Back in the '60s and '70s, Kamloops had two drive-in movie theatres.
In North Kamloops, there was the Skyway Drive-In behind the North Hills Shopping Centre, just off Tranquille Street. In Valleyview, there was the Sundown Drive-In just off the Trans Canada Highway, roughly where the Valleyview Square is now.
There was only one channel on TV back then and first-run movies were never to be seen, so going to the movies was one of the first choices for entertainment.
Spring, summer and fall, the drive-ins would be showing double features daily after the sun went down, and sometimes on a long weekend, there would be a dawn-to-dusk showing of five movies.
If the weather was cold, everyone would be bundled up and the car engine would be turned on occasionally to take the mist off the windows. If it had been a hot day, the windows would be down and the chirping of the crickets added to the movie soundtrack coming through the speaker.
As the parking lot filled prior to the first movie, you could look around and see the stages of life being played out: young parents out for a bit of entertainment with their babies sleeping, tucked in blankets in the back seat of their cars; parents with station wagons full of kids in the back, sleeping bags ready for those that couldn’t last through the second show; ropers in their pickups just off the pasture ready for a night on the town; Brandos in their shaggin wagons waiting for the cover of darkness; Gear Heads in their shiny cars with their engines snorting and growling; groups of teenagers out for some fun in a car borrowed from their parents; and young couples out on a date in their first car.
Everyone was there, and maybe it was just me, but there was an energy of anticipation in the air that made the night sparkle.
For all the movies that I watched at the drive-ins, one from 1966 stands out the most. At that time, I was old enough to have a pretty good idea what was going on, and was interested in learning all I could. So when my parents told me we were going to the movies at the Skyway to see The Blue Max that coming Saturday and I could bring a friend, my heart just about stopped.
I had read the advertisement in the Sentinel and knew that the second show that night was restricted. Oh man, was I excited for the rest of the week. I knew what that black panther symbol meant, and I knew I was going to see something I shouldn’t. I don’t know if my parents didn’t catch the rating, or thought we were going to fall asleep before the second show got going, but there wasn’t a chance I was going to miss this.
I couldn’t tell you what the first show was. Not a clue. But we made it into the concession stand to get some licorice and a coke and back to the car after the first show in record time. No humming and hawing about what to get. I wasn’t going to miss one bit of the show. Well, I got an eyeful and then some, advanced my education significantly. Then it got to a part where I just couldn’t figure out what was going on. The scene was poorly lit and it looked like a man and woman were wrassling but I just couldn’t see it well enough. I should have just kept my mouth shut, but I was focused on getting full value for the night.
My question of, “What are they doing there?” was met with complete silence, except for the stifled laughter of my friend, who was a bit further along in life than I was, and knew exactly what they were doing on the screen. I don’t know whether his laughter was more about my naivety or my parents embarrassment, but as the silence continued I got a sinking feeling that it would be sometime again before I got to see another restricted movie!