A sign of a memorable and atomic past

The Uranium Drive In sign is being restored by the town of Naturita. Enlargephoto

Courtesy photo

The Uranium Drive In sign is being restored by the town of Naturita.

For a younger generation, most will never know the satisfaction and pleasure of going to the drive-in movie.

The big screen, the crackling sounds of the movie piped into a car via a metal contraption, parking on that dirt mound for ideal viewing pleasure — there was so much to love about the expereince.

But there was nothing high def or high resolution about this experience.

The experience wasn’t the movie. The experience was the drive-in. A trip to the concession stand, the playground at the base of the giant screen, the honking horns — so much to enjoy.

Of course for some — yes, probably many — the trip to the drive-in was the ultimate date night. And it had little, very little to do with the movie. The main attraction was sitting next to you.

Drive-in theaters have been vanishing from the rural and urban landscapes for decades.

What brought memories of the drive-in flashing back to me was an effort over in Naturita to restore the old Uranium Drive In sign.

The drive-in sign was another piece of that memorable experience. Massive signs ablaze in neon and fluorescent tubes announcing the movies that were showing

For many of us, the drive-in experience will forever be engraved into our memories. Memories are all that’s left. The old drive-ins with their massive acreages were transformed into shopping malls, asphalt parking pastures, housing developments or apartment buildings.

Those prolific parcels of land were just too valuable to be used for something as trivial as a drive-in movie.

The Uranium DriveIn sign is now ready to be refurbished. The aptly named Uranium Drive In was an entertainment staple for the Naturita area in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s when the area was bustling from the uranium mining boom. The drive-in closed in the mid-1980s.

Like so many chunks of nostalga, the drive-in sign was forgotten and left in a field, being punished by snow, rain, and all the other elements.

Prior to the sign being moved inside, it was decorated with the usual additions — spray-painted grafitti and bullet holes.

The town of Naturita now owns the sign and has launched a nationwide fundraising campaign to restore the classic sign. They are looking for $10,000 for the project and the campaign will go until May 18.

The restoration project could be completed as early as June 1.

Besides those unforgettable date nights, one of my fondest memories of the drive-in came from cramming friends into the trunk and sneaking them in for free.

The suspicion etched on the face of the ticket booth person was classic. They knew. A teenager going to the drive-in movie alone? And me with an smug little smirk, taunting them.

No way — his buddies are in the trunk — they knew it. But they couldn’t ask to look in the trunk. But they would follow me into the drive-in hoping to catch me opening the trunk, and like a circus clown car, three, four, five people would pop out.

But I modified the backseat of my 1972 Charger, so the drive-in stowaways could wiggle through from the trunk to the backseat without ever being caught jumping from the trunk.

The drive-in movie — it was an experience like none other.

In Naturita, they have a chunk of cultural history that will be saved. Donations to restore the sign can be made to the Uranium Drive-In Sign Restoration, c/o Debbie Lear, Naturita Town Hall, PO Box 505, Naturita, CO 81422. Online donations can be made at this website: http://www.indiegogo.com/Uranium-Drive-In-Sign-Restoration?c=home.

If you’ve never been to a drive-in movie, there’s no way to understand its special allure. And that’s a shame.