The Harmless Pranks We Pulled During The Time of The Ford Drive-In
The drive-in: A truly American icon
This piece is dedicated
to the late writing genius, the late Dr. Hunter S. Thompson. (and my close-friends: Steve Sullins; Billy Sullins; Allen Coons; James, Gary and Glenn Childers; the late Donnie Avery and Dwight “Oz” Ausborn. And Tommy Roby, Jerry Colburn and Buddy Sullins (older brother of Steve and Billy), who paved the way for my friends and I and many more puberty-shocked teenage guys.)
In our beginning
1971. My year. Oh yeah. Man, oh man. Driver’s license, my dad’s ’64 Chevy, a pack of regular Marlboro, and my unorthodox, square peg in a round hole buddies all converging at Ford Drive-In. Oh, the times we had and most of them illegal.
That was our teenage lives. Border-line jail time and birthing hard laughs to make old age bearable. We thought we had really uncovered the meaning of life. We thumbed our noses at noted, noble professors of psychology and sociology at major universities. We felt very cocky and frankly, it felt great. As long as we had Ford Drive-In, and the other items I mentioned, we didn’t need the outside world—or its rules, blues, spotlights and ridicules.
This is not a comedy-rendering, but a near-reverent tribute to a true American legend: The drive-in. At Ford Drive-In, we thrived, thrilled, and lived on the heavenly-aromas of hotdogs and hamburgers cooking while tons of popcorn was popping. We we’re unknowingly-addicted to the aroma of various scents of cigarettes, cigars and cheap whiskies and beer. Yeah, man. We were men. The hair on our chest proved it.
There wasn't a way to not have a good time at the drive-in
An innocent time gone
Real life in the cars at the local drive-in
Nothing stays the same
Then the breezes would change and our senses were teased with the sensual smells of endless brands of perfume worn by fast girls who dated slow guys who failed a grade or two, but that trade school experience and stock boy job at the local Piggly Wiggly made him as good as any high school student. Alright. I’m a good sport. I’ll reveal a few of the fast girls’ names. There was “Rosa,” “Margie,” “Wanda,” and “Cheryl,” who loved red short skirts. So did we. I need to stop and finish this dream I am currently enjoying about Ford Drive-In before I finish this story.
Tick . . .tock. Tick . . .tock. Tick . . .tock.
Whew! Thank you, dear readers. I might share with you that things, even in my dreams, haven’t changed that much at our heralded and celebrated Ford Drive-In. I even smelled the aroma of cheap gasoline burning from the line of cars that always appeared at our “Haven of Hollywood Heroes,”: Sean Connery, Joe Namath and well, we could care less about famous film stars, it was those sizzling-hot female stars we were after—Ann-Margaret, Raquel Welch and Barbara Parkins. And I cannot leave out, Sharon Tate, Lee Grant and the always-mysterious, Jacqueline Susann. Yeah, man. Thoughts of carnal knowledge always flooded our minds.
Pure adrenaline: Movies shown at the drive-in
The drive-in: A teenage oasis in the "desert of life"
The Ford Drive-in gone: A wound that never healed
Sadly, and with many Voodoo curses made on a straw doll representing “progress,” and a few hundred straight pins stuck in his rump, I’m sad to say that Ford Drive-In is only an ugly place on the side of the hill it used to stand. A few speaker poles serve as a loving, taunting reminder of our time when we lived. Really lived. But Mr. White Bedford, the owner’s little wooden ticket booth and announcement center (made over those huge cone speakers), is gone. Not many where I live even care to save his memory, and the limitless-sad, bad, and unspeakable memories made at Ford Drive-In.
Man, oh man.
Now that my eyes are dry, here are only a few “acceptable for public viewing,” . . .
One of the first drive-in ads
Updated drive-in poster
Classic sound-system found at drive-in's
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“10 Harmless Pranks That We Used to Pull at Ford Drive-In.”
Waiting for the film to start then sneak behind a buddy’s car and set-off a pack or two of Black Cat firecrackers.
Placing a raw Irish potato in the tailpipe of another buddy’s car—while he’s deep into his moves making-out with a waitress from one of our local teen burger joints.
Sneaking as silently as any Ninja to the back of a friend’s car in the summertime and his glasses are rolled-down, then pour a sickening-mixture of sulphur, ruined buttermilk and other ingredients into the backseat—even if he and his girl are in the back-seat going heavy . . . and this is as far as I need to go.
Shooting bottle-rockets at someone’s car parked in front of the big screen.
Letting the air out of the tires on the back of a buddy’s nice-looking muscle car.
Buying a gross of smoke bombs and everyone in our car, sometimes five guys, light two bombs at a time and thrown them all around our car making it appear as the car is burning.
Raiding a guy who is taking a girl out for the first time. This is the safest of our pranks. Two or three of us would sneak up behind his car and without warning, jump into his back seat.
If we knew the person in the next car, we would take turns tossing French fries through his open windows.
If Mr. Bedford remembered to turn out the parking-lot lights, we had it made. We would tie tin cans to the back bumpers of as many cars as we could. When the movie was over, we sat still and laughed until we cried.
If someone was brave enough, he would stick a Western Auto battery-powered bull-horn out of this window and call someone we knew was at the drive-in to Mr. Bedford’s office. (Mr. Bedford was hard of hearing).
(And this one is to offer my salute to Buddy Sullins, Jerry Colburn and Tommy Roby. These guys in early 1969, sneaked into the Ford Drive-In at dusky dark one night and “borrowed” a speaker from one of the outside poles. Then attached electric wire to the speaker wire and sat in the woods adjacent to the drive-in and not only watched a free movie, but heard the dialogue as well).
Next at bat . . . I have decided to just let you wonder.
NOTE: None of the photos used in this story are of Ford Drive-in, Hamilton, AL., but if you like, inbox me and I will give you the number of our city hall and you can call the employees who work there to verify that there really was a Ford Drive-in.
FACT: Roger Bedford, our Alabama State Senator, Dist. 17, was Mr. White Bedford's (who I mentioned in this piece) grandson and we used to see Roger in his short pants hanging-out with his granddad and having the time of his life with free popcorn and sodas.