I wished my four kids had known the fun of going to the Borderland outdoor drive in movie theatre on a Maine summer evening.
Our closest one to Houlton Maine was the Borderland Drive In. There was the Cummings Theatre, an outdoor drive in in the Woodstock New Brunswick Canada are. One other one pretty handy was in Enfield, Maine. Another in Presque Isle and further north in Maine.
This Borderland outdoor drive in movie Maine theatre on the west side of the North Road, US Rt 1.
Hidden from the road by low trees so you could not see the rows of parked cars. But from the the highway you could not miss the bigger than life actors as you slowed to a crawl and drove by. Western mountain ranges, lots of horses, cattle and cactus. Sometimes a little more exotic. Not so “G” rated or family friendly now playing up on the big outdoor movie screen. Shield your eyes kids. Don’t look Ethel but it was too late. Like in the Ray Steven’s The Streak song.
And during the intermission of a double feature or before the first show started, dancing mouth watering hotdogs, candy, popcorn and happy beverage containers rotated.
Did a jig on the big silver outdoor movie screen. To entice, make you trot to the concession stand that was bathed in yellow light. For those hungry souls with a little spending money in the movie going audience.
That concession stand had two of the heaviest spring loaded outdoor screen doors closers known to mankind.
I bet you a ten dollar bill that door racked up a beefy pull snap with about an 80 pound or higher torque. Better get in quickly or lose a body part, getting grazed or caught by the swift shutting screened door. Everyone learned quickly and don’t think it was OSHA approved. The cooks and wait staff assembling your quick here you go take out food orders. They all wanted the night air flying pest to stay on the other side of that snack shack eatery screened doorways.
The beginning drive in theatre show was preceded by the bright lights on, dancing food marching across the screen.
All designed to make you drool for fifteen minutes. For the call to action and get your butt to the concession stand before the movie reels and the arch lighting behind the film started projection started whirling. The take out food advertising highly effective to sufficiently plant the seed you really need hot dogs, hamburgers, clam baskets STAT. The local Maine potatoes sprinkled with vinegar on your home made fries and onion rings adults and kids. Work on your parents little ones. Those sitting on the wallet, with the pocketbook over their shoulder with money to buy them. If you whine convincingly long and loud enough.
The little brothers and sisters made use of the drive in theatre outdoor swings, slides and turn style rides in slippered pj’s in the night air.
It was a big deal to go to the drive in with your friends, a date. Your family depending on your age and if it was still cool or not. The end of the movie meant Lou Webber reminds you what was coming up for future film attractions. And to make sure you replaced your speaker. The tinny silver one on the end of a wire on to its matching white metal pole “saddle”.
It seems my three older brothers did not always remember and I found quite a collection over the machine shed at the farm I grew up on.
Not exactly high fidelity. And in later years a shift to sound transmitted thru the lower radio band took over. Helped keep the mosquitos out of the car that did the limbo to one by one squeeze in by the hanger of that tinny speaker.
The Borderland Drive In Theatre had church services back in the 1980’s.
Stay in your car, roll in as you are. For worship, song, watching and listening by tuning into a low powered FM radio transmitter broadcasting the presentation this week. Maybe the Borderland will come back into operation. The drive in for future area high school graduations one by one commencement ceremonies happening outdoors in the open air. Your well wishers in their respective cars more than 6 feet apart on the rows and rows of raised mounds.
The high school graduations from Maine high schools during coronovirus sheltering in place and quarantined work arounds. Could bring outdoor drive in theatres back to life with more purpose. Than only nightly flicks thrown up on the summer night screens. Where you see no hand holding, hugging, zero fist bumps.
The graduation ceremony parties both stepping back six feet or more by those presenting and the high school senior student on the receiving end. Rolling down the incline, gravity sliding the rolled up tube or elastic wrapped curled tightly diploma. Here it comes. Launched tube for pick up at the lower exit point. Across a six foot or greater presentation sluice way. Over a squeaky clean prep table herded with a rod or broom handle.
Maybe using the “Grabber” bought on television from Ronco and they really work folks. Or a second one for half the price. Senior citizens reach for them nine to one over other brands as there favorite device the high rotation run of schedule ROS broadcast ad states. For reaching out to retrieve fallen items down so low or ones way too high up for the go go gadget arms secret power extension.
Oh look, at dusk there’s the graduating senior who everyone came to the event to see the ceremony huddled inside the Chrysler mini van or family sedan.
Get your camera ready to catch an image or two of the senior wearing that funny square hat with the gold tassel in the gown smiling ear to ear from the accomplishment. That might be the best work around during the COVID19 pandemic. Might mean putting the silver screen hibernating so so long back up and in better working repair condition. The screen “gone with the wind” from neglect lack of use and weather damage.
My real estate office secretary’s family members all connected and worked together with a little friction at the Borderland drive in outdoor theatre operation.
They started it. Talked to Brian Cole this morning out at his retirement home on Drews Lake in Linneus Maine. Brian worked at the Borderland Drive In with his brothers. He remembers people sneaking in from the B Road during Buck night. Recalls to that some people went to the outdoor movie that never ended up watching it. Not even one scene of the flick flashed up on the bigger than life screen beyond the car hood out front.
Pat Cassidy another work used to go car to car to offer to wash our windshield for free.
Usually got a quarter or more tip from those that did come to the sci-fi creature or whatever double feature. Maybe it was a big sky spaghetti Big Sky Western pair of movies or back to back James Bond shows. People who did want to watch and munch on pop corn. To eat homemade french fries with ketchup and vinegar that still has the potato peelings on them. Washing it all down with Bubble Up, their favorite flavor of local bottler Fitz’s Beverage or an adult barley pop drink.
Remember the concession stand with yellow light bulbs and wicked strong high tension door springs to keep the mosquitoes as big as robins at bay?
That little crack where the tinny sounding speaker with the long wire hung after rolling the glass almost to the top. Leaving a gap where the buzzing varmits looking for your fresh blood could squeeze into your car or pick up truck or van space.
Or you could use the coil you lit up with a match and placed on the dashboard.
The one that smelled like something sprayed over Vietnam jungles for a defoiliant or an insense stick. Something from the head shop named the “Zodiac” on Broadway in Houlton Maine owned and operated by the Moran family. You know the one next to the S&H green stamp store, Beals family restaurant near the Aroostook County jail. The green stamp store where you got your sporting goods, camping supplies. My aunt Charlene Been worked there I remember.
As a little Maine kid wanting a tennis racket or baseball glove.
To play sets back and forth up and over the net at the rec center. Or to field stitched little league leather wrapped balls at short stop or out in center field or whatever diamond location.
It took 2.25 books of green stamps to score one when money growing up on a Maine farm during a poor bleak potato year meant those sticky back currency was the only hope.
Dead River Oil Company, local grocery stores like Don’s Brewer, Sampson’s, Wilson’s Market on South Street or the C&G IGA Foodliner.
Everyone gave out the green stamps that spit out of a machine you dialed like a rotary phone. The more you spent, the greater the connected coil of green stamps showed up to fold into the grocery bill receipt and hand back with a smile and courtesy thank you very much. Everyone in my small Maine town gave out green and gold plaid stamps too as a bonus perk for your shopping patronage.
Nola a little gruff all the time on the Borderland grill flipping burgers, adding cheese slices and pushing the hot dogs around the sizzling greased surface.
Deep fried clam baskets Ruth Peabody created lots. Teamed the take out fried food fryolator hot grease corner of the busy drive in theatre concession kitchen. While the two sniped back and forth about “Get Out Of My Work Space” you old bat snipes and verbal jabs. Ralph downstairs eating candy bars after the show. As any diabetic in this blog post audience knows that’s a big no no. That you should not be munching on sweets. Later, Ralph getting a kidney transplant and struggling with a royally messed up sense of balance vertigo for the rest of his difficult adult life.
Lewis Webber, Ralph’s his dad in the projection booth always on the PA looking for his son. Harold Peabody, Lou’s brother in law handing out the upcoming movie flyer hand bills.
As vehicles with Maine and Canadian plates lined up and rolled through the Borderland Drive In ticket booth check point. To lower the glass in the passenger side door. To fork over the cash for the number of movie goers in the car unless it it was buck night. All happening around dusk, rain or shine as one by one vehicles rumbled in and drove slowly to their favorite location.
Opens in 1949, closed for good in 1985 the end of an outdoor movie going drive in theatre era.
And 450 outdoor theatre car outdoor movie going car spaces went unused after that as the grass grew tall and unmowed. Thee buildings, big screen too all decayed slowly in hibernation. After movies, the employees all walked back and forth to comb the premises around all those raised mounds. The ones kepts mowed and tidy. Where you parked your vehicle just so to gain the best hump rock back and forth angle. To finally throw it into park or leave it in gear shutting off the engine.
Sit back, push the seat away from the steering wheel of if a T-bird push it out of the way. Away from your pot belly. To settle in for the night time movie show. The one now playing in your small Maine home town as you looked up at the big screen in front of all the vehicles in a row.
Dad would bring us back boxes of popcorn with a happy clown on the front. Some bottles or cans of soda too. But we always suspected, my three olders brothers and I hunkered down in the back seat of the family sedan wondered. That Dad appeared to have trace amounts of mustard on his cheek. I bet he was gone so long not because he got talking or ran into someone he knew. But sampling a few hurried eaten hot dogs of his own un-beknowst to the rest of the family, Mom included.
The debris and garbage after that show from overflowing way way too small garbage cans. It found its way to 55 gallon rusted refuse barrels behind the snack shack and torched.
Back when outdoor open burning was okay and the norm for garbage before recycling centers popped up to service many towns trash loads. The candy wrappers, empty beer cans, cardboard carry out food trays and napkins all rounded up to get ready for the next outdoor movie show. Families, teenagers with fresh driving licenses and Cupid’s arrow at work. Movie lovers of all ages flocked to the outdoor drive in theatre location around Maine and New Brunswick Canada my neighbor just a few miles distant. The outdoor big screen pretty special for a and outdoor presentation long before LED screens went all out for little money and indoor home theatre set ups for the movie consumption.
It was dangerous driving south on US RT 1 and looking out of the corner of your eye at the X-rated movies flashing on the Borderland Drive In screen.
The drive in party animals just a little too tee hee social were off to the left, the leave me alone crowd on the right. Everyone with families down the middle all enjoying the movie in different ways and parking locations. Kids in their pajamas with the sewn in foot protection with vinyl bottoms. So you can trot to the swings and play on the ground slides. Or spin the circular get dizzy motion ride. Or hop the teeter totter hoping for no silvers before parent hollered come back to the car. Or your big brother or sister was sent to retrieve you. While giant dancing food and candy of all types kept waltzing in mouth watering formation across the screen with flood lights on the corners. Your hunger increasing to the point of borderline border land starvation. The lighted path to you know where and reminder hurry.
You just have barely enough time as the minutes counted off lighting up the drive in theatre bright as the sun with high powered spot lights.
Before pitch black total eclipse happened and everything went darker than the inside of a cow. And then pipe down hollered to rabble rousers. As SHHHhhhh, settle in, watch the show. Or get reported and asked to start up your car and leave slowly without hitting anyone loaded up with take out food trying to find where the heck they parked. No texting your partner for help. No GPS on your cell phone during the 40’s through 80’s decade in history. It’s show time on a hot summer evening in small town rural Maine and you feel lucky.
Herman Moran, self appointed deputy sheriff want to be would be directing traffic with a moving flash light to make sure US Rt 1 was not a log jam.
Herman wielded the biggest known to man multi battery police version flashlight to shine the way to exit out onto the North Road, US RT 1 that was fast moving. Many drive in theatre patrons a little sleepy after being cooped up in the car or so long. Herman took the job serious and I don’t he was of German lineage. His heroics service night after night so everyone could get home for the night without fanfare, a big production or any delay. His civil defense training and road hazard yellow lights, all the highway motoring gear made the event seem more professional to a high school kid. Buck night and five dollar car load night meant a few extras brought in to stretch our allowances for the week too. Still a few Maine drive in outdoor movie theatres.
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