Puget Park Drive-In fans mourn its demise

Kristin Young was cleaning out her car Wednesday and found what may soon be a real collectible.

“I found one ticket, a ticket stub,” the Mill Creek woman said.

The $3.50 child’s ticket is left over from an outing to Puget Park Drive-In, Snohomish County’s last outdoor theater.

With her friend Marilyn Kenney, her friend’s sister and Marilyn’s two children, the 35-year-old Young went last summer to see “Transformers 2” and a midnight showing of “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.”

As they watched Harry and Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore take on the evils of Lord Voldemort, they had no idea the movie at the south Everett drive-in would be their last.

Swedish Health Services of Seattle now owns the property where the theater run by Bellevue-based Sterling Realty Organization Co. has been since the early 1970s. Ed Boyle, spokesman for Swedish Medical Center in Seattle, said Thursday that construction is expected to begin next month on a $30 million, three-story emergency room at the theater site.

News of Puget Park’s demise hasn’t stopped Young from making a futile last stand to save it. Using Facebook, she created a page called “Keep Puget Park Drive-In OPEN!!”

By Thursday afternoon, 6,588 people had lent their names, faces, memories and opinions to the site attinyurl.com/pugetpark.

The postings make plain that to thousands of people, teens to retirees, Puget Park Drive-In represents good times and warm memories. One man — I won’t name him here — left a remark about seeing the first “Terminator” movie and having his first serious romantic experience, if you know what I mean.

“As a teenager, everyone went to the drive-in,” said Erin Dupler, 41. “Sometimes what the movie was, I don’t know.” The Everett woman has been amused to find names of old friends pop up on the Facebook page for Puget Park.

Dupler recalled dozing off in the car during the first “Star Wars” film in 1977, and her mother urging her to wake up. “I saw a big explosion and went back to sleep,” she said. Dupler said she had nightmares after another mid-’70s movie, a cheesy horror film called “Grizzly.”

Her mother, she said, may have figured she’d sleep through the gore. “All I remember, I saw this bloody body being thrown across the screen,” Dupler said. “I wasn’t supposed to be watching.”

I’m afraid the era of piling kids into the car and seeing a movie on a summer night is behind us, at least in Snohomish County. On Whidbey Island, the Blue Fox Drive-In is open, with a double feature this weekend. In Auburn, there are multiple screens at the Valley 6 Drive-In Theaters.

The drive-in theaters of my youth, Spokane’s East Sprague, West End and North Cedar, are long gone, but not my memories of $3-a-carload nights. When I think of Puget Park, I’ll always chuckle at the thought of watching “Dodgeball” with my kids.

“It’s just been a family tradition, we’ve gone there for years,” said Leah Fountain, 64. The Mill Creek woman, who left comments on Facebook, said Thursday she’s unhappy seeing history torn down, even history as recent as a drive-in theater.

“It’s sad to see, it really is,” Fountain said. “If they don’t hang on to some of the old traditions, kids are never going to experience them.”

Young’s memories date to childhood, when she went to Silver Lake Elementary School and her dad would take her to Puget Park swap meets.

On her way home from a medical appointment Wednesday, Young stopped to snap photos of the theater’s ticket booths and swap-meet signs. She posted them on the Facebook page Thursday.

“I’m still hoping we can save it,” she said.

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460, muhlstein@heraldnet.com.

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