Before television drive-ins were popular. The Belmont was owned by Robert and Electa Stocker. The Stockers lived on the upper end of North Main Street in Chester. Mrs. Stocker taught French and music at the Junior High School, now the Academy Building. I had her for two years of French and music. Because she taught both French and music we sang songs in French class. Do you remember singing Frère Jacques, Dominque, or Alouette? Below are a few of my memories.
I was kind of a troublemaker in school or at best mischievous (I know this will come as a shock to many). I don’t remember now what I had done as so many years have passed, but Mrs. Stocker took after me. I ran downstairs into the boys’ basement thinking I’d be safe. Nope, Mrs. Stocker followed me into the boys’ basement. I said to her, “You can’t come in here.” Her reply: “You don’t have anything I haven’t seen before.” She grabbed ahold of me and dragged me upstairs.
Also at this time in the same school was Mr. Clough’s science class. He gave us a science project where we had to build something electrical that ran on batteries. Mr. Clough had a lisp and always said “electwicity.”
Upstairs in our barn, I found an unusual speaker with a wire cable that had been cut off about a foot or so. It was a speaker from a drive-in. Perfect I thought.
I then went down across the street from the Chester Laundromat to the telephone company building. A man was there (might have been one of the Stowell brothers) so I told him what I wanted to build. He gave me a couple transmitters and one receiver and told me what I needed for switches, lights, and batteries to build my intercom.
I mounted all of the components on a board, installed the switches and lights as instructed and low and behold it worked. I was some proud of my invention. I carried it to school and set it up in the science room.
Well Mrs. Stocker recognized the speaker as one from the Belmont Drive-In. Boy did I get chewed out. It turns out my older brother Brian had stolen it. When our science project was over Mrs. Stocker confiscated the speaker.
Now a little about the Belmont Drive-In. Cars would start to arrive an hour before dark. There were rows and rows of speakers mounted on poles. You drove up close to a speaker, rolled your window down and hung the speaker on the top of your window. As you drove up to the speaker pole there was an incline so when your car was parked you were looking slightly uphill. This way you could see better over the car in the row in front of you.
The movie would start when it was dark. There were commercials and coming attractions on the huge screen for you to watch. “Visit the concession stand. We have sparkling sodas, hot dogs and juicy hamburgers on the grill. Popcorn and all sorts of candies await you,” came the voice through the speaker. Tantalizing images of hot dogs, soft drinks and French fries were shown on the screen.
In the 1950s my parents took us kids to the drive-in on Saturday night. The movies always began with cartoons. I most always fell asleep in the back seat before the movie was over.
Sometimes someone in front of you had his foot on his brake pedal. These brake lights were annoying when you were watching a movie. Then someone would arrive late and park behind you, with his headlights on, another nuisance. People would blow their horn or holler at the offender.
When some of us kids were older and had a driver’s license we went to the Belmont. Money was tight for the admission so we would pool our money. We could get a couple kids in the trunk so they weren’t seen and drive up to the admissions window and pay for the driver and one passenger. “Be quiet back there, we’re approaching the ticket booth.” Once parked, we opened the trunk and the kids would climb out.
Bordering the drive-in was a lumberyard. Some kids got out of the car before the drive-in and went into the lumberyard. Then they would sneak into the drive-in from the side and join their friends.
This week’s old saying. “What’s the difference between a friend and a real friend? A friend will bail you out of jail. A real friend is sitting beside in jail and says, ‘Damn that was fun.’”