This past week as I drove east on main street, I smiled to see a long line of family filled automobiles waiting patiently nose to tail along the right side of the roadway. There was a Jeep with its top off; inside were two youngsters that straddled the roll bar waving as I passed. A tattooed-arm hung coolly from the open window of a low-rider with mismatched paint; the passenger’s tanned feet danced against the dashboard to an unheard tune. Just ahead sat the quintessential minivan; its curbside door stood open allowing energetic youngsters to pluck tiger lilies from the roadside ditch. I smiled because I used to be one of those kids. As a kid my family, just like these families, once sat patiently waiting for the Skyview Drive-In to open its gates.
We didn’t go often but there was one night each year you would find the Grubb’s at the Skyview—the weekend of the Fourth of July. That same weekend provided a second, rare treat. Dad, always a sucker for a good root beer, would smile toward the back seat as he strong-armed the Plymouth into the A&W to order up an entire gallon of ice-cold root beer…and six Dixie cups.
We’d wear our PJs on the Fourth, knowing that night we’d definitely stay for the entire second feature—a feat rarely accomplished on other visits. Any other night we’d become too sleepy or Mom would put the kibosh on the whole deal when The Blob ate Tokyo or quicker yet, if Lana Turner worked her feminine whiles on Randolph Scott.
(I’m sorry…but I can’t mention Randolph Scott without tipping my hat to one of my boyhood hero’s Bob Marvin, aka Flippo the Clown, who once while introducing the movie “Go West Young Man” starring Mae West said, “And also featuring—Hotsy! Totsy! its Randolph Scottsy!” I laughed so hard chocolate milk came out my nose! To this day, I can’t hear that name without snickering, “Hotsy! Totsy! its Randolph Scottsy.” Sorry, that’s my ADD…Squirrel!).
But on that glorious weekend, as the credits rolled after the second feature, the sky would erupt with fireworks. Fireworks that, by today’s standards I suspect, would be considered amateurish. But for this “pre TV” youngster, they were an assault on my naïve senses—not merely breath-taking, but at times frightening, convincing me of impending doom, particularly when a land to air missile proved to be a dud—you know, the ones that light up the night sky with a single intense bright flash followed by a chest-thumping ba-boom? My wide-eyed gaze would snap from the smoke filled sky to ground zero, certain that pyrotechnic chaos was about to ensue. I fully expected to see a maze of laser trails as horizontal rockets splintered off in all directions amid workman, silhouetted black against the gunpowder’s flashes, scurrying to safety while mothers screamed for their children to take cover. But, unfortunately for this wide-eyed boy, there was no such luck. As I recall, they always went off without a hitch; a great way to end an evening and a glorious way celebrate our nation’s birthday.
The Skyview Drive-In, like an anchor, tethers us to a gentler time. Opened in 1948, like thousands of others across America, it thrilled war-weary families with the best and worst Hollywood had to offer. Long before television invaded our home, the Drive-In turned the itchy mohair seats of our 49’ Plymouth into a couch and its windshield into history’s first flat-screen. And how amazing was that little art deco box that hung precariously from Dad’s side-glass filling the car with the sound of music?
There are brief moments I wish I could visit there as a kid again…feel what he felt and see what he saw. Although that’s impossible, I hope you’ll conjure up your inner kid this weekend—wrap your hands around an ice cold root beer (or beverage of choice), sit back and take in the fireworks.
I believe a strong faith in the Heavenly Father provides us all we need for life and true happiness. Listen, please, to the Old Testament Prophet Isaiah as he celebrates, like a child, the ongoing faithfulness of God in our lives. “GOD, you are my God. I celebrate you. I praise you. You’ve done your share of miracle-wonders, well-thought-out plans, solid and sure.” Isaiah 25:1
Have a great Fourth! And, if only for a moment, conjure up that kid again. May you say “OOOH! and AHHH!” louder than ever. Happy Birthday America. RG
Read Ron’s column, Simple Faith, each Saturday on the Faith Page (page 3) of the Lancaster Eagle Gazette, or visit www.lancastereaglegazette.com.