When I was growing up, I remember my family loading into my father’s station wagon and heading off to the drive-in! I think I saw more movies at the drive-in growing up, than I did in an actual movie theater.

There was just something special about going to the drive-in. It just seemed like a more fulfilling experience. Heading to the drive-in a little early...parking in the perfect spot (with the car angling upwards at about 20 degrees on a mound of dirt), next to a pole that hopefully had a working speaker (and maybe even a heater depending on the time of year).

Drive-In
Photo: Michele Hassinger
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Once our seats for the evening were prepared, it was time to head to the playground to get rid of some of that childhood energy. Just about every drive-in had a play area right underneath the big screen.

A short while before the movie started, we might hit the concession stand for snacks (if my mother hadn’t already packed some into the car). Just as it was getting dark enough to barely seen an image on the screen, the previews of coming attractions and the dancing food (pizzas, boxes of popcorn, sodas, and hot dogs) made their way across the screen to promote the concession stand food. "Only 5 minutes until showtime!" Oh and don’t forget the little commercial for the “mosquito coils”! I’m not sure those things even worked, but I did think the little burning spiral was pretty cool.

At intermission between the two feature films, Dad would take us into the concession stand for some food. I will never forget the smell in that cement block building. It was a combination of pepperoni pizza, hot dogs, buttered popcorn and french fries all mixed into one. Mmmmm! And who could forget the muffled sounding announcement about midway through the second movie — “The concession stand will be closing in 10 minutes”!

There is only one drive-in left in operation in the Grand Rapids area in 2016 — The Getty 4 Drive-In located in Muskegon. And the movie going experience has changed a bit. Now people will bring lawn chairs and sit in front, or alongside, their vehicles. And the sound… it no longer comes out of the little metal speaker attached to the pole. Now days you listen to the sound for the movie on your car stereo, or “boom-box”, by dialing in an FM frequency.

According to the Pure Michigan website, there a total of 6 drive-ins in Michigan. At one point I think we had about that many just in the Grand Rapids area. The other closest ones would be in Ionia or Coldwater.

Who wants to make a trip to the drive-in? How many of us can we pack in the trunk?

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