Over the years, a lot of things  changed at the drive-in.  The first week of June, 1954, marked the installation of a new screen at the Natick Drive-In. Engineered for Cinemascope, it was made of 5,000 square feet of picture surface. As high as a six-story building, and over 100 feet wide, the screen was twice as large as the giant screen in Radio City Music Hall, and ten times larger than the average Cinemascope screen in an indoor theatre. 

The Natick Drive In opened Friday June 30, 1950 and closed in 1977.  It was located on the site of the Cloverleaf Marketplace strip mall, across the street from the former Wonderbread Factory.

Above is an article from Boxoffice Magazine in the mid 1950's showing Jim Collins, then Manager, describing the latest innovation for preventing damage to speakers when patrons would forget to take them off their car windows.

All images are artistic renderings, and recreations, property

of Natickmass.info

Those Drive-In Days  - We all remember

  Alan Henry - January 16, 1977

  The Natick Drive-In, that monument to adolescent intrigue and wasteland of broken hearts and false promises, will soon be just a memory. In the name of progress, Natick Town Meeting last week gave developers the green light to plow under 26 years of emotional turmoil and construct in the void a Ramada Inn and mall complex.

"It's the end of an era," sighs Miss Nancy Clement, a drive-in employee for the past 15 years. "This has been rumored for many years but now it looks like it's actually going to happen. It's just a very sad day."

  "It's where a lot of us grew up in some very important and some not-so-important ways," says 28 year old Barry Walters of Westwood. "A big part of adolescence is learning how to deal with the opposite sex, and you learned pretty quick at the drive-in". "I grew up at that drive-in," remembers Sudbury resident Ken Perkins. "As a kid I'd jump into my pj's in the back of my parents car and usually end up sleeping through the entire movie. "And later, well,.. I did everything you're supposed to do. I saw at least 20 movies that I didn't see. "You'd sit there with a dirty windshield covered with bugs listening to a 29-cent speaker that sounded like an old AM radio that needed new batteries. But close the Natick Drive-In, that's a sin."

  The handwriting was on the wall, Miss Clement says, when the drinking age was lowered to 18. "A lot of people started to go elsewhere. This has always been the place to go to meet friends and not get hassled, but that took away a lot of the crowds. "In its prime back in the late '50's and early '60's, the Natick Drive-In would attract 100-300 cars a night in the wintertime and fill up to 1250 car capacity on any clear weekend summer night. The drive-in still has its faithful followers, but average wintertime crowds are down to 40-100 cars.  In the summertime, there are seldom more than two or three sellouts a season. Instead of 100 speakers a week being stolen or ripped to pieces, the number is 30, says employee Dave DeNorscia. And gone are the days when at least a dozen poles a week were run over by preoccupied teens and destroyed. You're lucky now if you can find two a week that ends up under somebody's fender.

"Disney movies were a really big thing back in the early '60's." says Miss Clement. "One or two parents would bring in the whole neighborhood gang.  They'd set out blankets and lawn chairs. The kids would play on the swings and slides and take rides on the boats and trains. "But that was in the old days. The boats and trains are gone because they just wore out and couldn't be replaced. The number of family movie bookings has been cut in half. Remember the weekend record hops? Up until about 1965, a local disc jockey played the big rock and roll tunes of the day over the intercom on big weekend nights. There were dance contests. And winners got free records. Men got free cigars on Father's day, women got free candy on Mother's Day, bicycles were raffled, and did you do with your 3-D glasses?  How about "spotty" the white dot that would flash across the screen so all the cool guys with their brand new "77 Sunset Strip" style spotlights could get their cheap thrills trying to zero in on it.

Gone too, is the carhop on Rte. 9 that used to provide a ready-made excuse for drag racing down Rte. 30.Bill Edmunds explains:  "It was a quarter mile straight away from the Mass Pike entrance to the intersection of Rte 30 and Speen Street. If the cops saw you racing, you just peeled up to Rte. 9 and into the Adventure Car Hop (now Natick Dodge). By the time the cop caught up to you, you were just sitting there in your car sipping on a coke looking like nothing was happening."

  Not everything has changed, of course. Sneaking in is still one of the favorite pastimes of the drive-in's mostly teenage clientele, says Miss Clement. "One kid recently got stuck in the car trunk he was hiding in and drive-in employees had to pry him free. "And the still come in droves over the back fence to meet up with buddies who have come in alone and paid only for themselves. One interesting variation on the old get-in-for-free game comes from Edmunds, a former Framingham resident. "We would come in over the back fence, pick up stubs at the concession stand, and just for the hell of it line up in one of the parking spaces as if we were in a car. Someone from the drive-in would come up to us and ask what we were doing there. We would show him our ticket stubs and tell him we drove in."" I've heard every excuse in the book when people get caught", smiles Miss Clement. "But once, there was actually this couple that came up to the ticket booth and thought it was the entrance to the Mass Pike. They wanted to know which exit would take them to New York. "The most kids that ever squeezed into a regular sized car was nine," she remembered, "and they got a ticket for it. "Then there was the girl not long ago who showed up with nothing on, clutching a pillow to her chest." "The food hasn't changed much either in 26 years. The hamburgers and pizzas still taste decent, as long as they haven't been sunning themselves under those space lights for more than three hours. The between-film movie they show to advertise all the good things at the snack bar is changed periodically, but it still manages to make everything that's supposed to be edible look like life from another planet. "And just when the most important 10 seconds of the movie is about to unfold, (that's assuming you're still watching the movie) you can still count on a voice screeching over the intercom; "The snack bar will be closed in 10 minutes." "The drive-in has over the years meant many things to many people.  The bulldozers might not come until mid-summer. They could even take a year to arrive. For those thousands who have "done time" at the Natick Drive-In, at least the memories will linger. For the uninitiated, there will only be the solace of now knowing what they missed.