The Drive-In Movie Theater Turns 83 Today

firstdriveinMy friend Dave is retired from the coast guard. He now lives in Hawaii with his lovely wife, Catherine, and studies environmental law. He’s pretty hip. When he told me he’s from New Jersey, I listed a bunch of really cool friends who are also from there. I asked him what makes Jersey so cool? (Color me naive. I’m a native Californian.)

Dave said, “Michael, the keyword is FROM. The cool people LEFT New Jersey.” I can certainly cite some examples. (See these pages for Fred Reiss and John Andrew Eddy, also former Jersey-ites.) But Jersey is also the birthplace of a very cool idea or two.

Case in point. Eighty three  years ago today, on June 6th 1933, the very first drive-in movie theater opened in Camden, New Jersey. It was the brainchild of Richard Milton Hollingshead Jr.,This first drive-in theater didn’t even have speakers. Sound was broadcast directly to car radios, the same way it is now in the remaining 350 or so drive-ins around the country. Hollingshead was ahead of his time in many ways. Or maybe he was just too cheap to wire speakers throughout the parking lot.

starlite_cover_finalDrive-ins are obviously very near and dear to me. I spent more weekends than I can count at our own Starlite Drive-In back in the day here in Watsonville.

Let’s give a big thanks to Mr. Hollingshead for a wonderful idea that’s still standing in many places. In fact, one of the few remaining drive-ins, the Delsea Drive-In, is located in Vineland, New Jersey. I still argue that the place is semi-hip.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *