Saturday night, I made a long awaited return to the 99W Drive-In, in Newberg. The 99W had been a wonderful treat during high school, and was long missed in my four years away at college. In our first year back in the Portland area, Patrick and I didn’t make it to the 99W due to our lack of automobile (for where we live having a car is rather impractical), and lack of friends with a combination of interest in going and car. Thankfully, my friend Katie has since been able to fill that void.
The 99W is one of three remaining drive-ins in Oregon (others include Milton-Freewater and La Grande – not in Oregon? Locate your local drive-in here). Located 22 miles outside of Portland, the 99W is a nostalgic refuge for people from all over the Portland-Metro area and even those in Vancouver, Washington. Owned by the same family for over 50 years, the 99W is proud of its history and its status as an American icon. Prior to showings, Brian Francis, the owner, offered a hearty welcome, announced birthdays and their wonderful vintage reel of the “Star Spangled Banner” glittered across the massive screen. What is so wonderful about the 99W is that it is fully aware of its fragility. Prior to each screening is a reel that shows images of dilapidated and closed drive-ins throughout America, stating that at one point America had over 4,000 drive-ins, and today just over 400 remain. The reel thanks the patrons for their support and provides concrete evidence of the intense need for people to continue to support their local drive-ins, lest they disappear.
Other reasons I attend the drive-in? Today, everyone is trying to save and at the 99W you see two movies for $8.00 a person. A large popcorn is only $3.50 and a large soda is only $2.00! Compare that to Regal’s prices. Not to mention it is extremely local. I mentioned this is the same family for over 50 years, and they obviously are not a big corporation such as Regal or Cinemark, and it is so very important to support your local economy not just in times like these, but always. Additionally, drive-ins have a super relaxed and family oriented atmosphere. The “passion pit” days have been replaced by families in pick-up trucks filled with pillows and blankets and sometimes a sofa or air mattress. Prior to the film, children and adults a like toss around a football, or play tag or just take a stroll around the grounds.
Katie and I, as usual, dressed vintage, and received a myriad of glances, and multiple comments on our attire. One person asked, “Is it 50s night?” and I replied “Everyday is 50s day for us!”
Sadly, Oregon possesses weather that provides rather constant rain outside of two summer months, and the drive-in closes for the season in the fall, and I hope we squeeze in as many weekends at the 99W as possible between now and the end of season.