FLASHBACK FRIDAY | Photos from the Leader’s archives

CARINGBAH SKYLINE DRIVE-IN

April 1987 

The demolition of the Bunnings hardware store at Caringbah has provided a glimpse into the past, when the area was a wide, open drive-in movie theatre.

Caringbah Skyline Drive-in opened in 1956 and closed in 1988 after the property was sold, and developed into Homebase and Hardwarehouse.

In the 1980s, very popular weekday markets were held at the drive-in.

Mabel Pirie, 81, lives opposite in a house she and her late husband Bob bought for £4500 ($9000) in 1964.

Mrs Pirie said she was not enjoying the noise of the demolition work, but still loves living there as much as she did when the Leader first interviewed her in 2010.

“We are so close to everything,” she said.

Mrs Pirie worked in the American-style snack bar at the drive-in and recalled in 2010 how it  was “family-oriented entertainment where parents could put the kids in the car with a blanket and hot water bottle and mothers could breast feed”.

‘‘Our only problem was during midnight shows, when the projector broke down and everyone started honking their horns,” she said.

‘‘I remember teenagers crawling under the fence or hiding in the boot to avoid paying, and you could always tell the cars where other things were going on during the movie.’’

Mrs Pirie and her neighbours fought the transformation of the site, but the failure of their campaign didn’t force her out.

"We stayed because we like the area, it’s where our kids grew up and we’ve still got Sharkies and the hospital,’’ she said.

Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences curator Margaret Simpson tells in an online post, Remembering Australia’s Drive-ins, how, during the 1950s, drive-in theatres began popping up all over Sydney.

The first two opened at at Frenchs Forest and Dundas in 1956, followed a year later by the El Rancho at Fairfield, which had a Wild West theme, complete with a chuck wagon for quick service meals, a ‘kiddies korral’ and brightly-costumed cowboys and cowgirls directing cars and providing service to patrons.

“By the mid-1960s Sydney also had Skylines at Bass Hill, Caringbah and North Ryde, a Metro-Twin at Chullora and the Star at Matraville,” she writes.

Ms Simpson writes, “After paying at the entrance, you drove into the parking area and pulled up next to one of the many posts in rows all over the site.

“This post housed a pair of speakers with volume control which you’d attach to your car window.

“Based on the drive-ins from the USA, families were encouraged to come early at 6.30 pm for a meal at the American-style snack bar complete with a juke box and let the kids loose in the playground in front of the big screen before the films started.

“Drive-ins were especially popular with courting couples and those on first dates, providing much more privacy that the cinema.

“For families, it was a fairly inexpensive night out.

“The kids would come out in their pyjamas and would pile into the back seat on a mountain of pillows and blankets while parents didn’t have to go to the effort of dressing up.

“Cars full of teenagers would smuggle in a few extra friends for free by hiding them in the boot.”

Sydney’s only remaining drive-in movie theatre is at Blacktown.

FLASHBACK FRIDAY

Every Friday we delve into the Leader archives to embark on some time travel.

We will bring you a photograph of a news event from 57 years of Leader news coverage that you may or may not recall.

Flashback Friday submissions are also welcomed.

Feel free to share your recollections with us on our Facebook page @stgeorgesutherlandleader or email leaderletters@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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