By Joe Rector
Amy and I spent the last weekend in Hendersonville as we celebrated our daughter Lacey’s and son-in-law Nick’s April birthdays. For the first time in more than a year, we had the chance to hug them, as well as grandson Madden. It was a wonderful weekend.
On the way home, I tuned in to the 60s station on Sirius. It was a good session as the playlists pumped out the best songs from my life during that time. At one point, I changed to the 70s station, and even more signature songs from my teen years played.
The mind trip I took brought a smile to my face. I told Amy that if I had it to do over again, I’d open a drive-in restaurant. No, I’m not talking about Sonic. The layout might be the same, but a back curb would also be available to customers.
To those folks who are of my age, can you honestly say that a drive-in wasn’t one of the best parts of your young life? Whether it was the Copper Kettle, the Hollywood Drive-In, Jiffy, or Blue Circle, a drive-in was a place for young people to congregate. Families and older folks pulled in the front curb stalls. They ordered full meals or desserts, consumed them, and left. Teens, on the other hand, pulled in a space on the back curb. A going-steady pair, first daters, and double-date couples backed in cars and sometimes spent hours there. Rarely did they order meals. Sporadic orders of French fries, cheeseburgers, and drinks kept the owners from demanding that loitering teens leave.
A car filled with boys would make the circuit from one restaurant to another in search of girls, and sometimes one male would muster up enough courage to speak to females in the other car. Drugs might have been popular with a few, but most teens were forever in pursuit of alcohol. They’d pay exorbitant prices to of-age guys for beer or hard liquor. Parked in that back curb, many held their breaths while sipping on a beer. Sometimes a rookie would bolt from the car and run for the edge of the property. There he’d heave his guts out in a drunken stupor.
On occasion, tempers flared. Guys piled out of cars and stood as if ready for battle. Most of the time, only two would engage in fistfights. They lasted only a few minutes before the victor strutted in front of his friends while the loser slinked to his vehicle and demanded his group to leave.
I think of teens today and feel sorry for them. Too many of them don’t have a place to gather with friends or other couples. They spend more time on phones texting or at home playing games. My generation always had a place to go. Those drive-ins were much like the bar in “Cheers,” not because of the drinking but because they were places where “everybody knew your name.”
Yes, I’d like to own a drive-in restaurant for young people. After having spent months in isolation. I think the place would be crowded all weekend long. On other nights, the place could cater to families and old folks. Maybe I might even start a new “old” fad. I’d run the place for a couple of years before selling it and living off the profits. Think about those days if you’re old enough. Remember the good and bad times you had with buddies and girlfriends, and I’ll bet many of them occurred at the Copper Kettle or one of the other hangouts.
The 60s were glorious years, and thanks to drive-ins, many of us lived some of our best memories at those greasy spoon places. I’m a wiser person about friends, girls, and drinking from the time I spent there. I learned on which friends I could count; I discovered that my forte was not charming females; most of all, I faced that fact that I am a lousy drinker who spent too much time at the edge of the property on hands and knees and telling the good lord I’d never do it again if He’d make the world stop spinning and the dry heaves end.