Last weekend, Martin and I had the chance to visit my sister and her family in Columbus for a very overdue Christmas celebration.
I saw my sister-in-law and my niece and nephew, as well as my sister and her partner and their three daughters, the nieces I refer to as my “Three Graces.” It was fun – food and presents and laughter and just good times in general. But, maybe the highlight of the visit was the viewing of “Frogs.” Yes, that’s correct – “Frogs,” the 1972 horror cinema classic starring Sam Elliott and Joan Van Ark, he “pre-Lifeguard” and she “pre-Knot’s Landing.” We settled into my younger sister’s home theater room (it’s pretty laid out, actually) and spent a little over 90 minutes watching what could well be one of the most pathetic movies ever made…
As we watched scene after scene of one character after another being “off-ed” by snakes, birds, tarantulas, lizards, leeches, alligators — jeesh, just about every animal except frogs (they come into their own in the final scene with Ray Milland), it was fun but my mind wandered a bit. My mind wandered back to 1972 and The Springmill Drive-In Theatre in Mansfield, Ohio, the theater where I probably could have seen “Frogs” as part of an exciting double bill.
My beloved and I love movies – we probably see at least two movies a week. Often we see one of those movies in a giant, twenty-four screen multiplex with reclining seats, hi-def sound and cup holders in the armrests. In 1972, I was fourteen years old and, even then, LOVED movies. But in 1972, my “multiplex” was The Springmill Drive-In. I always looked old for my age so I often got in to see “R” movies there. The drive-in was exciting – on “Carload Night,” four or five of us would pack in the car and each chip in one dollar towards the $5/car admission price. Once inside, we would find a parking space with a speaker that worked, walk to the snack bar to get a cola, a hot dog and some popcorn and then go back to the car to sit in the dark with friends for sometimes more than three hours. We would forget for a time that we were all from a town of 7000 people and be transported to wherever the film would take us. I saw the world on that big screen. I loved it at The Springmill.
These photos of The Springmill Drive-In were taken by me in April 2009.
Those evenings at The Springmill – in 1972 and for a few more years beyond – allowed me to escape into the fantasy world of films. That drive-in was magic for me…
Then life happened; I grew up and moved away, away from my hometown and away from The Springmill Drive-In. I had almost forgotten about it all together when a family gathering in 2009 allowed me to return to the drive-in. It was a viewing of “Monsters vs. Aliens” with my Three Graces (along with another film I forget). It was like seeing an old friend again after many years apart – comfortable and familiar, but different from what you expected and remembered…
The five-buck-a-car price I remembered was now $5/person.
The parking lot was still gravel but the speakers were much newer – not any louder, but newer.
The snack bar was still in the same place, still with the same staples, but the prices now made a decision necessary between hot dogs OR a popcorn, not both.
The cash register was still in the same place, but an ATM machine stood in the space to its right.
I love The Springmill Drive-In. I loved it in 1972, I loved it in 2009 and I loved being there in my memory last weekend, as Joan Van Ark suffered a horrible death by reptiles. It felt good to realize that in some places – some physical and other spiritual – time does stand still.