by William Brotherton
While growing up in Atlanta, I served as an altar boy at Christ the King and tried to stay out of the way of my father, a devout Catholic and vigorous disciplinarian. At age 12, with surging testosterone, I discovered the Legion of Decency, a Catholic guide to movies. Lo and behold, this material told me which films were really dirty movies. Certain movies were classified B for bad and C for condemned, and seeing these was verboten for Catholics. I realized one of the C list movies featuring Brigitte Bardot was playing at the Piedmont Drive-In. I began to hatch a plan to see that movie!
I had a willing accomplice in my buddy Walter. Deciding to "camp out" in his backyard, I asked my dad for permission, which he gave reluctantly, even though Walter's father was even more Catholic than mine. No doubt, my father figured I was up to something.
Now, back in 1962, camping out in somebody's backyard was a subterfuge for roaming the neighborhood after hours. Once the adults went to bed, we knew no one would come out to check on us.
After a Saturday night supper of beans and franks, we set up the tent, got our sleeping bags inside, and got the lantern going. Roughly 9:30 in the evening, Walter's parents settled in for the night. I suppose I could've worried about my father riding over to check on us, but that seemed too far-fetched.
The Piedmont Drive-In was showing "A Very Private Affair" as the second movie of a double feature starting at 10:30, according to the Atlanta Journal, which I delivered. On a Saturday night, the drive-in theaters typically showed some sort of family movie as the first feature, with the second feature being a little racier, since the families went home early.
The Piedmont had one gigantic screen, parking for hundreds of cars, and always seemed crowded. There was a concession stand almost as large as the Zesto's hamburger joint nearby and a kiddie section where the parents could dump the kids if they wanted privacy in the car.
At 10:00, we headed for the Piedmont, only a mile or so away. We knew exactly where we were going. The Piedmont abutted an industrial area near the railroad tracks, and the entire drive-in was fenced in. The very back of the Piedmont was up against some woods where pine trees grew near the fence.
As we settled in underneath some bushes, the first movie was just ending. The bad news was that we would need binoculars to get even a glimpse of an undressed Brigitte Bardot. Our only option was to sneak in and sit in the kiddie section.
We crawled under the fence and made our way to the front of the theater, settling into our seats just as Brigitte started taking off her dress. We were in awe. Our plan had worked perfectly.
We stuttered and stammered that our parents had told us to sit there.
We got up and started walking, the officer right behind us. He obviously intended to fuss at our parents if he found them. I envisioned a midnight call to my father and a subsequent much deserved whipping. We had to escape.
Walter must've been thinking the same thing because we both broke at the same time. We ran for the exit as fast as our little legs could carry us with the officer in hot pursuit. He intended to catch us; there was no doubt about that, but we were faster.
"Hey, you kids, stop! Come back here!" he screamed. We ran across Lindbergh Drive toward the Coats and Clark factory alongside the railroad tracks. We sprinted up the railroad embankment and looked back toward the drive-in. Our pursuer was nowhere in sight. We made our way back to Walter's backyard.
The next morning we both woke up in agony, scratching large red welts that were all over us. Poison oak. We also knew where we'd gotten it - at the drive-in.
As my mother slathered me with Caladryl lotion, I wondered: Was the poison oak God's punishment for my trying to see Brigitte Bardot naked? I decided it couldn't have been.
If God had really wanted me punished, he would've told my father.
BIO: William Brotherton writes: I was born in South Carolina (the first baby born in Spartanburg in 1950) and raised in Atlanta, a wonderful time to grow up in a wonderful place. I married my high school sweetheart and we moved to North Dakota where I graduated from the University of North Dakota and went to work for the Burlington Northern Railroad. I worked freight trains all across the West as a brakeman/conductor and was promoted to trainmaster with the Colorado & Southern and moved to Denver. In 1982, I took a buyout from the railroad after they got rid of the cabooses and became an environmental engineer, working all across the US on environmental issues.
In 1985, we moved to Texas at my wife's request (she always loved the TV show Dallas), and in 1994 I obtained a law degree from Texas Wesleyan University. In 1996, I started my own law firm, the Brotherton Law Firm. When trying cases, I often told my stories to the judge and/or jury about working freight trains and the people I met, and those stories developed into a series of articles for Trains Magazine and ultimately into a book titled Burlington Northern Adventures: Railroading in the Days of the Caboose (2004, South Platte Press). The story above is from my current project, a book with the working title of When Boys Could Be Boys: Growing up Southern.
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