Bob Bestler

An attempt at retaining street cred while attending an old-school drive-in movie

Joe Barth, co-owner of the Hwy 21 Drive-In, changes the movies listed on their sign on Friday, September 30, 2016, at the Hwy 21 Drive-In in Beaufort. “This is the job that no one likes to do, but someone has to do it.”
Joe Barth, co-owner of the Hwy 21 Drive-In, changes the movies listed on their sign on Friday, September 30, 2016, at the Hwy 21 Drive-In in Beaufort. “This is the job that no one likes to do, but someone has to do it.” dearley@islandpacket.com

The first drive-in movie theater opened 85 years ago in Camden, N.J., when Richard Hollingshead took a cue from the drive-in restaurants that were becoming popular.

It was an idea whose time had come and during the 1950s there were more than 4,000 outdoor movie screens in the United States.

That was about the time I attended my first drive-in movie.

I had gone with my mother and a friend of hers - dragged might be a good word - to see some boring thing called "Gone With the Wind."

I was about 10 and the only thing I recall is waking up several times in the back seat, amazed that the thing was still on. Seems I had no idea how many hours a four-hour movie could take.

Over the years, I've spent many more hours at drive-ins, first as a low-paid Marine, then as a father of two boys who loved the playground at a nearby Charlotte drive-in. That was before the same theater tried to forestall its slide into oblivion by showing X-rated movies.

The last drive-in movie I attended was "The Omen," with my wife Elaine and our baby daughter Lori, who is now in her 40s, sleeping in the back seat.

According to the AAA magazine, GO, only about 300 drive-ins still exist in the U.S.

A couple reasons for the decline are obvious - the advent of color television and the growth of VCRs and video rentals. Today you could also blame Netflix, I suppose.

Another important reason: The near universal adoption of daylight savings time. Longer days meant later start times for drive-ins, often past 9 p.m. - and later bedtimes for moms and pops and kids. Bye-bye drive-ins.

One of the four remaining in South Carolina according to GO is Highway 21 Drive-in in Beaufort, located midway between the Marine Corps Air Base and Marine housing at Laurel Bay.

And this week, while camping in Hunting Island State Park, we decided to try it. Auld lang syne and all that.

It had four movies, and we decided on "Black Panther," partly because it is such a cultural phenomenon, partly so I could keep up my street cred (whatever that means).

So on Tuesday night we packed a sandwich and headed for the drive-in. As we pulled in Ms. Elaine read the marquee's fine print: "Open Fri, Sat & Sun." Rats.

We also saw a sign prohibiting "outside food" because "concessions help pay the bills." Double rats.

Well, no matter. We've now got the itch and we'll try it again when we return to Hunting Island with two grandsons on a weekend in July. Hope it's still open by then.

Contact Bob Bestler at bestler6@tds.net.

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