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Friday, November 3, 2017

The Brookfield Drive-In: Corn dogs & popcorn – It is the end of an era

The old ticket booth barely stands
My sister and her husband had a car. This was rare in my family. My Mother didn’t drive so we depended on buses, taxis or walking. Back then, the bigger the car the cooler you were. I can’t remember what she drove but I know it had to be as big as a dory to fit our family. On the weekend, my sister, her husband, their three boys, my mother and I piled into that car and went to the Brookfield Drive-In to see a movie.

It was a real treat! I was ten years old when it opened in 1973. The parking lot could hold over 600 cars and many nights it was filled to capacity.
The cash register has rusted in the weather.
The cost of a movie was $1.75 - $3.50 a person and many will tell you they hid in the trunk of their friend’s car to avoid the cost of a ticket. The drive-in management also had $5.00 a car load night. Which was probably when we went with our boat load of people.

When they stopped using the hook-on window speaker in the 80s and switched to a radio dial, the cheap people would park outside the drive-in fence and tune in, peering through the trees and fence to see the screen. 

I remember driving up to the speaker
A speak pole still stands surrounded by garbage.
pole and pulling the old-fashioned speaker head inside the widow. We watched movies dressed in our pajamas, cuddled under a big old blanket while gnawing on hot buttered popcorn and corn dogs.
The canteen was the hub of excitement at the drive-in. You would never know who you would see there. It really was the place for families to see and be seen. They served popcorn in huge buckets, delicious corn dogs, cotton candy and pop. The food was the best part.

Debbie Abbott was 16 years old when she started working at the drive-in and Karen (Bishop) Murphy was 15. They both worked at the drive-in
The field has now become a place for dumping
garbage. The back seat of a car rusts in the
open air.
canteen and various other duties.

Karen reminisced about the intermission when people would pile out of the cars and pour into the lobby of the cafeteria. “Pogo sticks was the big seller on the list” she laughed. “I remember one guy came in with two broken arms holding his money in his hand. He placed a big order then loaded it up on each of his casts. I tired to hand him back his change and he just looked down at his casts and said, ‘no thanks.’ I hoped he wasn’t the driver!”

Debbie Abbott remembers how the staff went all out for kids. At the end of the
The canteen was burned and the debris of
the drive- is all around it.  
school year if a kid brought their report card in they would get a free drink for one “A”, a hot dog for two “A’s and so on.  Her favourite memory was when Herbie the Love Bug played at the drive-in.  Debbie and a few of the other employees decided to surprise the kids during the matinee performance of Herbie. They dressed up as clowns and found an old Volkswagen bug but it wasn’t in great working condition. One of the employees, who was dressed up as a clown, was driving the Volkswagen bug to the drive-in when it broke down on Topsail road. Debbie laughs, “So here he was in a clown’s costume, with a broken-down Volkswagen bug and had to walk to the nearest gas station to get a tow truck!" They had to get it towed right in to the front of the drive-in screen. Once it arrived the kids went crazy thinking it was the real Herbie the Love Bug!”

A speaker pole lays on the ground.
Abbott recalls how they would greet the cars that had kids and hand out candy to them. “The police would come and direct traffic because it would be so busy on those nights.”

Those days are gone now. Buried under Alder Bushes and abandoned in a large field, the Brookfield Drive-in is no more. The large screen blew down during a major winter storm in 1992. By that time every family had a VCR and a video store membership.

The remains are still behind the Old Mill Night Club on Brookfield Road. You turn onto Tobin’s Road and drive to the top. You’ll see big boulders to stop you from driving in. Look for the old road and you will have to walk a short distance to see the remains of the ticket booth. Once inside you’ll have to use your imagination or your memories to put everything back in place.

Debbie Abbott was sad when the drive-in closed. “I often say to my husband, I
wish there was a drive-in to take the kids to.” Karen Murphy agreed “It was the end of an era.”

An electrical panel from the main
The day I explored the old Brookfield Drive-In, I stood on the concrete platform that was once the canteen and looked out over the overgrown field. When I closed my eyes I could still smell the hot buttered popcorn and corn dogs. I could hear my mother calling “Come on the movie is about to start.” We would run across the lot, in the cool night air, lost, looking for the car. My brother-in-law would flash the lights to remind us where we were parked and we would run towards it laughing, spilling popcorn all along the way.

The loss of the drive-in truly is the end of an era.
#drive-in #drivein #Brookfield #popcorn