Movies. Magic. Memories…

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…

Frogs

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.

Springmill Drive-In 010

Roadside Architecture 008

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.

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