Life & Island Times: Drive-in Nightmare

Editor’s Note: Standard disclaimer. Marlow is an actual human being and a welcome guest on the Socotra House LLC site. I miss our place- Maverick’s, on Woodward Ave. in suburban Detroit. If I had his car I would probably already be dead.

– Vic

Drive-in Nightmare


I grew up in a place called Clintonville, a small streetcar suburb that was swallowed whole by the city of Columbus Ohio during the baby boom explosion. Growth became crazy as every family had to have a car to get around when the city’s rail trolley system closed in 1948.

Culture disrupting byproducts of this automobile age were the drive-in theaters, restaurants, and sales kiosks that catered to a new customer base that lived this auto life. At their height in the 1960s, there were tens of thousands of drive-in restaurants and theaters in suburban, rural, and even in urban areas. Drive-in theaters started closing in the mid 1960’s, but drive-in restaurants were hitting their stride with licensed boomer drivers motoring their jalopies to their generation’s social networking sites.

Every weekend night starting a bit before sundown these places was jammed with hungry teens ready to down a “Super Jumbo” burger, fries and coke. The hipsters smoked cigarettes, but most were there to check out the opposite sex fauna. Tight pants, bouffant hairdos, oh my. Many of us cruised the place in our hot rods, looking for someone to pull out or challenge us and our ride.

Even now, I can hear songs that played from the AM radios in our cars at our local drive-in diner:

“Superstock Dodge is windin’ out in low/But my fuel-injected Stingray’s really startin’ to go. To get the traction I’m ridin’ the clutch/My pressure plate’s burnin’, this machine’s too much.”

“She’s got a competition clutch with a four on the floor, and she purrs like a kitten til the lake pipes roar.”

“And she’ll have fun, fun, fun til her daddy takes her T-bird away.”

“Turn it on, wind it up, blow it out — GTOoooo.”

After I graduated high school, the local fuzz stopped letting anyone cruise through Jerry’s lot or hang out and talk. This plus the draft, war, college and the onset of the J-O-B phase of our lives was beginning of the end of drive-in restaurants. It was a slo-mo drive-in nightmare.

By the time we boomers started to hit the half century mark during the 1990s, only one or two of these dine-in-your-car eateries per city remained. I was lucky – my place, Jerry’s at the corner of High Street and Morse Road- lasted until 1986, when it was sold to a series of owners who by deed restrictions had to keep the place open as a restaurant and maintain its fabulous moving neon sign out front. It is still there under a different name.

I have fond memories of Jerry’s with its downstairs bathrooms, the inlaid sparkly floor, the chocolate iced brownies for desert, and the owner’s office where a huge shiny blue swordfish hung on the wall.

The continued existence of these surviving drive-ins was assured when we boomer geezers started forming classic car clubs and holding regular gatherings at them. Not much at these events goes on anymore regarding checking out the chicks and certainly there’s no more pull outs for clandestine racing on the back roads. Nope. It’s just old farts sitting in folding lawn chairs next to classic rides, sipping a bagged beer and swapping lies about the old days.

We are seeing perhaps the final death knell of the boomer car culture with more millennials shying away from acquiring driver’s licenses and cars until they reach their mid to late twenties. I guess Uber, carbon footprints, greenhouse gases and alternative energy are having an effect. I can hear the song lyrics now . . .

She’ll have fun, fun, fun, til her daddy takes her Prius away.”

Click it on, charge it up, whine it out, little Focus Ceeeeee”

Maybe sometime in the distant future, American car culture will return to its roots, when the whiskey runners in the South ran from the cops. Perhaps this time the cars themselves will be bootlegged — fat, fast and gas-powered — racing through the night on off-the-map roads while the cops hunt them down using multi –sensor stealth drones. Reborn to run, anyone?

Hopefully, we octogenarian rebels will give our grandchildren our hot rods, so they can road race run from the feds.

– – –

long ago almost every week
I got into a road race
with some joker
on back roads and
I usually won

death did not matter
much then
to me

without knowing why
I was sticking my head
into the lion’s mouth
and walking through waters with
hungry piranhas

I was not alone
in banging on
death’s funny bone

night terror now
is not death
but partial transitory death
at a table in a restaurant with
someone serving food from a dirty
kitchen, with
barely hidden jealousy and
lots of unresolved

better to fear death on the streets of
hell with blabbering financial folks
picking pockets, as they scan for
their next

long ago I beat
in their late model
cars and bikes,
racing red, I
hated those
bright red SOBs

now it’s me
with the red flag
waving at the young bulls
the Hellcat, their nightmare

wonder if most of
them live with their mothers


Copyright © 2017 From My Isle Seat

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