Drive-in Movies – Albany Edition

Under the first phase of  Covid 19 re-opening in New York drive-in movies could open.
Everything old is new again.
There are 4 drive-ins immediately around Albany; the Jericho on 9w in Glenmont, the Malta on Route 9 south of Saratoga, the Hollywood in Averill Park, and the Hi-Way, south of Coxsackie.
And this got me to thinking about the drive-in hay days of the 1950s and 1960s. While the the first drive-in, the Auto Drive -In, opened on Latham in 1941, the other came after World War II in  the late 1940s, post World War II.
As more people could afford cars, they became more popular, but then  drive-ins had to compete with the growing television market.
Still, in the Albany area the number of drive-ins grew. I’m guessing by 1960 there were at least 15 within easy driving distance of the city.
Carmen Rd.( Route 146) near Route 20
Indian Ladder Drive-in, New Scotland Rd., near New Salem

It was a cheap and convenient night out for Mum and Dad and the kiddos (usual bundled in their PJs because they would pass out before the 2nd half of the double feature). No baby sitters required.

There was fierce competition. First snack bars were added. Who doesn’t remember the dancing hot dog singing  “Let’s all go the snackbar”at intermission. (We were a frugal family so we packed snacks and drinks, but were allowed to get an ice cream cone.)
Some added in-car heaters (that never worked well) to extend the season. Then came playgrounds. The speaker attached to your rolled down car window gave way to a special frequency on your car radio. By the late 1960s some drive-ins added rock and roll bands before movies.
 The American drive-in theater became iconic, for so many reasons, but mostly because they combined 2 of our loves- cars and movies.
East Greenbush
But during the height of the horrible polio scare of the 1950s, before there was a vaccine for widespread use, drive-ins were safe places for family fun. (Sound familiar?)
But they were also the “passion pit” for teenage make out artists. Sneaking into the drive-in was a favorite pastime. You could drink at the drive-in. Mecca for teens and young adults as well as families.
Everyone had their favorites. I loved the Mohawk on Central Ave., just east of Rte.155. It was opposite my great uncle’s house (that became Andy’s Hardware). Dinner at his house and then the drive-in.
There were family movie and “dirty movie” drive-ins and teen movie drive- ins, each with a target demographic.
But over time the allure of the drive-in waned and the large tracts of land became too valuable. By the late 1980s they were dinosaurs. Today there is a residential development where the famed Turnpike Drive was located on Western Ave.; others were replaced by shopping plazas and car dealerships.
Some just faded away. There were 2 on New Scotland Rd. between Slingerlands and New Salem – The Mayfair and the Indian Ladder; still vacant land today.
Copyright 2021 Julie O’Connor

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