50 Years Ago This Month The Old Mustang Drive-In Opened, This Is A Woman's Story Of Her Father Managing It

Amanda Ford reached out to us, saying she was inspired to write an article long in the making about the Mustang Drive-In after seeing a series of photos taken by Jay Callaghan published here on PTBOCanada in May 2014.

“The erie pictures of the now abandoned drive-in made my heart sink,” Ford says. “When my parents moved out of the drive-in and I moved out of town in 1982, I never did go back. I was happy to know that someone took it over and it was still running but I didn’t realize that in September 2012, the Mustang Drive-In closed its doors, never to open them again.”

 Photo by Jay Callaghan of old projector room at Mustang Drive-In

Photo by Jay Callaghan of old projector room at Mustang Drive-In

“I promised myself that I would showcase the Mustang Drive-In Peterborough as it was when it first opened,” Ford adds. “I dug through the family archives to find pictures and articles about the Mustang Drive-In Peterborough when it was brand new and viewed as the shining star of entertainment that it was back in 1968.”

Read her memories of its opening below…

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MY MUSTANG DRIVE-IN MEMORIES

Fifty years ago this month in September 1968, the Mustang Drive-In Peterborough opened as one of the biggest drive-ins in Canada.

I was eight years old and my dad, Alan D. Ford, was given the honour of being Manager of the Mustang Drive-In Peterborough. Born in 1920, he began his theatre career back in the 1940s after serving as a Flight Instructor with the RCAF during WWII. He worked in many types of theatres across Ontario and at other indoor movie theatres in Ontario. His dedication and experience earned him the position of Manager, Mustang Drive-In Peterborough. My dad was was the manager there from 1968 until his retirement from the theatre business in 1986.

 Amanda’s father Alan Ford

Amanda’s father Alan Ford

The Mustang Drive-In was to be the flagship Drive-In for GTI Drive-In Services Limited. It boasted a 775 car capacity and was one of the largest screens in Canada.

The Peterborough Examiner wrote about the venture in a 1968 article..

 Peterborough Examiner article from September 18th, 1968

Peterborough Examiner article from September 18th, 1968

Teaser ads began appearing in the Peterborough Examiner starting in August and September 1968 about the opening…

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All dressed up for the Grand Opening: The snack bar (pictured below) was originally set up with two sides serving the same item, with a cashier for both lines. This would help move the line along during the busy peak times.

 Unknown photographer: From Ford’s Personal Collection

Unknown photographer: From Ford’s Personal Collection

Standard uniform for the girls working in the snack bar: Don’t forget your cowboy hats ladies! Manager Al Ford (aka my dad) only had one rule: Always change into your street clothes when your shift was over. “I don’t want to see girls in uniform climbing in the back of cars with boys!” he would say.

 Unknown photographer: From Ford’s personal family collection

Unknown photographer: From Ford’s personal family collection

Fast Forward to August 1977. Smokey and The Bandit, starring Burt Reynolds and Sally Field, played for an amazing eight weeks that summer at the Drive-In! It was the longest playing movie in the history of the Mustang Drive-In Peterborough. (Note: Mustang Drive-In by now is owned and operated by Premier Operating Company)

By this time, I was 17 and working in the kitchen. “Queen of the Fryer” was my unofficial title. It was definitely a family affair. My dad was Manager, my mom (Donna) was the cashier and in charge of the snack bar staff, my sister (Debbie) worked out front serving popcorn and drinks, while my brother (Bob)—the self-appointed “social director”—was busy turning his ushering duties into a game of, “Let’s see how many of my friends I can let in before my Dad finds out!”

When we weren’t busy with work duties, my brother and I would sit upstairs in our family apartment above the snack bar, and watch Smokey and The Bandit without the internal speaker on. (My family lived onsite above the snack bar and beside the projection room, and dad had them wire a speaker that sat behind his chair in our living room so whenever we wanted to watch the movie we could just turn the speaker on to hear the movie.) After eight weeks, we had the dialogue to Smokey down pretty good and would act out the scenes ourselves!

 Peterborough Examiner article from August 20th, 1977

Peterborough Examiner article from August 20th, 1977

My father passed away in January 1991, and my mother Donna still lives in Peterborough. I live in Courtice now, and my sister Debbie lives in Bowmanville and my brother Bob in Omeeme. 

The Mustang Drive-In Peterborough was sold in the late ‘80s to an independent business owner. I believe it changed hands one or two more times until the last owner was forced to close when the cost of switching to digital projection was too much.

—guest post by Amanda Ford

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