Down East 2013 ©
The Saco Drive-In on Route 1 opened for business in 1938. That was shortly after the invention of making out. Probably not a coincidence. Ever since then, the Saco has provided generations of Mainers with a safe and inexpensive place to grope each other in the dark.
Which is not to say the Saco’s only purpose was as a location for sexual liaisons of the uncomfortable sort (“Next time your parents buy a car, tell them to get an automatic”). There was also the snack bar. And there was the screen, which served as a venue for such expressions of the cinematic arts as “Jail Bait” (directed by Ed Wood of “Plan 9 From Outer Space” fame), “Heller in Pink Tights” (starring Sophia Loren and nowhere near as dirty as the title sounds), and “The Return of Dr. X” (proving that not every Humphrey Bogart flick is worth watching).
Over the decades, the Saco has offered films that were great, near-great, average, below-average, mediocre, and flat-out awful – all of which were received by its customers with remarkably similar reactions: “Stop it! The stick shift is hurting me!”
Although, come to think of it, they may not have been referring to the movie.
If you grew up in southern Maine, the Saco was not the only site available for underage drinking and inept fondling (“I’m not that glad to see you. That’s the stick shift”). There were also drive-ins in Windham (rest in peace), Prides Corner in Westbrook (still alive, more or less), and a long-closed twin-screener in Scarborough. But the Saco was the most venerable – it claims to be the second-oldest open-air movie theater still operating in the United States – and had a reputation for showing features of such questionable quality that they were unlikely to compete with even the clumsiest lover’s efforts to get to second base.
Over the years, however, technology has produced several products that have threatened to render the drive-in obsolete. The bed, for instance, which is an altogether more agreeable location for sex. Add a TV and a DVD player, and you can still engage in erotic activities while ignoring B movies.
This has taken a toll on attendance at the Saco, but the owners have persevered, continuing to operate the place for those either overwhelmed with nostalgia or unable to afford a room. So it was with some dismay that devotees of the operation noticed a sign posted on its marquee  recently reading “For Lease.”
The Roberge family, which has owned the Saco for more than twenty years, has decided it would like to find somebody else to run the place for the 2010 season. They say there have been a couple of serious inquiries, and they’re confident there’ll be a deal in place before spring turns young people’s fancies to thoughts of thrashing around in the back seat while “Zack and Miri Make A Porno” (possibly the least erotic movie with significant nudity in it ever made) illuminates the big screen.
For the sake of future generations (“What do you mean you forgot to bring condoms?”), we can only hope stable management is soon restored.
Of course, the news of the week just past wasn’t only about ribald activities.
Oh wait, yes, it was.
By the time you read this, the Grand View Topless Coffee Shop in Vassalboro  will probably be back in business, this time in a trailer.
As astute readers may recall, the Grand View was burned to the ground by an arsonist back in June. The perpetrator has never been apprehended, but I think it’s safe to assume his, her, or their objections to the place had something to do with its waitresses being naked from the waist up. This is the sort of psychological hang-up that can occur in people who haven’t spent enough time in their youth at the drive-in being distracted from the plotline of “Trailer Trash Bimbos from Mars” (either this movie features early uncredited performances by Brad Pitt and Sharon Stone, or I just imagined the whole thing) by the excruciating pain of having a stick shift jammed into a vital bodily part.
Anyway, the Vassalboro Planning Board seemed less concerned at its Nov. 10 meeting about the renewed prospect of naked people gallivanting around serving doughnuts (until the Grand View opened, it had apparently never occurred to anybody in Vassalboro to experiment with the volatile mixture of nudity, caffeine, and deep-fried pastry – in fact, most of the town’s residents preferred not to remove even a single article of their clothing during the winter months, what with the price of heating oil and all) than the unsightly pile of debris left over after the fire. Coffee shop owner Don Crabtree agreed to haul the mess away a little at a time (there’s no truth to the rumor he’s been dumping pails full of scorched doughnuts in the trash receptacles at the Saco Drive-In), but won’t have to complete the clean-up until November of 2010.
Meanwhile, Portland’s brand new fireboat ran aground  on Nov. 7, while returning from an attempted rescue mission at the Grand View Topless Coffee Shop (a waitress was reported to be suffering from a chest cold). Even at top speed, the boat, launched just two months ago, wasn’t capable of jumping from the Grand View’s parking lot all the way to Threemile Pond.
OK, I admit that almost none of that is true. I confess to taking the desperate measure of fictionalizing events in a vain attempt to create some sort of transition between the items about the nude coffee shop and the fireboat accident. But my conscience has now gotten the better of me.
Here’s the truth: The fireboat ran aground while returning from the Saco Drive-In. The crew went to see “Fire Station Hotties.” They were told it was a training film.
You’re not buying that, are you?
Well, you’re probably not going to find the actual facts to be all that satisfying, either. That’s because the grounding occurred in Whitehead Passage between Peaks and Cushing islands in Casco Bay. The tide was kind of low, but that shouldn’t have been a problem. As for what was the problem, nobody seems to know.
The boat is out of service for a while, and repairs are expected to be expensive. An investigation is underway, although I think the explanation is obvious. I saw something frighteningly similar in the movie “Attack of the Sexually Indiscriminate Mermaids From Atlantis.”
I’m pretty sure they showed it at the Saco when I was in high school. I’d ask the person I was with at the time, but she got kind of distracted during the film when she had to unscrew the stick shift.
Al Diamon can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.