Please Buy My New Book

About a year ago, I had an idea that clicked so hard in my head that I couldn’t shake it out. It was for a book I wanted to read, an intersection between two nostalgic niches – Route 66 and drive-in theaters. Since nobody else had published the book I wanted, I was stuck with the task of writing it.

For the past six months, I’ve been working on gathering all the details and images I can legally plop into my book, and now it’s ready for you to read. Drive-Ins of Route 66 is available on Amazon as a Kindle book, a full-color paperback, and a less expensive black and white paperback. The Kindle version is also included for Kindle Unlimited members. (And of course, if you click through the links in this post, I get a small affiliate percentage in addition to any royalties I’d earn.)

This book is chock full of quirky turns of phrase, old and new illustrations, and the stories behind each of the 105 drive-in theaters that ever existed within about two miles of Route 66, or one of its alternates, while it was active. Some tell of fights with the censors, some tell of fights with each other, and at least one drive-in is described for the first time in print in over half a century. I’ll be adding some excerpts (such as the chapter called A Short History of Drive-Ins) here on Carload in the weeks to come so you can get a taste.

This book is meant to be periodically updated with new information. So if you spot a mistake or know something interesting to add, let me know so I can include it in the next edition. With ebooks, that next edition could be out next week.

If you’re okay with reading books on a device or your computer (however you’re reading this now), I’d recommend the Kindle version, which lets you see some very nice color photos at a fraction of the cost of the full-color paperback. (It turns out that printing dozens of book pages with all of those inks gets expensive.) You know you want to read this, so go buy it!

A Drive-In Photographer’s Cross-Country Odyssey

The Daily Mail of the UK pointed me this weekend to a story that I had overlooked. Photographer Lindsey Rickert, inspired by her memories of attending drive-ins as a young girl, launched a successful Kickstarter campaign then set off on her own drive-in odyssey to take remarkable pictures of living and dead theaters. She shot 28 drive-ins across 32 states in 65 days, driving 12,022 miles on a cross-country round trip. The result was a serious coffee-table book, Drive-In America, published in 2015.

In her travel blog, Rickert describes the glorious and the mundane details of her trek, such as her complaints about the weather. “I probably should be doing a photo book about storm chasing since it seems that is what I have been doing this entire trip,” she wrote. “While the rain has delayed me a few times, I’m not about to let it hold me down.”

Her story was picked up by Atlas Obscura a few weeks ago, which I’d guess was how the Daily Mail noticed it. Rickert said she started her planning by looking for standing, dead drive-ins. “I placed a large map on my wall, where I placed thumbtacks everywhere I found interesting locations, and the route started to form,” she said. “There was always the possibility that the remnants had been demolished before I could get there — luckily that only happened once.” Promising live drive-ins were added along the way.

I wish I could post some of Rickert’s amazing photos, such as those you can find in the Daily Mail and Atlas Obscura articles, but in addition, I urge you to visit the drive-in section of Rickert’s own web site. There’s even a link to buy the book at a much lower price than Amazon’s showing now.

I’m so impressed by these photos, and they strum a personal chord for me. Around that time, I had thought of shooting a coffee table book of (active) drive-in photos. Since then, I’ve started my own drive-in-a-day cross-country odyssey. (It’s only virtual, but I included Canada and I’m already over 16,000 miles.) It’s an amazing gift to actually view the spectacular output of my road not taken.

A Contemporary Glimpse of The First Drive-In

Line drawing of the first drive-in theater

from the September 1933 issue of Popular Mechanics via Google Books

Here’s something fun that I ran into today, and I wanted to share it with you. In its September 1933 issue, Popular Mechanics ran a superb illustration of the very first drive-in theater, in Camden NJ. It had opened in June 1933, and its marquee simply read “Drive-In Theatre”.

I found this on Google Books, which includes a treasure trove of searchable issues of Popular Mechanics, Life, Billboard, and even some magazines that never mention drive-ins. I’ve read a lot of drive-in books, but I don’t recall ever seeing this wonderful, crisp drawing before. I presume that the copyright for this issue wasn’t renewed in 1961 and that it then slipped into the public domain. If I’m wrong, please correct me gently.

The headline above the illustration read Drive-In Movie Holds Four Hundred Cars. Here’s the one (long) paragraph that accompanied it:

“Motorists can sit in comfort in their own cars and enjoy the movies at a drive-in theater in Camden, N. J. This outdoor talking-picture theater accommodates 400 cars so that about 1,600 persons can view a performance without leaving their automobiles. This is made possible by seven rows of grades inclined so that vision from the rear car is not impaired by those in front. The cars are parked at the front of each row on a five-per-cent grade. Each aisle is fifty feet deep, giving ample room for cars to enter and leave, and the theater is entirely surrounded by trees. The motor-movie fans, even though seated in the last row, 500 feet from the screen, have no difficulty in seeing or hearing. The screen is sixty feet wide and a new method of controlled directional sound carries the words or music to each car with equal, modulated volume. The outdoor theater is expected to appeal particularly to those who do not like to drive through downtown districts to attend a movie.”

In his authoritative Drive-In Theaters, Kerry Segrave disputes those numbers, writing that the ground plan shows six rows for 336 cars, and that the screen was only 40 feet wide. The theater was sold within three years “to a man who ‘moved’ it to Union NJ.” Still, it’s fun to see such a clear picture of the start of something big.