1950 Memories of Suburban Adventures

Drive-In Sleeper

Do not annoy this actress.

Do not annoy this actress.

Among my multitude of extraordinary talents, I was an excellent actress. Unfortunately, my audience was full of doubting Thomas’s and one big tattle-teller. I suffered for my art.

Two or three times each summer, Mom and Dad packed us into our car and took us to the Dix Drive-in. Mom brought a thermos of Kool-Aid and a big paper bag of buttered popcorn. David and I wore pajamas and brought pillows and blankets.

When David and I later passed the age limit for free entry, our parents forced us to suffer the indignity of slouching down in the backseat to appear younger. A far greater indignity was not getting our ages questioned.

David and I tried sitting outside on lawn chairs and on a blanket a few times, but the novelty wasn’t worth the mosquito bites.

The double feature began with a cartoon not yet shown on television. Our favorites were The Road Runner and Pink Panther.

David, and Susan (once she joined our family), fell asleep when the second feature began. The first movie was geared for children; the second, for more mature viewers. I never missed it.

“Lie down and go to sleep,” said Mom, as the credits from the first movie scrolled across the screen.

I learned to be as quiet as possible (for me) while watching the adult movie.

I often pretended to be asleep on the ride home from the drive-in, so Dad would carry me into the house. One evening, I made the mistake of continuing to talk for too long, making my sleeping state questionable.

Instead of parking in the driveway, Dad pulled up the hill and parked near our back porch.

“Daddy’s back is bothering him. He can’t carry you tonight,” said Mom. “I know you can hear me, so get up.”

My eyes remained closed and I didn’t wake up.

www.nowiknow.com This is what I would've looked like if I had a crown and a rose.

This is what I would’ve looked like if I had a crown and a rose.

“I know she’s awake. She’s just faking,” said David the informer. “Look, her eyelids just moved.”

I bit my tongue to keep from yelling, “Mind your own bees-wax.”

The car doors opened and slammed shut. Eerie quiet filled the interior. Everyone went inside the house, except me. I stayed perfectly still and sound asleep.

Hours passed. Okay, minutes passed, but they felt like hours. Mom and Dad left me outside with the night monsters. Now, I was too afraid to leave the car and walk alone in the dark. Mom appeared on the back porch.

“Mary Barbara, come inside right now or I’ll turn the porch light off.”

What choice did I have? I grabbed my pillow and blanket, exited the car, and trudged up the wooden steps. I dragged my feet and barely opened my eyes. Clearly, I was groggy from being awakened from a sound sleep.

“I just woke up. Where’d everyone go?”

Hmmmm,” muttered Mom.

Lesson learned: When pretending to be asleep, remember to first stop talking for at least five minutes. This piece of knowledge wedged itself in my memory bank, and later proved embarrassing.

Now it’s your turn: What are your early drive-in memories? Did you ever pretend to be asleep?

© Mary Norton-Miller and 1950s Suburban Adventures, 2012 forward. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mary Norton-Miller and 1950s Suburban Adventures with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


  1. mikesteeden says:

    Another most exquisite tale!

  2. kbroby2444 says:

    There was a drive in in Pleasant Hill, CA that was torn down in the mid 70s for another shopping center, as if the town by then needed another shopping center. We we (my sister Jody and me) would get to go with our parents to the drive in about once a month during the summer. We would play on the swings and slides in front of the swing, con our Pops to give us money for snacks and drinks from the concession stand, or better yet a stop at the A&W drive in before going into the drive in for burgers and shakes. He was a very sweet man that had a hard time saying no to the youngest of his four children. The four of us were separated in age by nine years, there were the two oldest sons called the “boys”, and my sis and I (just a year apart) called the “babes”. My brothers swore for years that we had different parents than we had.

    Ten years later, in the few years before the drive in came down, and while I was still in high school, it was a place to take a date (if you were lucky to get one), or a place to hangout on a Friday or Saturday night with friends. We drew straws then to see how would have to either hide in the trunk or climb over the fence to lower the admission fee.

    Thirty years later, I was taking my youngest son and his friends – all preteens to the only drive in still standing in Iowa. It looks now just like it looked in the fifties (I’m guessing because I didn’t move there until the 90’s but it has that look – the playground, the double feature, the block house concession stand, and the lawn chairs.

    • skinnyuz2b says:

      Kevin, I’m glad my post brought back memories of your own. The Dix was open though the mid 80s. We still have a nearby two-screen drive-in that my children, siblings, and their children go to regularly.

      Remember starting the car up and turning on the defogger every so often? I have a funny post coming up in the future about a teenage group visit to the drive-in.

  3. I did love the drive in, but saved the fake-sleep for rides home from the relatives’.

  4. Glynis Jolly says:

    I wish there still were drive-in movie theaters. My husband has back problems so going to a theater where he’d have to be still the entire time is not an option. At a drive-in he could move around as much as he wanted, even go strolling at the back of the lot. Drive-ins were great and I do miss them.

  5. Ralph says:

    I’ve never been to one Mary 😀 xox

  6. In UK we never had drive-ins, sadly. I would have loved them! There have been many times when I have pretended to be asleep, though, but I can’t be too specific. This is a family blog!

    • skinnyuz2b says:

      Fred, I hope you didn’t have a tattle-tale brother or sister alerting people to your pretension.
      In the early 90s we hosted a 12-year old boy from Belfast for five weeks (it was a last minute, night before he arrived thing). We took him to his first drive-in. One of the other experiences he wanted was to have a TV dinner! Apparently they didn’t make TV dinners in Ireland. We also took and our two children (at the time) to the ocean for a week.
      Now that you’ve confessed, no one will be believe you when you snooze off!

  7. Mimmy Jain says:

    Your story jolted a memory! I would always fake sleep so my Dad would carry me home. Since our garage was on the other side of our neighbour’s home, it was a short walk, but seemed like miles to me. Even then, I hated exercise in any form.

    • skinnyuz2b says:

      Mimmy, there’s something so comforting about being carried inside by your father. If Dad’s everywhere simply picked us up and carried our little bodies inside automatically, we wouldn’t have to pretend to be asleep.

  8. spunkybong says:

    Mary Barbara, that was too good. We brothers used to indulge in something similar. Like, once I was pretending to be asleep so I wouldn’t have to go and finish polishing my school shoes and someone else would do it for me. I was on my side and my elder bro said,”I wish Jobbu would just turn so I could take my homework from under him….or I might have to kick his butt around a bit” and lo and behold, I turned. 😀

  9. C. Suresh says:

    NOW I used to do the reverse – claimed that I was awake with my eyes closed 🙂 Parents!! They never do believe you 🙂 Though, in this case, I was asking for a bit too much. I mean WHY would a child keep his eyes closed while awake when a movie was running 🙂

    • skinnyuz2b says:

      C.S., I don’t know about kids, but my husband does this all the time while watching television. So I’m imagining you wanted to stay up instead of going to bed.
      I’m glad you veered off the beaten path of pretending to be asleep, and slept to the beat of your own drum.

  10. Choosing says:

    🙂 Hilarious! My older one sometimes tries to fake sleeping in the car… but he makes the same mistake 🙂 And then, when I open the car door, his lips start to twitch into a grin… but he still keeps his eyes closed… 🙂

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