PORT TOWNSEND — They came from Sequim and Port Angeles, Bremerton and Hansville in their shiny Corvettes and two-tone Chevy coups, their classic station wagons and Ford trucks.
Their destination: the Wheel-In Motor Movie, a drive-in at the edge of Port Townsend, where generations of teenagers have gathered for a great American tradition: not watching a movie.
“It was party time,” said Dave Brackett of Port Angeles, recalling going to the drive-in with friends as a teenager.
“We didn’t watch the movie much.”
Brackett is one of the 90 classic car owners who bought tickets for the “Nostalgia Night at the Movies” on Tuesday at the Wheel-In, the only drive-in movie on the North Olympic Peninsula.
Sponsored by the Rakers Car Club of Port Townsend, the event was literally a trip back to the past.
“Most of us drive cars from that era or older,” said Sharon Clark of Sequim, a Raker Club member who organized the event.
“It makes us feel like we’re sweet 16 again.”
The event, a special showing for the Rakers of “American Graffiti” — the George Lucas epic about teen angst condensed into a nighttime cruise on the streets of a small California town — was a first for the drive-in, said manager Rick Wiley.
His mother, Sharon Wiley, took tickets in the booth at the gate, which is made of logs and adorned with wagon wheels.
After his father, Dick Wiley, died in 2007, Rick has stepped into his shoes, managing both the Uptown Theater and Wheel-In.
With double features screening until well after midnight, it’s a big job that in the hey-day of the drive-in, took even more time and energy.
“All through the ’60s and into the ’70s, my father showed three films a week here,” Rick Wiley said.
“One on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, another for ‘Buck Night,’ when you got in for $1 a carload. He changed it again for Thursday, Friday and Saturday.”
Rick Wiley said that organizing the special showing for the Rakers required planning months in advance in order get permission to show the movie and have it shipped.