1976, 1977 and 1978 that give me really fond drive-in memories. My dad had purchased a Ford Econoline van — silver blue with a silver top. It had a ladder on the back and you could climb to the top of the it. It was the perfect movie-going experience.
Where we lived in Michigan, it sat far west on the Eastern Time Zone, which meant that it would stay light until 9:30-10 at night. I'd wear my pajamas, since it was so late. Mom would pack cans of orange pop from the Meijer's Thrifty Acres. Dad would buy a bag of popcorn at the concession stand. We'd wheel the van in for a prime spot, and as it got dark, I'd climb up on top, and gaze at the giant screen.
Star Wars. Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Rocky. Jaws. Grease. The Revenge of the Pink Panther. Huge movies that weren't on TV, video tape or DVD.
It could be past midnight when my dad would wake me, woozy with sleep and the balmy early morning air. Down from the van I'd come and fall asleep on the bed in the back for the short drive home. I don't think I ever saw a movie at the drive-in to completion.
I was the prime age for Star Wars. Yet, I never got into it like many of my friends did. I didn't have — nor did I ask for — action figures, or the desire to dress up like Darth Vader or a Storm Trooper like many kids would do. Still, the film, and the way I saw it, was a definite part of my summer.
1976, 1977 and 1978. They truly were blockbuster drive-in years.
As I remember, the Ypsi-Ann Drive-In closed by about 1980.