Whenever you enter Winslow from the North side, you will see this old neon sign from the Sunset Drive In that formerly stood on Highway 41 in Evansville. The screen is set up back in the distance. It is summertime nostalgia for me. I called it the Airport Drive In.
I know there once was the intention of opening a drive in here. Now it is an abandoned roadside attraction of a day gone by. It could just as easily have been laying in a landfill somewhere. I like that it is sitting there. You may see old junk sitting in weeds, but I see childhood memories.
Growing up in the 1960’s, going to the drive in on the weekends was the thing to do with our family. We went to Oakland City Drive In mostly. But once in a while we would go to the Sunset Drive In, all the way to Evansville. The entire experience was just a big treat. For one thing, we rarely went to the city at night. I still love a city at night. The first thrilling thing for me was driving past the airport with all of it’s colored lights. If a plane was taking off or landing, we kids would hang all over the top of each other to look out the window busting with sheer excitement. We weren’t in seatbelts back then. Remember hanging over the front seat and your dad yelling at you to quit hanging over the seat? We would drive past Dad’s work, that big bustling Whirlpool factory was bigger than anything in Winslow. Then we were there, pulling in past the glowing light of the Sunset Drive In sign.
At the Oakland City Drive In we kids pretty much could run around by ourselves. But here Momma was a little more cautious with that. We still could go up and play on the playground that was under the big screen under her watchful eye. Dusk would turn into darkness and the cartoons would start. Woody Woodpecker was our cue to abandon the swings and seesaws up front and head back to the car. Sometimes we had to look twice because Dad would have moved the car if the speaker didn’t work. We would make a trip to the bathroom, Momma taking me, Dad taking the boys. Cars were so much bigger back then. Momma would put pillows in the floorboard on either side of the hump, making the entire backseat a big bed for me and my two little brothers. Usually we lay down after the cartoons. Sometimes I would climb up in the back window….in those old big cars the back window had a ledge that was perfect for little girls to share with the nodding dog and look out at the stars overhead. At Oakland City when I lay in the back window all I could see were stars, here there were planes flying over my head with their blinking lights to dream by.
Memories of family drives, city lights, concessions stand bathrooms, crackly speakers, mosquito coils hanging on the window, just getting a few sips out of one pop for the entire family to share, just getting a few bites out of one popcorn for the entire family to share, the smell of Dad’s cigarettes, seeing my parents sitting next to each other with Dad’s arm around Momma, jostling around with my little brothers as we lay down to sleep and a hot summer night somehow seem a whole lot sweeter than that click of a button for that movie in my living room.