Comments from eburleso

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eburleso commented about South #1 Drive-In on Apr 23, 2015 at 2:54 pm

Hi, If you need info on this Drive-in, I can give you a complete history and all her dirty little secrets, because I grew up and lived at this place until I escaped in 1963. The drive-in closed in 1963, not 1975. Maynard Road did not exist then, it sat on the south side of Hwy 1/64 which is now called Chatham St. It was owned and operated by a pedophile named J.T. McSwain who died in 1975. The drive-in was converted into a trailer park which is still there in 2015. Below is a short story of the wonderful/terrible place.

The Concession Stand

The squat, two-story building standing today is an atrocious mixture of unplanned metamorphosis; yet, it appears as though its gaudy existence is absolutely necessary for the peaceful harmony of this place. Within the building’s walls are three functional apartments holding lives filled with hopes and dreams. Along with the new tenants, dwelling within, I wonder if this old structure remains home to the unaccountable score of heartbreaks and fond memories of long ago. It is conceivable that the original designer of this structure would scarcely recognize his creation if he viewed it now, as I am doing, on this cold and wet spring morning. Mature red maples and noble gray poplar trees, which I helped plant years before, are embracing the stained brick walls with their gnarled limbs. Like planting the young sapling much too close to the building years before, I never realized that what was young and innocent once would someday grow to become oppressive and threatening with time. Drops of cold rain are dripping from the budding leaves and old overhangs onto the blooming azaleas crowding the base of the walls, nourishing them into a rainbow of bright reds and pale pinks. Barely a sound can be heard except the soft patter of dripping water. A brooding overcast sky hangs heavily above, so low that it appears to swallow the ground and it mutes all the sounds of existence, suspending everything in time, another time. Originally, three of the building’s walls were constructed of bare concrete block. It was capped with a flat, tar paper roof and fronted with huge plate glass windows that ran across the entire length of the building stretching from the roof to the floor. In its prime the building’s massive windows were always plastered with colorful movie posters of coming attractions and faded pictures of the treats on sale inside. The tiny, single story structure held a small office, two restrooms, and a marble concession bar. It sat forlornly, twenty or so feet from the banks of a muddy pond that teamed in the summer with jumping silver bream and yellow-bellied perch. During lazy, late summer afternoons both young and old would-be anglers passed the time by tossing lines and drowning bait in the tranquil waters while waiting for the movies to begin. As I stand here in the silence of my mind I am watching, waiting, soaking up the sights, and wringing out the memories, I wonder to myself. I wonder if the dreamer, the schemer, and architect of this building envisioned where his thoughts and plans would eventually lead. Did he anticipate the consequences his actions would have on the lives of those he touched? Could he have guessed what this building, the concession stand, would become and the effects it would have on so many lives? Did he have the slightest awareness of the pain and despair that he inflicted within its walls or the laughter that he caused to reverberate out its doors? Was he conscious of the secrets that would forever haunt the memories of those whom he welcomed across its thresholds? Some of those memories are mine. Some are filled with the happiness of hope, the promise of a brighter tomorrow; others are dark and illusive, following me with troubles and leading me to places of guilt, shame, and pain. The first time I laid eyes on this deceptive structure, it sat humble and alone in the bright sunlight of a warm, spring Carolina day. It sat humble and silent and seemed as though it was about to be swallowed by what appeared to be an enormous lake. Through the innocence of my twelve-year-old eyes the world and this building seemed more than I could possibly behold. It sat illusory in it size and was so much more than I could ever imagine. It stood mute, hiding timidly in the brightness of day, but at night it transformed itself into a brilliant beacon of distraction in the darkness of human lives. When the sun fell behind the pines, the concession stand came to life with the smell of hot buttered popcorn drifting out its doors and onto the warm night air. Reflections from the twin Mighty Ninety’s projectors blasting Maggie and Brick’s torrid love affair on the giant screen for all the world to see burst through the plate glass windows as the movie fans descended on the concession stand for icy cherry Cokes, sizzling French fries, grilled hot dogs, and thick, creamy chocolate shakes. The building was born from humble wood and earthly block for the glitter, tinsel, and make believe of the Hollywood. But, at its core lay the heart of a sinister chameleon basking in the adulation, laying in wait for its next victim. The building’s owner, JT, said he needed someone to gather the trash discarded on the field by the drive-in theater’s patrons. He explained the details of the job as I kicked the red clay from my bare feet and the last of the six grade and foster life from my thoughts. “It was a job for a young boy,” he added smartly as he leaned over and pushed the passenger door open. What he forgot to say was that it was a job for an innocent boy with an impressionable mind who needed somewhere to belong, a young innocent soul whose bright hungry eyes overshadowed the dirty shorts and faded tee shirt he wore. A sly grin crossed the man’s face as he pulled the orange and black fifty-seven Chevy from the side of the road and headed towards Cary and a different world. “Could you use a cheeseburger,” he said as I dusted off my hands and placed the last of the trash in to the waste bin. Two burgers were sizzling on the griddle. He must have stood lurking and watching me from behind those beautiful windows. “How about some mayo on it? He asked. I like it that way,” he added without waiting for my reply. My head nodded in anxious anticipation as he slathered mayonnaise across the toasted buns. I would have eaten the meat raw if that had been his preference. My stomach was hungry for food, but my heart was starved for hope and acceptance. He fed me there in the concession stand, fried that cheeseburger right before my eyes as I slowly twisted back and forth on the stool behind the cash register all the while taking in the sights and sounds of my new and exciting world. I can still smell the sizzling grease and hear the pop of the cheese as it slowly melted and bubbled down the sides of the meat onto the hot griddle. The attention from this man was my nourishment, it fed me and it consumed me. Over the years, the concession stand and I grew older. This old building and I grew together, we loved together, we hurt together, and we shared the hurtful secrets of our lives. One needed bricks, mortar, and timber to become strong; the other thirsted for truth, compassion, and love. Neither of us received what we needed to grow strong or in peaceful harmony with the world. New walls were thrown up and more believable lies were added to hide the shameful intent of the owner. The beautiful sparkling windows became Bon Ami covered lies and we both took on new faces and facades. Our eyes on the world began to blur with untruths and our hearts ached with unguided maturity and lonesome despair. We have grown up now and we have grown old; grown up to hide among the grey poplar, red maple, and razor wire. Gone are the sweets and treats; gone are the dreams we once shared. The concession stand no longer fills the bellies of innocent children while cinemascopic make-believe dances in their heads. Instead, the muddy water outback holds that little band of hopeful gold and the rest of my soul is buried somewhere in that overgrown mausoleum. One blink and it is all gone, but its still there, lurking in my mind, drawing me near. I wonder if he knew, I wonder if he cared.