Sunday, January 20, 2008

Drive-In Discovered

This morning we decided to have a little family time together and go for a drive with the new camera. We had no real destination and just took off driving, looking for interesting things along the way.

One of the neat things about North Carolina, that is so incredibly different than the area of Pennsylvania where I grew up, are the dilapidated farm shacks along the country roads. There is something so sad and historic about them. It makes me want to go into the restoration business and fix up every one!

As we were passing some of these barns, there was an interesting sign that caught my eye. We pulled over to get a closer look. It said "Cairo" in art-deco letters and appeared to be a movie theater marquee. Since it was sitting beside an abandoned old store, we didn't think too much about it. You know, people leave odd things behind. We poked around a little more.

Then I saw a something around back that looked like a billboard. My husband realized that it was a little bigger than a billboard. It was a drive-in theater screen! Of course - this place used to be a drive-in movie theater!

As it turns out, this was the Cairo Drive-In Movie Theater of Fuquay-Varina, NC. It was open for several years in the 1970's and could hold about 250 cars.

How bizarre it was to discover a drive-in on a random Sunday drive in January. It just brings to mind the amazing history of every crumbling barn that we pass on old country roads. It's too bad they all don't have a little sign to commemorate their interesting past.

I was reading a fascinating article in the January issue of National Geographic about abandoned buildings in the Midwest (see The Emptied Prairie - awesome!). Schoolhouses with books, desks and even faded lessons still scrawled on chalkboards. Homes with doilies still placed neatly on dusty, cracked furniture. Rusty cars found swallowed by wild grasses. It's so fascinating to think of the story behind, or literally, inside the building.

I wish we could have found out more on the Cairo Drive-In theater. But, I imagine it's just about the same to these stories. Check out this great clip (only 3 minutes!) we found on old drive-in theaters. My husband, who is a few years older than I am, remembers more about the drive-ins. How they would see a double feature... The first show was for the kids, the second movie for the adults. He and his brothers would be ordered to go to sleep before the second half. I only have vague memories of falling asleep in the backseat with the aroma of popcorn in the air and flickering lights all around.

When we lived in California, my husband and I went to see a move at the drive-in theater in Oakland. I liked walking to the concessions stand on a warm summer evening and being outside with all the other movie-goers.
It was nice to be able to take off my shoes and get comfy in the car. It was fun, even if they got the reels mixed up and we watched the end of the movie before the middle! Oh well - the hazards of the drive-in I suppose!

I've posted more photos of our little adventure on Sunniviews. Anyone else with fond memories of the drive-ins?


chocolate girl said...

ohhh! i loved this post jen, what a wonderful memory you brought back for me. my entire childhood revolved around the 'drive in movie's' with my folks. i just remember the smell of popcorn in the air, munching out in the back seat of our old station wagon, in my jammies, with all my pillows and blankets....fighting with my baby brother over the last of the bon bons....hehehe. what a treasure you have found !! and such a cool thing to do on a sunday afternoon, just take off with the camera and end up where ever the road takes you!


justabeachkat said...

I remember going to drive-in movies with my parents and my sister. I remember it faintly though. Just going and the thrill of eating in the car. I still love movies and I still love popcorn and candy and coke. Great memories you've brought back. Nice photo too.


Donna said...

Hi Jen,
Wow, what wonderful memories of the old drive-in theaters! My friends and I would go all the time. I remember the very first one we ever went to, I was very young, went with Mom and Dad and Dar, and we went to see "Bambi". The unfortunate thing though was when Dad pulled out after the movie and the speaker was still in the window and the window broke. Oops!
Great post! And I liked the video.
Have a great day!

Nora Lee said...

Hi Jen, I found your site thru Kari & Kijsa. I love the old drive-in theaters, there was one in Kernesville, NC that just closed a couple of years ago and was open for 40 years. It stayed full every Friday and Saturday night. I used to take my kids there and fold down that back seat, I would have them dressed in their PJ's and they would lay down on their sleeping bags and watch the movie. They were usually asleep by the time the second movie came on. By the way, both features were of the "family" type. There was also a playground with swings for the kids to play on, and many people brought their lawn chairs and would sit in front of their car to watch the movie. There is still a drive-in theater in Mount Airy, NC called the Brite Leaf.

Thanks for sharing, and please stop by and visit me at Nora Lee's Nook.


bj said...

Oh, gosh, Jen...since I was a teen-ager in the 50's, drive-in movies were a hugh part of my life.
When my brother and I were young, we would get our pj's on, grab pillows and blankies, Mom would fix sandwiches and off we would to to the movies. As I got older, dating age, that's where we always ended up. So much fun!
Thanks for your great post....

Deb said...

Great post Jen. We still have a drive - in (about a half hours drive away)& love going in the summertime. Perfect family night out including the dog! :-}

Anonymous said...

We just visited the Cairo today. I googled it and found your page here.
I work at the (Still open and in business) Drive-in in Henderson
We heard about this theatre so we went up to check it out. We are going to see if we are able to aquire about it and reopen it if possible. It is actually in very good shape to have been sitting for so long. Cross your fingers and hope we can bring it back. Either way come visit us in Henderson.
Double features (Family friendly)
$5 per adult and kids 12 and under are free!!!!

Anonymous said...

Hello sunni,
This is amazing because my great grandmother and great grandfather owned this old drive-in theatre. I remember my great gramma telling me all sorts of stories about here working there and about her famous hot-dog chili. I live in fuquay-varina and its amazing that you found this. Sadly i never got a chance to meet my great grandfather as he died before i was born. But my great gramma sold this land about 10 or so years ago and she was hoping to get the sign back but we havent got it back yet. Anyway its nice you thought of this historic drive-in theatre as an adventure and i hope others look upon it the same as its been in my family for generations.