The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

History

April 11, 2014

Clinton's own drive-in theater

Spring brings many thoughts, but taking the family out to see a big-screen movie at the Clinton Drive-In Theatre on Iowa 136 and North 16th Street is sadly no longer an option.

Large families were thirsting for family activities after World War II. For years, they had worked long and hard, with only movies from the 1930s and ‘40s to offer brief escape. There were dances, of course, but things for new families were few, even though young Americans were raising their toddlers during an era that would be named for post-War offspring… the “Baby Boomers.”

Richard Milton Hollingshead promoted the drive-in concept by noting numerous advantages afforded to patrons, such as the option to smoke without bothering anyone or violating fire laws; no necessity to “dress up;” talking during the movie without disturbing anyone; as well as the freedom to eat and drink in the privacy of your vehicle. Equally important, young children could be brought along and left to sleep on the back seat in their pajamas, thus eliminating the need to hire a babysitter.

On May 16, 1933, (the day the patent was granted), construction work began on the drive-in at Crescent Boulevard in Pennsauken Township, N.J.. Opening night was June 6, 1933, and it was known simply as the Drive-In Movie Theater. Clinton’s own drive-in started in 1949, and that was the first time a telephone was listed there.

At the beginning, the price of admission was just 25 cents per car. But by the time one reached Clinton, “a dollar per car” was more the standard for a special night. Bob Soesbe recalls putting a mattress in the back of his station wagon and taking his whole family. They would bring their own popcorn, Kool-Aid and other treats.

There was a playground available while the children waited patiently for the sun to go down. Typically, the kids would only last through the first feature; then their grateful parents could enjoy the second movie (usually the better of the two) in peace and quiet.

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