The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Michele Bender

May 3, 2014

Watch the stars come out

— At 18, I had my first drive-in movie date. I sat in a blue Ford Fairlane watching a bizarre biker flick, “Born Losers.”

Every spring, I catch drive-in movie fever. We are blessed to have three outdoor theaters in a 30-mile radius. Movies under the stars … heavenly!

My mom, a Hollywood junkie, rarely missed a show at the Westmont Drive-In Theatre, now site of the Westwood Plaza Shopping Center.

Back then, drive-ins were open seven nights a week. For kids, that meant endless fun. The playground beckoned with swings and seesaws. The snack bar tempted us with popcorn and candy.

In 1928, a bored auto parts shop employee in Camden, New Jersey (Everyone in Camden is bored. I guess it depends on the degree.) experimented with an idea he had: Why couldn’t people watch a film from their cars?

He pinned two sheets together, nailed them between two trees and, using a 1928 Kodak projector, established the Richard Hollingshead Drive-In on his folks’ driveway. Four cars attended the first showing.

For his second season, Hollingshead  installed ramps so cars could park in rows. He began to attract attention with this enterprise. For the third season, RCA offered speakers, sensing he was on the brink of something fascinating. Hollingshead received his patent in 1933. Moviegoers paid 25 cents.

Of course, the industry evolved. We are about to be part of that process when Silver Drive-In owner Rick Rosko unveils the new digital movie projector that will replace the old film projector. The first movie shown digitally will be “The Amazing Spiderman 2,” on Saturday. Another cinematic milestone!

How fitting that May 10 also will be the date of another milestone: It’s my 65th birthday! How cool is that?

And what better spot to hold my party than … The Silver Drive-In? I’ll be the only geezer­ette to have her party guests entertained by Spiderman.

From 4 to 8 that afternoon, I’ll be there with free birthday cake (not to mention my clever wit and radiant personality) to meet and greet some of you wonderful readers who’ve stuck with me for nine years.

It’s “open house – come ‘n’ go” from 4 to 8. Later, those who want to experience the groundbreaking technology can purchase tickets and be dazzled. There may be even more surprises, too.

I’ve now reached the point where the Latin phrase “vetustior humo” (“older than dirt”) fits. And I can remember when there were still nine planets, before they voted Pluto out of the galaxy.

I’m like a classic symphony now, the upside of aging. When I move my knees, raise my arms, or turn my neck, I hear a rhythmic crack. I’m not old; I’m crispy!

I’m still working on the resolutions I made last year. I promised to get out more, do some volunteering and walk more.

Come see me Saturday, and we’ll have a heavenly afternoon. No gifts, PLEASE!

Bring a food donation for St Vincent de Paul, and all our stars will shine brighter!

Michele Mikesic Bender is a Johnstown resident and a member of  The Tribune-Democrat’s Readership Advisory Committee.

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Michele Bender
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  • Watch the stars come out

    Every spring, I catch drive-in movie fever. We are blessed to have three outdoor theaters in a 30-mile radius. Movies under the stars … heavenly!

    May 3, 2014

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What is the biggest key to reducing gun violence in Johnstown?

Tackling the area's drug problem.
Controlling folks moving into city housing.
Monitoring folks in treatment centers and halfway houses.
Tougher sentencing by the court system.
More police on the streets.

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