Rumors of the Death of Drive-Ins Greatly Exagerated

While we were in Galena I got a wild hair. I knew there was a drive-in somewhere around and thought it would be a fun family outing. We had the use of a borrowed pickup thanks to John Bookless, so it seemed within the realm of possibilities. When Mayfly (formerly Crayfish) overheard us, she told us excitedly that she’d never been to a drive-in, so that decided it. The drive-in was almost 40 miles away, but hey, you can’t put a price on that kind of experience.


I grew up at the drive-in movie going with my mom in her ’68 Camero on Friday nights after eating at the Wich Stand on Slauson Avenue at Overhill. Those urban Southern California drive-ins of my youth were massive affairs with multiple screens, acres of asphalt, striped with the iconic berms and dotted with speaker poles.

When I lived in Bloomington, Indiana, the Starlight drive-in was a rural drive-in, well outside of town on a highway. A single screen, grassy berms, and ridiculously low prices for admission and snack bar. The movies at the Starlight were usually second-run “family-friendly” features (meaning no sexy stuff, but violence okay). But unlike the Starlight open only on weekends, this Iowa drive-in in the middle of nowhere was open 7 days a week and had up-to-date digital projection and first run movies. I had no idea what this one would be like, but I had high hopes.

We trucked the 45 minutes back up through Dubuque, then down Highway 61, Bob Dylan in our heads.

Oh God said to Abraham, “Kill me a son”
Abe says, “Man, you must be puttin’ me on”
God say, “No.” Abe say, “What?”
God say, “You can do what you want Abe, but
The next time you see me comin’ you better run”
Well Abe says, “Where do you want this killin’ done?”
God says, “Out on Highway 61”


The 61 Drive In Theatre in Delmar, Iowa did not disappoint. Like the Starlight, all grassy berms, a parkland drive-in movie, swing sets near the screen and kids running on the lawn, an adorable snackbar, and lovely people. It was a beautiful and dramatic night of clouds and clear sky, show-offy sunset, fireflies, and an excellent first-run movie. Two adults, two kids, two dogs, a picnic of snacks and drinks. Really too  much to ask for and probably more than I deserve.


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