Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Den Rock Drive-in

Lawrence - My Hometown

The Den Rock Drive-in

By Richard E. Noble

The Den Rock drive-in was on route 114 before the Den restaurant and past McGovern’s.
The drive-in movie was one of those 60’s things. I suppose there is now a whole generation who has no idea what a drive-in movie was - like a 45 record or 33 1/3 record album or a 8 track. But the drive-in movie was better than all of those things. Talk about a big screen. The drive-in movie was the biggest screen ever. It was bigger than any movie theater. It was bigger than a highway billboard. It was big.
You sat and watched this giant movie screen from the comfort of your automobile. I imagine some married folks took their kids to a drive-in but it was primarily a teenager thing to our generation. It was a meeting, greeting, hangout, drinking, dating thing. In fact, if you were born in the late 60s or 70s there is a good chance that you were conceived at a drive-in movie.
Many parents were aware of what went on sexually at drive-in movies and would not let their daughters accept a date to a drive-in movie. Strangely enough parents would let their daughters go to the drive-in with other girls. So cars full of girls would file in with cars full of boys bumping up behind them. Once inside the movie the cars would empty and then the passengers would rearrange themselves with the different sexes intermingling.
Boys and girls both would leave their vehicles and go “wandering.” Their goal was either to find somebody or be found by somebody.
One excuse for wandering was the refreshment stand. They would interrupt the movie periodically and play an ad for the refreshment stand. They played a little promotional jingle that was also enticing. “We’re going to the lobby; we’re going to the lobby; we’re going to the lobby; to get ourselves a treat.” They would show on the screen little cartoon characters marching joyously off to the refreshment stand. It looked like such fun we all just had to do it. Actually it was fun.
The food at the stand was all pre-prepared and wrapped or packaged in aluminum keep-hot bags. Nothing that I can remember was of a five star quality. But they had subs, hotdogs, hamburgers, meatball sandwiches, French fries, pizza slices, candy, popcorn, soda, coffee, cigarettes and whatever.
Underage boys also hunted older booze buyers and then would go to the drive-in to drink and party.
Metal poles held the speakers. Each car would have an individual speaker to pipe the sound into their auto.
Unfortunately for the drive-in theater owners sneaking into a drive-in became a sport. The customary practice was to hide as many kids in the trunk as possible. Two passengers in the front seat looked cool. A boy and a girl in the front sit was a sure thing and two girls was good. Two boys was a little embarrassing but usually got by.
One evening, me and a bunch of my buddies had gotten all of our goodies, gathered. We stopped at McGovern’s parking lot to draw straws and see who was going into the trunk. But when we tabulated all our capital, we only had enough for one fare. One boy driving a vehicle into a drive-in movie was not the best tactic - very suspicious. But we had no choice. Since it was my 1946 Desoto fluid drive that we were going in, I was elected the designated driver. I had a big trunk but on this occasion we had so many guys going into the trunk that they were nervous about locking the trunk completely - they didn’t want to become “asphyxiated.”
They all piled into the trunk and the last guy in held the trunk open slightly. I was to give them a warning shortly before we pulled in, at which point they would slam the trunk and lock it.
I anticipated a long line getting into the movie. I didn’t want the guys stuffed in the trunk to be locked in there too long. I decided to wait until just before I was pulling in to announce my warning. Just as I was crossing the highway leading up to the entrance, I slapped my left hand on the outside of the driver’s door and to make double sure they heard me I yelled out the window, “Okay, we’re pulling in.”
I heard the trunk slam. But no sooner did the trunk slam than there was a cop standing in my driveway. He had his hands on his hips and a very unhealthy look on his face. I came to a stop without hitting him. He slowly walked around my vehicle. When he finally ended up by the driver’s window I looked up. With my well rehearsed and practiced poker face I said. “Yes officer? Something wrong?”
He bent over and stuck his head in my little window. He glowed his flashlight, exploring my back seat. He pulled back up to a standing position and folded his arms across his chest. With a slight smirk he said, “Going to the movies by yourself, son?”
“Yeah,” I said. “My girlfriend’s sick and I really wanted to see this movie.”
“What’s the name of the movie tonight?” he asked, cynically.
“I stammered and stuttered and tried to see the billboard out the corner of my eye.”
“Okay son,” he said losing his smirk. “Turn this tub around and get the hell out of here.”
“Yes sir.”
By the time I got back to McGovern’s the guys in the trunk were screaming bloody murder. But I couldn’t stop the car on the highway or where the cop could still see me. Right? What the heck!
Nobody died. But the “trunk people” weren’t happy with me for a long, long time. Not happy at all.

Richard E. Noble was raised in Lawrence, Mass and is now a freelance writer. He has published several books. Several of them have Lawrence as their setting, A Summer with Charlie and Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother. A Little Something is a book of poetry - parts of it inspired by life in Lawrence. Hobo-ing America is a workingman’s tour of the U.S.A. and The Eastpointer is selected pieces from his award winning column about life in a sleepy fishing village in the Florida Panhandle. His sixth book Noble Notes on Famous Folks is now on Amazon