WBFO Listener Commentaries
Tue March 2, 2010
Commentary: Backyard drive-in theater
By Sandra Wilkins
Buffalo, NY – Buffalo's Home and Garden Show is an event my husband and I never miss - whether we plan to buy something or not. This past weekend as I checked out thier website to see who was exhibiting and what new products were available, I felt the winter coming to an end and looked forward to spring. I almost felt it beginning even though it was still quite cold. I looked out at my snow covered garden and wondered what at the Home Show would tempt me this year? A patio? A hot tub? Then I saw an advertisement: It's a Drive In Movie Theater for Your Own Back Yard! I suddenly found that I was no longer looking ahead to the spring - but back to summer - back to many summers - a long long time ago.
When I was a young girl my father was a teacher. One summer he brought home a movie projector from school. Excitedly, we went to the Niagara Falls Public Library and rented reels of film. We took them home and my father set up a small movie screen in front of our house putting the projector at the bottom of our porch stairs. We lived on a small block with only 4 houses on either side but we had plenty of kids in our neigborhood and all of them ended that day sitting on our porch watching a movie. All summer long my father would load the station wagon with the neighborhood kids and take us to pick out some new movies, stopping at Ashker's for Ice Cream on the way. The audience grew steadily that year and we moved the viewings to our backyard, as the porch was too small to fit everyone.
The next summer my father took four large pieces of wood, painted them white and mounted them in a square on the garage behind our house. The neigbors and their friends, children and adults, would gather in our yard after dinner bringing their own folding chairs and snacks, and we would all watch movies together. From Walt Disney's "Elmer the Elephant" to Jack London's "To Build A Fire" - we saw it all on those humid summer nights. And boy- was it something special! Movies were a luxury back then to a family like ours and to quite a few others I would imagine. There was no Blockbuster or Netflix - not even a VCR or Beta! No, it was the cinema, the drive in, or the Novelli's back yard - complete with swimming pool!
One of my old neighbors told us that one day last summer, he projected a movie onto the side of his Camper for his children's neighborhood friends. He did it because he remembered how much joy it brought him as a child but never dreamed it would bring so much excitement to these kids! Today you can watch "Elmer the Elephant" on Utube and rent movies real time through your television set. I, myself, have a theater in my house complete with surround sound, where I spend many a winter's evening wrapped in a blanket. Somehow though, I don't think I'll be cold tonight. No, I'll be feeling the heat of a mid-August night, the glow on the faces of children long grown, and the warmth of my father's love