Hooniverse Asks: Would You (Or do You) Hang Out at a Drive-in?

Yesterday was Al Molinaro’s ninety-sixth birthday. Al played “Al Delveccio,” the put-upon owner of Arnold’s Drive In on the long-running TV show Happy Days. Drive-ins were once a prime social venue in this country, adapted from soda fountains as the nation’s advancing automotive infrastructure changed the way we did pretty much everything. The drive-in was where you could grab some fries and a malt if you could scrape together the coin, shoot the shit with your friends, and maybe, have an opportunity to make some time with a member of the opposite sex. It was where it all was at.
Today all that stuff is done on our phones, even the ordering of the food and beverage as you can do that on the handset and have it ready to go when you get there. And of course that means you don’t need to stay there for any reason. That’s kind of sad, and I know a few rodder groups that shun those modern conveniences of social avoidance, choosing instead to make scheduled meets at local old school spots like Bob’s Big Boy. Even that’s still not the same.
There aren’t that many real drive-ins around any more. Sonic still will bring your food out to the car, but they’re one of the few. Do you think that car enthusiasts could be the catalyst for a renaissance of this social venue of the past? Do you think a drive-in diner could serve as a Friday night destination? Would you, or do you, hang out at a drive-in?
Image: kencurtmcintyre on Photobucket.

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20 responses to “Hooniverse Asks: Would You (Or do You) Hang Out at a Drive-in?”

  1. P161911 Avatar

    I wouldn’t say hang out. But I do frequent The Varsity when I go to downtown Atlanta. It is the world’s largest drive-in. Most of the place is now just inside service, but they do still have a couple of dozen spots that are still serviced by car hops, some of which have been there 40+ years. No girls on roller skates, don’t think they ever had that. I have eaten there for the last 40+ years, but only in the last 3 years have I ever had the curbside service. (Sometimes it is easier to feed a toddler in a car seat than in a restaurant.) They do host frequent car shows and car club events too. The spots under the awing at the top are the curbside service spots.
    Here is a shot of the inside counter.
    They serve over 2 miles of hot dogs a day!
    I go to Sonic on occasion too.

    1. Kiefmo Avatar

      On road trips from KC to Columbus, we aren’t allowed to pass through without stopping for an FO for the missus. Stuff’s like crack to her.

  2. nanoop Avatar

    I don’t hang out in my car anymore. This was cool when at high school (‘Hey, I got the car tonight, let’s hang out somewhere we would never want to go to if it wasn’t for the new-found mobility!’), but now me and my friends are affluent enough to meet at a bar, and we are organized enough that we could meet at a third place for, say, a BBQ or a picnic. Getting there may involve a car, of course.

    1. Sjalabais Avatar

      I second that, but I would be more open for hanging out at drive-ins in the US, with its drive-in-history and existing infrastructure. In Europe, youths hanging out at and with their cars are often identified as troublemakers and slackers – certainly a harsh and injust stereotype, but if you keep looking, you’ll get prejudice confirmed at times. In fact, much of why urban youth are trying so hard to distance themselves from cars, might be associated to this bit of car culture. In Norway, they’re sinply called “rånere”, hanging out in parking lots and driving up and down the streets all night.

      1. nanoop Avatar

        What is special about Norway is the absence of villages: either you live in a town, or all by yourself. Consequently, the countryside “raiders” meet up at a place that is easy to reach, offers cheap and undigestable food, and is open for the larger bit of the evening – totally understandable . Certainly, city people look down on cars carrying high beam racks in front of the Volvo badge, as this is not necessary in a proper city.

        1. dead_elvis Avatar

          See, those city folk are just wrong – and unprepared! because how else would you be able to cook your fresh roadkill without those giant heaters on the front??

      2. dead_elvis Avatar

        And such vandalism! How else would a Brick end up painted pink, other than by troubled youths with time to kill?
        /shakes fist at kids on lawn, looks fondly at old, non-pink 244DL in driveway.

  3. smalleyxb122 Avatar

    I sort of long for a time when drive-in restaurants were a thing. Meeting up at the Dog ‘N Suds was a thing when I was in high school, but even then (in the mid ’90s) it was seen as a novelty. A throw back to a simpler time.
    I kind of like Sonic because it tries to bring some of that feeling back without being too panderingly retro. (It’s also one of the most consistent places to get a passable Chicago-style hot dog outside of Greater Chicagoland)
    Sonic isn’t really set up well as a meeting place, though. A regular parking lot serves that purpose better.

  4. engineerd Avatar

    I would hang out at a drive-in. Because it would mean I’m not hanging out in my living room. New father problems and all.

  5. tonyola Avatar

    I grew up in Titusville, FL where a true old-school drive-in complete with carhops and trays that hang off the window still exists. The Moonlight Drive-in has been operating for at least 50 years at the same location on US 1 and it has scarcely changed in all that time. When I was in high school it was a hang-out spot but that was ages ago. The last time I ate there was in late 2008.

  6. Tanshanomi Avatar

    I think I’ve “hung out at a drive-in” exactly twice in my life — both times in a small Kansas town with in-law relatives who do that sort of thing. Even when I hung out at the local Dairy Queen in high school, it wasn’t an old-style drive-in, just a restaurant parking lot.

  7. GTXcellent Avatar

    Our small town still has a ‘real’ drive-in complete with car hops, stainless trays to hang off the window, the whole works. However, nobody has ever “hung out” there. Maybe because the parking lot isn’t all that big, and they are always busy so folks just order, eat, and leave so someone else can have a parking spot.

  8. Guest Avatar

    My local Burger Bar just got renovated (now with indoor seating!) which is a big deal, since it hasn’t really changed since the 80’s.

    Do I hang out there? No, not really, but that’s only because I live out of town. A lot of my schoolmates hang out there though, mostly because a lot of my schoolmates work there!

  9. Ken Pauley Avatar
    Ken Pauley

    The best I have here is Sonic (which isn’t) but their food gives me the shits.

  10. zsvdkhnorc Avatar

    I don’t so much hang out at the drive-in as eat there.
    Stewart’s Root Beer float, a mushroom and swiss burger, mozzarella sticks, and fried mushrooms. Perfect victuals after a hard day’s work.

  11. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

    On the basis of the sheer number of assholes who simply throw their wrappers out the window when they’re done eating in the car outside McDonalds, thus extending the boundary of the restaurant by several hundred feet in each direction for every McD’s in an urban parking lot, I’d say that the majority of McDonalds branches technically ARE drive-ins….

  12. mzszsm Avatar

    I took my wife and daughter to DQ half an hour before closing earlier this week. It was eye opening experience to my daughter, she thought it would be dead, but it’s summer so there were a lot of people coming and going and people still bring their convertibles. I lived next door to a DQ when I was very little 😉

  13. mr smee Avatar
    mr smee

    No, did a little bit when we had some great drive-ins, but the whole car thing was show of giant egos. Then it became this horrible faux-nostalgia thing with middle age guys and 57 Chevys, now it’s hipsters in T-buckets, So, no, not for a loooong time. I’d rather drive my car or ride my old FJ1200.

  14. mdharrell Avatar

    I’m guilty of taking vehicles to one or two events per year here (scroll down for their schedule):
    but these are far too formalized to count as “hanging out” there. On the bright side, the food is really tasty and probably not at all conducive to good health.

  15. Maymar Avatar

    Growing up in the suburbs, I sort of find that sort of car-centric urban planning kind of alienating, and mostly find myself in denser areas where I’m probably parked 500m from wherever I want to be. I’m okay with that.
    I do like Sonic as a novelty though.

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