May 31, 2023

They Just Keep Wagon Training...

Stand By Me
Mahoning Drive-In Theater - Lehighton, PA
Last night, we got to see one of the true iconic films of my childhood on a 35mm print at the Mahoning Drive-In Theater; the 1986 Rob Reiner classic Stand By Me.

Show banner designed by Andrew Kern

The schedule that they've announced for Tunnel Vision Tuesday this season has been pretty incredible.  In the time that we've been going to the Mahoning, most of the Tuesday night shows have been either horror, sci-fi, action, or fairly obscure genre flicks.  Don't get me wrong, I've loved the selection up to this point, but it's pretty cool to see them add some more variety into the mix with with a few mainstream comedy and drama flicks.

There are large portions of this movie that I can recite from memory, but I've only watched it a handful of times.  I had just turned six years old when it premiered in theaters so I didn't get to see it on the big screen before last night.  My earliest memory of this film is that I watched it on tv during a Free Preview Weekend for one of the pay channels when I was a kid.  I want to say that I was in the living room of the apartment on First Street in Hazleton at the time, but I'm not entirely sure of that.  What I am sure of is that my mom came in the room during the Mailbox Baseball scene and had a fit.

If you're not familiar with Stand By Me or the scene that I'm referring to, it happens fairly early in the movie.  Kiefer Sutherland and his gang of hoodlums created their own sport in which they drive through the neighborhood smashing mailboxes with a baseball bat.  My mother took one look at the screen and promptly lost her mind with rage before lecturing me about how I should never do this.  Keep in mind, I was about 8 or 9 years old at the time.  Yeah ma, hold my Hi-C, will ya?  I'm gonna go cruise around in a convertible with a Louisville Slugger... don't wait up.
Standard Speaker - Hazleton, PA  (April 14, 1990)

She might have actually been onto something.  When I tried to find the movie listings from the newspaper archive to narrow down what year I might have seen this movie for the first time, I came across this article about a rampage in the Sugarloaf Valley that left as many as sixty mailboxes in its wake.  Crimes like this almost seems quaint these days when rarely a month goes by without a mass shooting.

About an hour before sundown and the start of the movie, we were treated to a musical performance by The Oak King and The Mae Queen on the stage outside the concession building.  I've talked with Jimmy Clarke (aka: The Oak King) a few times over the past few years and he's definitely a good dude.  He even brought me back a coffee when we were waiting in line next to each other before the gates opened last season.  Both he and Maevyn Stone (aka: The Mae Queen) are very talented.  She played the harp and sang while he provided backup vocals and played guitar and a bongo drum.  At least I think it's a bongo drum.  I really don't know anything about drums.  Whatever it's called, the music was very mellow and chill and I enjoyed it.  They played a selection that included Stand By Me, Something In The Way, and an impromptu performance of Witch Doctor.

Little Harvey came out with us this time, and he had a very nice time with everyone who saw him giving him tons of love and pets.  Our new friend Christine was especially fond of my little buddy.  She has a cat who coincidentally is also named Harvey.  Stand By Me is her favorite movie and it was her first time at the drive-in, but she seems like our kind of people, so I expect to see her back on the lot again this season.  The Mahoning is like that.  Once you discover the magic of this place, you just want to keep coming back to get another taste of it.

Stand By Me is one of the best adaptations of a Stephen King work to the big screen that I've ever seen.  It was originally published as The Body in his 1982 novella Different Seasons.  This is the same book that included the stories that The Shawshank Redemption and Apt Pupil were based on.  It's a very moving story about friendship and about a moment in childhood that remains frozen in your memory.  It shows childhood in a more realistic manner than most other works of fiction that I've ever seen, and it leaves you wanting more as the credits roll, just as Gordie's story about David Hogan leaves Chris, Teddy, and Vern wanting more.

We've already had so many incredible nights at the Mahoning this season that it's hard to believe that it's only May.  There are five full months to go before the season wraps up at the end of October, and I'm going to enjoy every last minute that I'm privileged to spend on this lot.