The Drive-In Experience

Early 1970’s Des Moines newspaper ad for drive-in movies

When I was growing up in Des Moines, Iowa there were drive-in theaters on every side of the city, north, south, east and west. Which one to go watch movies at on a Friday or Saturday night depended on what was playing, the cost, your previous experiences at a given theater (could the place get rowdy, did most of the speakers work, was the concession stand cheap and tasty) and the quality of the playground equipment at the foot of the giant screen for those with kids. Many times a summer movie night at the drive-in would last well into the early morning because of the late starting time (around sunset) and the line up could include previews, a cartoon or two, a kids movie and then the adult double features, which sometimes was extended to three or four movies. Once kids grew bored with the adult movies and had annoyed their parents enough from the back seat of the car they were sent off to the midnight playground. This was a special treat for most, out playing with kids you had never met before, would never see again, under the stars late at night in front of a gigantic screen showing a movie you could not hear. My mom would cook up several batches of popcorn on the stove top and dump it in a paper bag along with melted butter and salt to take with us to the drive-in. Shelly and I had our first date at a drive-in, then went to several more as our romance blossomed. Whether you have experienced a drive-in or not there is still a chance to do so today. Check out to see if one of the few surviving theaters is close to you.

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