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Seven FlagsPosted Friday, April 16, 2010, at 9:03 AM
This blog isn't about flags. It is about my very first paying job. By paying, I mean the job where I actually had to fill out a W4 and enter into the working world. While I may have been paid to babysit or mow the neighbor's yard, working at Seven Flags was a real job. It paid better than minimum wage at the time because it was seasonal and evenings to boot.
Seven Flags was the name of the drive-in theater back in Wheaterville. Yes, an honest to goodness, drive-in with the big metal screen, rows of metal speaker boxes on polls, and a metal building housing the concession stand and the restrooms.
I was a concession stand worker. I auditioned for the job, so to speak, by working at the school concession stand during those times our class was 'assigned' to run the place. One of my teachers was the manager of the drive-in for a couple of summers and after he saw me working at the school, he simply asked if I was interested in working at the drive-in concession stand. I must have been because I went to the in-town movie theater, since the same couple owned both, and picked up an application.
The drive-in season was weekends only from about mid- to- late April to Memorial Day weekend and then it was every night until Labor Day. September was usually weekends only and that was only if the weather held out.
The first part of the summer, I was the pop, candy and popcorn person. I had my spare of hot oil blisters because that big old popper was a splattering menace. By the end of that summer, I had learned to fry french fries, breaded mushroom and yes, I was even turned loose on the hamburger grill. I also learned to make the pizza's on the big stone pizza oven We also sold hotdogs. The regular ones and then the one pound hotdogs.
With the cooking, also came the cleaning. Changing the grease in the fries was a slimy mess. You had to strain out all the breading in the bottom of the fryer and then you had to either dump the entire load of fryer grease out, based on the amount of gunk, or you added more oil. The mushroom fryer usually got dumped. I had never in my life knew people would pay to eat fried breaded mushrooms but we sold a boat load of them.
The second worst cleaning job was the pizza oven. There were big square stones that slide out of the oven. You had to slide them out when they were cold and take a big black cleaning brick and scrub off the baked-on pizza cheese. Then you had to rinse them off and wait for them to dry. This was a job that someone had to do during the day. It wasn't fun but it was 'extra' pay.
By the second summer, I had also added cleaning the lot every morning to my job list. I learned quickly that some people are pigs and had no concept of trash cans. I picked up cases of beer cans and rum and whiskey bottle plus scores of popcorn buckets. However, I also picked up shoes, shirts and underwear. (Okay I should not have to draw anyone a picture here.) There were also those folks that while they were utilizing a particular male oriented birth control device, I never understood leaving that behind for the cleaning person to have to put in the trash. (Oh yes, I wore gloves) That is still the winner of the gross and icky factor. That was a reality. But my co-workers and I also knew most everyone who came to the drive-in and we knew where they parked for pity sakes. It wasn't that big of a town. We saw who came in with who and who was the date of the week. Apparently they were either show offs (?) or they thought we were idiots and wouldn't realize they weren't there to watch the flicks. Haa haa.
Working at the drive-in also meant getting to watch movies. We all learned the sooner we stocked and got ready for intermission we could catch bits of the movies. Sometimes, we would stay after closing and watch the last part of the second show. We also got to go to the in-town movie theater for free on our nights off. For me, that was a bonus.
It was a great job for a couple of summers and then the owners sold the drive-ins just prior to season three, if memory serves me correctly. The management dynamic changed. The enjoyment of the job definitely wasn't the same and by the end of that season, it was not a job I would go back to again the following summer. After the original owners sold it, the drive-in didn't operate too many seasons after that. The screen was still standing but whoever had purchased the property had converted the concession stand building into a house.
It is too bad drive-ins movie theaters are a thing of the past. But I am thankful for the opportunity and the memories from those summers long ago.
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