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Commentary Detail

Commentary by: Elaine Viets
Aired August 15, 2007

When I was growing up, drive-in movies were evil. Preachers called them “passion pits.” Nuns said that girls who went to drive-ins with boys got bad reputations.

They also got a whole lot of dates.

The more adults protested, the more fascinating drive-ins seemed.

In fact, I owe my career to the local drive-in movie.

Drive-ins were big outdoor movie theaters with giant movie screens. You paid about a dollar a carload – eight or ten kids crammed in an airless car. Then you pulled up to a speaker, which hung on the edge of your rolled-down window.

This was hot stuff. Very hot, especially in August in St. Louis. Imagine sitting in an un-air-conditioned car for hours on a summer night. You can see why drive-ins died.

The best part, sometimes better than the movie, was the trip to the concession stand for cold soda, popcorn and hot dogs.

We lived in St. Ann in the 1950s, across from the main screen of the local drive-in movie. I could see it from my room. I slept in the top bunk, which gave me a clear view of the movie screen. I couldn’t hear a word, but I could see the story in Technicolor – actresses with six-foot lips smooching leading men. Mushy stuff.

I made up my own stories. Every night, I watched the soundless movies and wrote my own scripts.

Were my stories better than the actual movies?

I doubt it. They always put me to sleep.

(The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of St. Louis Public Radio.)

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Elaine Viets

Elaine Viets


Elaine Viets is a freelance writer.

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