Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Drive-In is Dead.....or is it? - Part 1

When I was a kid, I remember my dad taking us the San Pedro Drive-In. This was usually on a Friday evening after he got off work at Douglas Aircraft in Long Beach. My mom never went with us because she also worked at Douglas but on the swing shift.
The routine was to get in the car, and go to Brown's Liquor on the NW corner of 1st and Gaffey (Currently "Hello" Liquor). There my dad would buy a 6 pack of Lucky Lager for himself and Barnum and Baily Animal Crackers for all of us.
If it was a good movie, there was a line at the pay booth. If not, we would get in quickly. They always showed two movies with one or two cartoons between them. After the first movie, all of the perimeter lights would come on (like a night game at Daniel's Field) for the intermission. Most of the time we would go to the grass area at the foot of the screen and play on the swings. Sometimes we would go to the snack bar but that didn't happen very often because, after all, we had Animal Crackers and after having paid 10 cents for each box, we were expected to eat them. Other times, we would stay in the car and watch the "battle of the spotlights" on the screen. We knew that the intermission was almost over because the lights would dim. Hopefully, you remembered where your car was. After the intermission came the cartoons which was followed by the second movie. It was usually not as good as the first so it was common to see a good number of cars putting away their speakers and leaving.
When all the movies had played and it was time to leave, we would wake my dad, he would put the speaker back on the post, most of the time, and we would head home. As we traveled south on Gaffey and crossed Channel, my dad would hand the empty six pack to my older brother, Pete, who was riding shotgun. It was his job to dispose of it. Pete would roll down the window and as we made the turn from Gaffey St. onto Summerland Ave., Pete would fling the 6 pack out of the window into the empty lot on the corner (There were no littering laws at the time). After every throw, we would analyze the quality of his throw and compare it to previous throws (distance, height, spin and how many bottles left the container before hitting the ground). There are apartments located there now and I happen to know that under those apartments are a whole bunch of empty Lucky Lager bottles courtesy of my dad.
The San Pedro Drive-In opened on June 6th, 1949 so in was not at all "old" when my dad would take us in 1953 and on. It had enough spaces for 831 vehicles. That's alot when you condider that if each vehicle had 4 people, and at intermission all of them go to the snack bar, you would find 3,324 people inside getting snacks. Even if only 10% go to the snack bar at the same time, we're talking about 332 people which is still alot.

As the photo shows, it had a distinctive painting on the back side of the screen and the name was illuminated by neon lights. It dipicts a hacienda "Don" or caballero on horseback waving to approaching ships which is representative of San Pedro's history as Rancho San Pedro.

It was located at the SE corner of North Gaffey Street and Westmont Drive and the map below shows what it looks like today.

The map below shows what it looked like in 1953 when I was 5 years old. I added the text onto the map for general info:

View of screen and snack bar.

I ride my bike past this area about 4 times per week and can't help but reminese about old days gone by. I don't know exactly when the Drive-In was demolished but it, along with that Friday Night Community environment, is long gone. Nothing will ever replace the Drive -In.......or maybe there is something. After all, all new ideas are variations and extensions of some pretty good old ideas.


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