How do young people meet these days? Kids don’t have weekend dances. There are there no more drive-in movies and there are no drive-in restaurants to speak of. The malls are dead zones. And young people would practically need a second mortgage to pay for a movie date – when there are movies.
But Baby Boomers look back nostalgically at the days when a young lady called a carhop would take your order for a frosted mug of root beer and an order of fries. You’d give her two quarters and get change.
Drive-in restaurants really began in the 1930’s as the American society began to mobilize behind the affordable automobile designs of Henry Ford. But drive ins were perfected in the 1950’s and 60’s when young people gathered en masse to show off their new Pontiac GTO’s or Chevy Impalas. And, what better place to meet up with the opposite sex than at the drive-in?
Many small and mid-size towns had several drive-ins, usually a few miles apart. An average dateless Friday evening for young men included multiple trips to each establishment to see if any new “chicks” had arrived. After any spare change had been spent at a given drive-in, the young Boomers were suddenly without funds, and ordered water, which the carhops hated.
A typical car would have anywhere from 4 to 6 teenagers of the same sex packed in. A problem arose if one car had five boys while the other car held, for example, four unattached young ladies. But such problems were generally worked out with a quick game of rock, paper, scissors.
In the 1950’s and 60’s, there was no such thing as fast food. Sure, there were burgers and dogs and scads of French fries, but the service was anything but fast. A half-hour wait was normal, but no one cared, because as soon as you ate, you were out of money for the rest of the evening. But money went a lot farther back then. With two bucks, you could buy a couple gallons of gas for the weekend, with enough money left over for a ticket to the movies and a meal at the drive in. Add another buck if you had a date.
Milkshakes – hand-made – were a popular item at the old drive-ins. Other choice selections included ice cream sodas and cherry or vanilla Cokes. In those days, local drive in’s didn’t have pizzas. The spicy pies would gain significant momentum in the late 60’s and early 70’s.
Boomers recall that each and every car at the drive in had the radio on full blast. Even at maximum volume, the old radios lacked a lot of oomph. The systems were monaural with just two dials: On-off-volume and a tuner to change channels.
But there was always good music on the air, as the record spinners played the Top 40 over and over and over again. Sometimes they would play a new release over and over and over again.
If you had a decent antenna, you could generally pick up Wolfman Jack. The Wolfman was the voice and personification of the Boomer Era.
A few bucks in your pocket, a freshly ironed pair of pegged pants, the Wolfman on the radio and a drive in restaurant? Those were the days, my friend.