I Saw It At the Drive-In (Strong PG-13)

During the school year, Louis "Buddy" Rames was a no-nonsense junior high school Algebra teacher and a competitive high school baseball coach, but during the summer he managed Hillsboro's Hilltop Drive-In Movie Theatre. Actually, the guy lived at The Hilltop – ala Jim Rockford in a trailer in the back of the sandy lot.

Buddy was my pal Hoover's uncle and for years Hoover promised us jobs at The Hilltop as soon as we turned fourteen. In the meantime, we mowed lawns, shoveled snow, and delivered papers to make our money while biding time until we 'came of age' and merited inclusion in the neat world of drive in theatres.

I liked the summer time Outdoor Movie Theatre Manager Buddy Rames a lot better than the winter time school teacher Mr. Rames. At school, we had to call Hoover's Uncle "Mr. Rames." He was only in his early thirties when we were in junior high, a tall and handsome guy with wire rimmed glasses and a mod haircut, but he was a serious teacher who wore coats and ties and penny loafers and kept a tight control of the classroom.

Algebra was not my favorite subject. I had a hard time grasping the basics of the subject and Mr. Rames believed I was an idiot. He called me "Mister Snyder" in a tone that made it sound like he was saying "Mr. Shithead".

I couldn't catch a baseball with a bucket, hit a baseball with a tennis racket, or make it down the first base line in less than ten seconds and Coach Rames considered me a total waste as a baseball prospect which made me feel all the more inferior.

Mr. Rames liked quiet study halls and loathed food fights when he had cafeteria duty. He ran Detention like he was a Prison Warden and he was known to throw smart-assed kids against a locker if they were dumb enough to lip off to him in the hallway between classes.

One time, Mr. Rames stopped his classroom instruction when he heard some shenanigans going on in the hallway. He stepped out of the room and we heard loud yelling, screaming, threatening, and arguing taking place.

A red faced Mr. Rames returned to the classroom after the fracas was over and somebody asked him who he was yelling at.

With a serious look on his face, Mr. Rames waited a beat and then, in a perfect deadpan delivery, replied "My mother".

To be honest, I was afraid of the winter time Mr. Rames and barely said boo to the guy.

But the summer time Rames was an entirely different person. He drove a cool red Thunderbird Convertible and wore motorcycle glasses! He lived at a movie theatre! He smoked cigars! He didn't treat me like a moron kid flunking algebra or the spastic clod who disgraced the baseball diamond. He called me Randy and he let us call him Buddy. He was cool, hip and fab, a fun guy to be around. He was Hoover's Uncle Buddy, not Mr. Rames the tough guy Algebra Teacher.

As promised, Buddy hired his nephew Hoover, our mutual pal "Hammy" Allen, and me onto the Hilltop Drive-In staff, allowing us to land one of the best teenaged summer gigs in town. A couple of other neighborhood kids enjoyed brief stints at The Hilltop, but Hoover, Hammy and I were the only ones who lasted our entire high school careers, becoming veteran "Toppers" who knew the business inside and out.

Hoover was a wise-ass with a floppy mop of red hair and more freckles on his face than stars in the sky. Hoover could push the limit knowing his Uncle wouldn't have the gall to fire him no matter how much he goofed off or fooled around.

Hammy was a burly kid with short legs, Popeye arms, and a wry sense of humor. He was destined to be an all-star baseball catcher and Buddy gave him preferential treatment knowing he needed him on the high school team.

I was the throw-in of the deal. Buddy didn't have a need for me and he didn't owe me any favors, but he was willing to give me a chance and I appreciated the opportunity to prove my worthiness. I did my best to show him I wasn't as bad as I seemed in his Algebra Class!

Buddy called us "The Three Amigos". Hammy said that was better than be called The Three Stooges!

"If you're here for the money, quit now," Buddy advised when he first signed us on. "This job doesn't pay jack. But if you're here because you like the movies and you want to help me out, you'll have a good time."

"We get free popcorn though, right?" Hoover asked.