Ice cream, dances, beaches and drive-ins filled our days
Have you stopped to think about where would you could find a good outdoor movie theater today?
Back in the days when I was still a kid, summer meant enjoying a Dairy Queen sundae and biking to the swimming beach at Lake Minnewaska. In our wire bike baskets we’d stash a tube of Coppertone, if we had the money for that, or a bottle of baby oil and one of mom’s faded, discarded bath towels. After a day of tanning and swimming with pals, we’d freshen up with a bath and swab Ban deodorant on our armpits, dress up with ballet slippers and a sundress, then leave home to attend a Thursday night teen hop at the Lakeside Pavilion. Other nights one of the gang would borrow dad’s Chevy or Ford and we 16 year olds would drive up to the A & W on the hill for a frosty root beer or drive to Alexandria for an outdoor movie at the drive-in.
Have you stopped to think about where would you could find a good outdoor movie theater today? They’re rare today in this new world of pricey indoor theaters with reclining seats. I loved sitting at the drive-in theater, even on mosquito-infested evenings. We’d crank up the car widows far enough so the speaker could hang on the window, but we’d be able to get a little fresh air. Though we were stuffed in, sweating, it didn’t matter to us because Buck Nite meant we could pack oodles of friends in the car. Even the trunk was full of kids, plus others had to sit on laps. Anybody important to our social lives was also at the theater munching on popcorn and sharing boxes of Milk Duds or Gum Drops.
The stars seemed to shine extra bright on those special movie nights. I was sure I could see the North Star, perhaps even Mars and Venus up in the starry night sky. And those nights seemed to be SO romantic to us naive, big-eyed teens. Our raging hormones were robust: Who didn’t hope to find a boyfriend or girlfriend those evenings before we had to head home to meet curfew? We’d been warned to get home before the whistle blew at 10 unless we had parental permission to stay out later. “Nothing good happens after midnight” was the warning our parents issued.
I was a late bloomer. Any date I had in high school had to be brave enough to come to the jail house to pick me up. That had to be intimidating. When my date with the flat-top would pass by the cell bars with windows open to get summer breezes, the poor guy would probably get a few harassing questions or taunts from one of the prisoners lounging at the jail window. It’s a wonder I had any dates at all!
On one of my rare date nights, the guy I was with decided to park on a country road or out by the lake. I remember telling either my pal Jimmy, or maybe it was Billy, that “I wasn’t one of THOSE girls.” After all, I was the sheriff’s kid. I had to watch out to not get a reputation that would be embarrassing. I had to be really dumb to think that line wouldn’t get around!
I was a curious kid: I had lots of questions, but I knew my mom wasn’t going to be the one to answer them. My pal Lou and her older, wiser sisters, Deann and Jackie, would fill me in on all those questions about the forbidden subject, SEX.
At school, sex education consisted of segregated health classes. Movies are all that I remember, and they didn’t explain much of anything. I don’t think our sex education class had any question and answer periods. Who’d be brave enough to ask those kind of questions anyway…well, maybe one of the boys would, but surely no girl would risk being embarrassed. Mom’s idea of sex education was one basic question: “Patty, do you know the difference between boys and girls?” Well, vaguely aware of a few differences, I wanted mom to tell me more specifics. Blushing profusely, I answered, “What do you mean, Mom?” Suffering through a pregnant pause, she eventually said, “We’ll talk about this later. You’d better run off to choir practice,” that subject never came up again.
On many summer evenings kids would gather on the huge lawn at my house to roll down the hill, swing or just chat. Often we’d make Chef Boyardee pizza from a box with hamburger from mom’s freezer. Her pantry was always stocked with pizza mix of tomato sauce and dough to unroll from the can. Sprinkled dry cheese wasn’t so tasty, but all my friends loved pizza accompanied by Nesbitt’s Orange Crush pop. Other nights Lutheran kids attended choir practice or Luther League at the big red brick Lutheran church across the street from my house at the jail.
Some summer days kids were invited to Carol’s lake house where we could water ski behind her boat. What a treat for kids in the Fifties and Sixties. With great anticipation, we’d crouch low in the water, put on nose or ear plugs and make sure our swimsuit straps were securely fastened. How upsetting if the pull of the boat snapped our swim straps! Two feet were inserted into heavy, fat skis with the rubber foot holds and waited for the PULL. What a thrill when the ski rope pulled me out of the water, and I popped up onto the rolling waves! I could water ski! WOW! At first I didn’t try any fancy stuff. I just let the boat pull me in a straight line following Carol’s boat, not slicing through the waves in a shalom ride. I didn’t attempt to drop a ski or ski backwards. Why test my luck? Waves splashed in my face as I rode through the water like a pro. Water skiing was the highlight of my summer.
What kid wouldn’t want summer to last forever?