Wednesday, February 16, 2011

What I Remember...

What I Remember… Indian Ladder Drive-In
My family often went to the Indian Ladder Drive In. On weekends, as I remember, the ticket-takers would dress up with feathers and war paint. My dad would say, "Thanks, Chief!"

It was always a long wait until it got dark enough to start the films. The theater played recorded music over the tinny speaker that we would hang inside the car window. Sometimes we would get one that didn't work, and we'd have to move the car. Those speakers were so unlike the huge surround sound speakers in modern theaters and even in homes. A recorded announcement reminded patrons to remember to put the speaker back on its pole before driving away, but asked that patrons who forgot to just hand the speaker, (its torn wire hanging) to an attendant. I always wondered how many people drove home with the speaker just to avoid the embarrassment of having to hand it in.

The show began with a recording of Kate Smith singing "God Bless America." I think there was a flag next to the screen that was lowered at that point. Then the first cartoon would come on - indistinct, because it was still not fully dark. My dad really liked Wiley Coyote - he would laugh till he choked. Eventually the feature film would start. My sister and I, in our pajamas, would try to stay awake through to the end. Rainy nights were a problem. I seem to remember that my dad rigged up a small plastic awning over the windshield on one of those nights.

In the summer of 1965, just after graduating from Voorheesville High School, my friend Paul Westbrook and I got jobs working in the snack bar at the Indian Ladder. It was the perfect work schedule for teenagers: 7 pm to 1 am. We sold hot dogs and hamburgers, meat ball sandwiches, pizza, soft drinks, coffee, and of course, popcorn.

The snack bar had a small storage closet. At the beginning of the season it was packed solid with boxes of paper napkins, straws, paper cups and the like. One night I was maneuvering a 50-pound can of coconut oil out of the closet when it fell on my toe. The toenail eventually grew back.

The big hit movie that summer was "Mary Poppins." It played for a solid month. Paul and I never saw it, but we heard the sound track something like 24 times. Actually, we must have seen it once elsewhere, because we loved the scene where Dick van Dyck, as the old man, says, "When falls the Bank of England, England falls!" We would stop what we were doing every night and go outside to see his perfect backward fall.

There was an intermission every night. Paul and I needed to be prepared for the long lines of patrons, who had just viewed the little cartoon of singing popcorn boxes and dancing soda bottles. We were always very pleased if we saw some attractive young lady come in with her buttons done wrong.

Things were usually quieter after intermission. When the movie was over, we would close up. I was surprised to learn through my cleaning duties that the ladies' room was quite a bit messier that the men's room. I was also able to learn one night that a certain girl liked me, because she had written her name and mine in lipstick. She undoubtedly did not consider the possibility that my professional duties included cleaning that very lipstick off the wall. (Or, maybe she did think of it!)

There was a juice machine that needed to be emptied every night so that the juice could be refrigerated. We learned that if you accidentally grounded yourself against the sink while running the juice into its jug, you'd get a pretty good jolt of electricity. Why didn't we tell Mr. Hallenbeck?

Paul and I worked there six nights a week. I remember we returned once as patrons, with our dates. It was a lovely evening.

The summer ended, and we went off to college. It never occurred to us to take a photo at the Indian Ladder, and I have no memorabilia. Just memories of a time before cable TV and DVDs, when New Scotland had inexpensive movie theaters, and families and teens could enjoy a summer night of entertainment and, well, ok food under the Helderberg Escarpment.

Jerry Shedd
Voorheesville Class of ‘65
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