Ag pleez deddy...

2009-10-23 11:33
The motorbike was driven by a guy with a shaved head, I can't pretend I was wearing a helmet, but I was 19 so it seemed impossible that I could ever die. As the warm Durban air whipped my hair back at 60kmph, I felt wonderful and wild, like the character in a song.

We were going to the drive-in.

Ray stopped the bike and I fell off into the brambles and garbage in the roadside ditch by the drive-in perimeter. We waited quietly until our long-haired friend Steve pulled up on his wonky 250cc with his girlfriend on the back.

Then we began Operation Get In For Free.

Before climbing under the fence, we scouted for security presence. A scratch or two later, we were in! Steve took his portable radio out of his pocket and we huddled around it in the shadow of the takeaway place that reeked of frying oil and stale pee to watch True Lies and share the two warm 340mls I'd transported in my pockets.

I know, I know... it's silly. But I miss drive-ins. And when I first smell summer, I still think of them.

I remember being five years old and playing in front of the screen at the Sea Breeze before the show, in that magical half hour just after the sun went down, when the world was full of fairies and interesting kids I'd never seen before. I don't recall what the game was, but it went something like this: Run around! Run around! "What's your name?" Ok, let's run around! Run around! Run around!

They used to show Tom & Jerry short movies before the main show, which was the best - I wished all the movies were shorts starring mice. And sometimes we'd get hoddogs and Cokes, or proper slap chups. The more disgusting the food was, the better it tasted there.

The main feature always started 30 minutes late, so everybody would hoot, and flash their lights on the screen in protest. My father said it was because the owners made most of their money at the takeaway place and they wanted people to get bored enough to go shopping. My mom claimed Dada (later to be renamed Pug) was cynical, but contrary to popular belief, she wasn't always right. My parents didn't like to hoot but we'd always make them join in eventually.

Sometimes I had to take my brother to the toilet halfway through the movie, because I was older, and could protect him against strangers, and he could help me locate the car again afterwards. I wonder if my parents snogged while we were gone. They must've; they were still in their twenties. That's still a bit eeeuw.

I remember my mother cleaning the misted-up windows of our geriatric blue Datsun with tissues, and my brother Danny and I squishing together between the seats to see the film, and also the time he fell asleep before Jungle Book ended, which meant we had to leave early, so everyone hooted at us because our lights were on the screen. I remember seeing the trailer for Friday the 13th a few years later, and being terrified of pillows for months afterwards.

Tragically - one by one over the decades - the drive-ins closed down, along with those burger places where they clip the trays onto your car windows, and the ice rinks. 

As each one went I'd mourn it, even though it was probably because of people like me who jumped the fence all the time, or never went ice skating, or screwed up with an electric window while showing off (or perhaps because of all that hooting in residential areas). And every time I heard one had become a townhouse complex, I'd end up singing the first two lines of that silly Jeremy Taylor song: "Ag pleez deddy / Won't you take us to the drive in / Only eight hours in the Chev ro let"...

The rest? I forget how it goes.

If that made you feel sentimental, you might be glad to know that...
Jeremy Taylor is in South Africa to do some shows at the Baxter until October 24. I didn't know he was even still alive, but I hope his fans still have some vacuum-packed teabags left over from the last pre-elections suburban panic. He digs tea. For the hipper at heart: There are still a couple of drive-ins scattered around South Africa. And there's a new cinema one opening on the roof of a hotel called the Grand Daddy in Cape Town. Ok, it's fully ironic, because you can't actually drive in - but they do screen films in their rooftop Airstream trailer-park, which has a bar, but sadly no slap chups. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

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