There aren’t many things more American than baseball and apple pie. Except perhaps, for drive-in movie theaters. The mere mention of these bits of Americana conjures up images of 1950s sock hops and poodle skirts, doo-wop and more. (Even for those of us whose knowledge of that golden era in our nation’s history has been gleaned solely from watching “Happy Days.” Or “Grease.”)
Drive-ins had their hey day in the 50s, a couple of decades before I was a gleam in my parents’ eyes. But there were still a few in operation locally when I was a kid, and I have many fond memories of going to one in particular. I’m referring of course to the one which used to be located off of East River Road in Norwich, where Benedict Motors is today.
My mother tells me that particular drive-in played triple features, but I don’t remember that. In fact, it’s highly unlikely that I ever even made it through the first movie shown on any given night, probably due to the 7 p.m. bedtime my parents so strictly enforced every other night of the year. I could never seem to resist the siren’s call of the blankets piled in the back seat.
The positive side of this was that my sister Trish - 15 years my senior - always volunteered to let me tag along when she went with her friends. I guess my propensity to fall asleep as soon as the opening credits started to roll made me an ideal chaperone for her and her boyfriend. At least in her opinion, if not that of my parents.
The very same ridiculously over-protective parents who would never let me play at the drive-in’s playground with the other kids. At least not on my own. I’d be inconsolable, of course, as only a 5 year-old denied her most heartfelt desire can be. Until the popcorn arrived, or I received my allotment of Dum-Dum lollipops. (They’d dish them out by the handful when you stopped at the ticket booth!)
But even those lollipops - which were giants compared to today’s version of those suckers - weren’t as big of a treat as watching the night sky for shooting stars.
Yep, those were definitely the days. I’m not sure how old I was when that drive in shut down, but even I mourned its closing as the end of an era.
In my teen years, there would be an occasional trip to the drive-in by Binghamton Airport. But that always felt like a poor substitute to the one I’d grown up with. I’d basically given up on ever revisiting those wonderful childhood memories until about ten years ago, when I discovered that just such an American treasures still exists in this area. That’s right, in Unadilla.
Now some things we remember so fondly from our youth, don’t live up to our lofty memories of them. Like Big Wheels and “Eight is Enough.” I’m happy to say, however, that going to the drive in still is as cool as I had remembered. Even better, actually, since I can actually stay up to see the movies played on that big outdoor screen.
Even before I moved back here, I’d try to schedule a trip to the Unadilla Drive-In whenever I returned to the area for a visit. Now that I’m calling Upstate New York home once more, I try to get over there a time or two every summer. It is a bit of a drive from my house, but it is worth the trip in my opinion. Two first-run movies for only $6 per person for adults, plus a full snack bar complete with real buttered popcorn and Raisinettes. They even have a grill.
Now, don’t get me wrong, the Colonia is still my fav for viewing pleasure all year round, but in the summer, I just can’t resist the allure of the drive-in. There is just something about watching a movie in the middle of the great outdoors that can’t be beat.
I’m sorry to say that I didn’t make it to the drive-in last summer, but I decided months ago that nothing would stop me from going this year. I figured it would be a few more weeks at least before I got my fix, so, you can imagine my surprise and delight last weekend when Kevin interrupted my pleas to see “Iron Man 2” with the news that it was playing at Unadilla. I hadn’t even realized it had opened for the season yet! So Saturday night, after I’d canceled all of our other plans for the evening (sorry Julie!), we headed to the drive-in.
It was still a little chilly to sit out in lawn chairs, in my opinion, but there were plenty of people braving the elements to take in their first outdoor movie of the year.
It was a double feature, of course, so not only was “Iron Man 2” playing, but also “The Back Up Plan.” A word of caution, movie-goers: while billed as a romantic-comedy, this Jennifer Lopez flick is by no means a “date movie.” Don’t make the same mistake I did in thinking it was one, or you and your date will end up traumatized like we were.
Iron Man 2, however, did not disappoint. It was even more phenomenal than I’d dreamed it would be. Robert Downey, Jr. outdid himself in his reprisal of his 2008 role as Tony Stark, the billionaire playboy/engineering whiz turned world-saving super hero. Mickey Rourke, who creeps me out even on a good day, delivered a pretty staggering (and convincing) performance as supervillain Ivan Vanko, out to avenge his father’s ruin by destroy Stark and his reputation. Sam Rockwell (who you will remember as Eric Knox, the victim/villain in 2000’s Charlie’s Angels) is the bad guy you love to laugh at as Stark’s business rival Nick Hammer. The movie was filled with witty one liners about privatizing world peace, boatloads of action and just a teensy-tiny bit of romance. And once again, the ending leaves the door wide open for future cinematic installments in the classic Marvel comic book series.
“Iron Man 2” was, in fact, so good that I’m actually contemplating a return trip to Unadilla this weekend. That’s right, it’s playing again. And this time, no Jennifer Lopez. “Shrek Forever After” will kick off the double feature, with my new favorite movie closing out the show.
Ahhh, I can almost taste the movie popcorn and Raisinettes now!
More info on the Unadilla Drive-In can be found at www.drive-in.ws or by calling 369-2000.
Hope you enjoy the show!
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