First of all, I want to thank everyone who bought my book during the past two weeks. Because of you, it has made the premium list, is now also available at amazon.com, and has been rated five stars! So I really appreciate it.
Speaking of my book, judging from the comments I’ve received, one of the most popular chapters appears to be the one about my evening at the drive-in back in 1962, when I saw the Troy Donahue movie, “Parrish.” It seems that wherever I go lately, people bring up the subject of drive-ins.
“If you grew up in Manchester,” the local pharmacist said to me the other day, “Then you must remember the big four drive-ins in the area back in the 1960s.”
“Sure,” I said. “There was the Manchester Drive-in, the Bedford Grove, Pine Island Park and the Sky-Ray. And if you wanted to travel a few miles farther, Concord had a really nice drive-in, too.”
“You forgot the most popular one of all,” a nearby (and apparently eavesdropping) customer added. “The Litchfield.”
To be honest, I hadn’t thought about the Litchfield Drive-in in over 40 years. It was located on Talent Road, a secluded country road that had only a few houses on it. The screen stood in what looked like someone’s back yard, with the owner’s house right there. There were parking spots for about 300 cars, and the entire place was surrounded by a tall wooden fence that made it resemble a fortress.
The movies shown at the Litchfield Drive-in never were advertised in the local papers, yet if you didn’t get there the minute the place opened, chances were you wouldn’t get in at all, because the lines formed early and the tickets always sold out fast.
That’s because the Litchfield Drive-in showed only X-rated movies…in an era before there were videos or DVDs.
“Those movies back then probably would be rated ‘R’ nowadays,” the pharmacist said.
Somehow, I doubted that.
That conversation made me curious. How many people, I wondered, had gone to the Litchfield Drive-in back in the 1960s and early ‘70s? And if they had, would they admit it?
“Sure, I went!” one of my female friends said, laughing. “A bunch of girls from work thought it would be a lot of laughs, so we got brave and headed over there one night. We were parked next to a car that had blankets covering all of the windows! And we were afraid to go to the snack bar or restroom during intermission because we’d have to walk past cars full of hormonally charged college guys! As it was, we kept all of our car doors locked!”
Naturally, I had to ask my husband if he ever went.
“Of course,” he said, with a shrug. “Just about every guy I knew went there the minute he was old enough. I mean, it was like a rite of passage. One of my buddies who was with us one night snuck around in the dark during the middle of the movie, found the cars with the steamiest windows, and then pounded on them and yelled, ‘Police! Open up!’ and ran off! There always was an officer at the ticket booth, checking IDs, and he’d come around to do car checks every so often, so they must have thought it was him!”
“You went there more than once?” I asked, my eyebrows rising.
“Yeah…a couple times, I guess.”
He wasn’t fooling me. Knowing the group of guys he hung around with back in his younger days, they all probably had season passes to the place.
“Can you believe the drive-in was located on Talent Road?” my husband added, chuckling. “I wonder if it was because of all the raw talent in those movies?”
I glared at him.
The other day, someone also asked me which drive-in theater in the Manchester area was my favorite when I was young. I found the question difficult to answer.
I liked Pine Island because it was adjacent to an amusement park. If I rolled down the car window, I could hear the screams of the people on the roller coaster and smell the fried foods sold at the concession booths.
Bedford Grove featured the best horror movies, complete with complimentary barf bags for the squeamish. The Manchester Drive-in on South Willow Street showed the big-name, first-run popular movies before the other theaters, and served the best snack-bar pizza. And Sky-Ray in Hooksett was the darkest and most secluded, for quiet viewing. It, however, also had the most mosquitoes.
I really do have fond memories of all four. And every summer, especially on a balmy July or August evening, I’m frequently attacked by a wave of nostalgia and find myself wishing that all of the area drive-ins from the 1950s and ‘60s still were around.
Except for the Litchfield, that is.