Goodbye old friend. It’s terribly painful to see you go away. I will always miss you.
The old friend that I’m referring to? My hometown’s local drive-in movie theater, the legendary Hilltop.
I can’t begin to express to you how many of my favorite childhood memories are deeply connected to this place.
My first experience was going with my parents as a baby in the mid 70’s. Next, watching it evolve as a child throughout the 80’s. Eventually growing up and taking my own family in the 90’s. Sadly watching it struggle to stay open and relevant in the early 2000’s. Witnessing a small resurgence under new ownership, before ultimately seeing it go out of business for good. The rapid growth in popularity of digital media as well as mismanagement helped to seal it’s doomed fate.
Seeing those doors closed and watching the property deteriorate over time broke my heart even back then. Now seeing it completely destroyed by misfortune breaks my heart in a seriously more profound way. Now I know it’s truly over.
The city I grew up in wasn’t always nice. The family I grew up in wasn’t always happy. But, some of my most positive memories of fun and joy are directly tied into this location. This where my love of the movie going experience began. It’s also a bridge to my personal memories of a period in time long forgotten. A place where people would socially gather outdoors to enjoy a movie. It might be very difficult for modern people to fully understand how eventful this activity truly was without having been there during that specific time. We didn’t have a lot of money and we couldn’t really travel, so the drive-in represented the type of excitement a child would feel when visting their favorite amusement park. The drive-in was literally like my Disneyland.
Just preparing to go was an event all unto itself. Looking through the newspaper to find out what was playing? And at what time? Getting dressed in the appropriate clothing based on the current season. The long drive there. Well, what I thought was the long drive there, since everything seems more grand when you’re a child.
I can remember everything about this place in vivid detail!
From the swings, slide, and merry-go-round that sat right underneath the screen for the children. Hell, even the mosquitoes! The strong smell of OFF bug repellent in the air. To the way the light from the projector would shine across the night sky with the stars sparkling in the distance. Each and every time was exciting for me. From getting there early sometimes to beat the traffic. To playing with random children before the sun set, letting you know it was time to head back to your car. To showing up at night while the lights from the marquee would glow, illuminating the surrounding pavement. The display of bold red letters, arranged by hand, describing what’s “Now Showing”.
The long line of cars with their headlights shining, waiting to pull up to the brightly lit ticket booth. The friendly individual happily greeting you while handing you your tickets. Driving around until you find the perfect spot. Or maybe being too late and having to park further away from the screen towards the back. Rolling down the window, hanging the speaker inside. Followed by turning on the radio, trying to tune the dial to find the right station for a clear audio signal. Watching the intermission cartoons sing and dance, instructing you to be courteous to the others, while also recommending which snacks to purchase. To one of my favorite moments of all, walking to the concessions building.
Our drive-in had a large concessions building, much bigger than the average stand. When I was a child the building itself was painted bright orange and white. During operating hours the front and back doors would be wide open. The light from inside would pour out onto the gravel. People would be maneuvering in and out, balancing a variety of snacks in their hands. And the best part, the overwhelming smell of hot, freshly popped, buttered popcorn!
I’m an old-school movie goer and a diehard movie theater popcorn lover. I’ve been to tons of theaters, carnivals, fairs, plus popped my own corn at home for years. But, nothing can compare to the way the popcorn smelled at the Hilltop! It stands out as one the most instantly identifiable memories of my entire experience there.
The smell grabbed you instantly! It grew stronger as you moved closer to the inside, making you hungrier with every step. And although there was plenty of other wonderful food being prepared, the popcorn was the star attraction. The aroma was truly undeniable.
The inside was a child’s paradise! The assortment of candies neatly lined up behind the glass counter. All of a child’s favorite junk food items being prepared right before your eyes. The cheesy Tombstone pizzas. The flavorful ice cream sandwiches. The delicious nachos. The iconic Chicago style hot dogs. The old style lemonade & fruit punch fountains, with the colorful liquid dancing around inside the glass containers. Oh, and some of the absolute best hamburgers I’ve ever had!
I even loved just wandering around on the inside. The food, the games, the people, the decor. All of it made me happy to be there. Getting somewhat of a behind the scenes look at the huge projectors transporting our movies outdoors through a beam of light. I thought it was both fascinating and magical!
Over time watching the mostly mechanical 1970’s pinball machines evolve into the 1980’s electronic video arcade games. Seeing the large crowd of people gathered around the new technology of Space Invaders, then Pac-Man & Donkey Kong. I can’t count how much money I wasted in those machines, but it was worth every penny!
Running into both friends and family randomly was always another exciting surprise. Living in a small town means you’re more than likely to run into someone you know quite frequently. Especially in those places where large crowds gather seeking to enjoy themselves.
Honestly, walking back to your car with your food was even an adventure. Trying to find your way in the dark while not spilling or dropping anything…classic.
Let me just reminisce a little deeper for a moment…
I’m thinking about how we’d always go no matter what. Despite all of the completely different Midwestern weather conditions. The heat. Being rained out. The cold winds. It didn’t really matter. We always seemed to have a good time, even when the movies were no good. Sometimes we’d sit on the hood of the car, or my Dad would park in reverse so we could sit on the trunk. Taking blankets and pillows for extra comfort. Meeting new, friendly, people. For instance, very often someone with a truck would allow us to sit in the back of the flatbed, providing another playful viewing position. Even my earliest memories of being a small child and sitting on the roof of my Father’s car. Can you imagine how much fun that was?
We use to bring our own foldable chairs to sit outside, and sometimes we brought our own cooler. We even barbecued many times on site before and during the movie. You can’t do that inside a regular theater!
I mean, where else could you have the choice to see two brand new movies, two awful horror movies, or two goofy B-movies for the price of one? It was seriously a better value when directly compared to my other love, the standard sit-in movie theater. Not to mention the freedom and privacy it provided you with. It was great! And it was definitely an extra special treat to go on a random school night!
Being able to go back to school and tell your friends all about what you saw. Especially if it was R-rated or nudity involved! Or sometimes simply falling asleep in the backseat before the movie ended. Only to wake up with just enough time to ask, “what’d I miss?”
It was always bitter sweet staring out the window as the credits rolled. Slowly drifting along as my parents tried to beat the traffic to the exit. Not wanting it to be over, but looking forward to the next trip.
Then becoming a young man, driving your own car, going on dates. The many make out sessions with any young lady you were trying to impress at the moment. Finally, maturing and taking your own children in hopes that they’d have an appreciation for your nostalgia. Being able to bond over this retro form of entertainment in a modern setting. Man, what an awesome experience!!!
In light of our recent COVID crisis, there has been an unlikely rebirth of drive-in movie theaters worldwide. A whole new audience is now being introduced to their parents or grandparents “old fashioned” way of viewing films. For this very reason, I had high hopes that the Hilltop would somehow be revived. For years I would tell anyone who would listen that the Hilltop is and should be a historic landmark for our city! It should never be disregarded or torn down! Now the worst has happened…Weakened by years of neglect and abuse, this seemingly indestructible brick construction is abruptly destroyed by a powerful summer storm?! I’m stunned!!!
For the official news report click the link below:
Selfishly, I never wanted this special place to go away. Specifically in such a disgraceful fashion. I often hoped that someone with the money and the proper vision would see the value in renovating the property for the future. I thought that maybe some local saviour would come along, willing to invest into the community, but it never materialized. Such a shame because, I always looked forward to riding by to catch a glance, or stopping by to take a few pictures whenever I would visit. It was always one of the highlights of my trip. Even when it was strangely converted into a makeshift soccer field. Even throughout the years when it was abandoned and vandalized. I hated seeing it that way, but I could always count on physically seeing the buildings and taking a moment to reminisce.
I don’t know what the owner of the property or the city is planning to do with the land? Maybe they’ll rebuild it? Although I highly doubt it. Maybe they’ll clear it all out? Effectively erasing the entire history of this once thriving landscape. No matter what they choose to do, I know that whenever I visit my only option will be to recollect on what use to be. Even if they totally rebuild the site exactly the way it once was, I’ll always know that the original, this important symbol of my childhood, is now gone forever!
So, goodbye my dear friend! Thank you for the countless thrills, excitement, and memories. I will forever reflect upon you with happiness and great fondness. I will continue to tell your story, and I will absolutely never forget you! You will forever represent a much simpler time in my life, as well as the world in general. You were quirky. You were unique. You were romantic. You were the best!
Very few things in life can compare to the beauty of an early morning sun rise. I wouldn’t consider myself a “morning person” by any means! But, I understand and appreciate the energizing power of a brand new day. The colors that come alive and start to envelop the surrounding environment is truly inspiring. It seems that they can only be matched by the soft, warm, glow of the setting sun. I always feel a sense of thankfulness whenever I’m up to both document and enjoy a wonderful sunrise.
I guess the old saying, “you learn something new everyday” can certainly be applied to this particular experience.
Before I ever stepped foot in Arizona I never knew it snowed there. I, like most people, assumed the weather was too consistently hot to produce snow. I couldn’t be more wrong! During a recent holiday vacation to Sedona I was finally able to see snow in the desert first hand. It’s both a strange and beautiful sight to behold. Seeing all of the familiar desert trademarks such as, a cactus, covered in snow is definitely a memorable occasion. I’m so happy that my family and I were able to witness this moment together, as I feel it’s a unique encounter that my children will never forget.
Photos and videos can only do so much to represent the sheer beauty that can only be truly appreciated in person. Exploring unusual scenery such as, the juxtaposition of snow in a desert setting, is something I highly recommend for everyone fascinated by travel and adventure.
The more I visit Nevada the more I fall in love with all of it’s beautiful desert scenery. The colors, textures, and of course the details! I hope to go back soon for more in depth exploration and photo making.
Here are just a few photos from a visit to Red Rock Canyon that I captured with my phone.
Here are a few of my favorite iPhone photos from a recent trip to Las Vegas. More to come soon…
A beautiful sunrise I was fortunate enough to capture, handheld, while out walking one morning last month.
The destruction caused by Hurricane Irma was far reaching, extending into parts of Georgia in the form of a tropical storm. Although the damage was far less than expected in the Columbus city area, strong winds toppled large tress, and power lines. The winds also scattered debris across the city’s streets causing some roads to be blocked off. There was also some minor flooding, power outages, as well as school and work closings. On the worst day of the storm I spent most of my time out walking the streets trying to document the damage. Below are a few samples of just some of the things that I saw.
(Please click on each image for larger view)
Just thought I’d share a random urban landscape taken in downtown Columbus.
Happy New Year to everyone!
My very first post of the new year is a beautiful southwestern sunset captured a few days ago and shot with my iPhone 6 Plus. I know that I haven’t been posting as much, but I have been doing a ton of shooting lately and I have many new exciting images to share in the coming weeks/months. Stay tuned.
The sun rises early upon another fall morning. I am thankful to witness it’s natural glory.
-Robert N. Jones
Stuck in traffic under the unforgiving summer sun, forced to crank up my AC, I realized something. As I ride around this city lately I’m noticing an increasing amount of construction everywhere. Access to streets and entire areas of the city are always blocked off effectively inconveniencing everyone, yet I hardly ever see any improvement once they’re FINALLY done! They also seem to perform their work on the weekdays during the absolute busiest times of the day. Here is a perfect example of what I mean. Unfortunately I’ve accumulated quite the collection of these types of photos over time, but a large amount of them are from just this year alone! I’ll certainly be happy once they finish so I can go about my way without the constant detours and alternates routes.
(Click on the image for a larger view)
I’d like to share a few photos that I captured last weekend. Due to the excessive heat I only ventured out for a little while, and the city was basically a ghost town anyway. The few people that were out were all near the water trying to cool off. I wasn’t able to shoot very much for very long before I could no longer stand the heat, but below are a couple of shots that I thought were cool. Better luck next time I guess? This is the time of year when shooting can be tricky due to the amount of heat and humidity, especially in the areas of this country that are prone to higher temperatures such as the south. You really have to pick and choose when to come outside. More often than not when the sun starts to go down, effectively giving you much less time for actual shooting. It truly makes me look forward to fall and winter! That tends to be the time of year when I shoot at a much higher volume.
Anyway, I hope everyone enjoys their weekend!
(Click on each image for a larger view)
Spending time in one of my favorite vacation spots is always an instant remedy for stress. The moment the cool air from the water hits your face you can feel it’s healing powers take over your entire body. The happy sounds of tropical music fills your ears, while the delicious aroma of fresh fruit and grilled Gulf seafood teases your sense of smell. Your next thought is always how you immediately know you never want to leave. It’s been far too long since my family and I have been on a vacation anywhere together, so this trip was definitely long overdue! It’s been a tradition of ours to go to Florida at least for a few days to relax, but our last trip was suddenly interrupted by an unfortunate emergency. It’s been well over a year since our last trip and going back we can see right away that a few things have changed. Gone are all of the wild spring-breakers of the past, replaced by a more family oriented crowd which was absolutely perfect timing! After check-in everyone races to the room to drop off their bags and head straight to the beach. Finally!!! The moment you dream of for months at a time has finally arrived, and you couldn’t be happier! Ahh…time to kick your feet up, chill, and enjoy all of the new attractions at your leisure…after all, there’s no room to worry about time here. For once time excuses itself for your enjoyment.
Never without my camera, I documented the trip as usual and I’d like to share a summary of the various sights with images organized more or less in the order in which they were taken. I hope you enjoy the photos and your weekend!
(Click on each photo for a larger view)
Streams of smoke and fire rain down from the heavens illuminating the night sky.
I know most people think moss is gross, and I totally get it, but I happen to think it’s pretty interesting. I love all the details! I also love the growth patterns and colors. I actually have quite a collection of moss photos I’ve accumulated over the years. Here are some of my most recent moss images taken at a park near my house.
(Click Each Image To Enlarge)
Good Thursday morning everyone! I just thought I’d drop in and share a few shots from an early morning walk. I hope everyone enjoys their day!
Wow, my first post in quite a while. This is totally unlike me, as I like to post regularly to stay consistent as well as challenge myself to continually post something. I never planned to stay away for so long because, I really do enjoying blogging. Real life just has a way of changing your plans for you. I’ve made some huge changes recently prompting me to do a lot searching deep within myself. I’ve had both personal and professional difficulties that I’ve been forced to address lately. As artists we’re often confronted with periods of downtime that can lead to huge slumps and even depression. These issue tend to work themselves out with time, and or a healthy dose of inspiration. Unfortunately right now this awkward predicament is my current status. I’m stuck inside a difficult battle within myself. My creativity is in a fierce fight with my reality. My heart wants to be set free but my mind won’t allow me to become too lost in my dreams. I already have the answers that will solve most of my issues, but right now they’re just out of my reach. No worries though, I will continue to push through until I’m closer to where I want to be. Until then I won’t force a thing. I have tons of photos accumulated over the years that I will share as the mood strikes me. I’m confident that eventually I’ll be back up and running at 100% creating even greater work!
If you’ve supported me over the years I sincerely thank you. Things are tough right now but they’ll get better. Stick around!
With all that said, I’d like to share a peaceful image I captured one morning while out enjoying the soft, gentle breeze. I try to find any little moment I can that will ease my mind, allow me to relax and enjoy myself.
I love the mood that winter weather can create. Cloudless deep blue skies and a crisp breeze. I can look at this photo and still feel the air all around me. Refreshing!
I know that I’m late, but I hope everyone has been enjoying the new year? It hasn’t been much of a winter for those of us who actually appreciate a winter season, but it has been cold the last few days. When I woke up this morning I was finally greeted to a yard full of frost. This is a little more like it! Truth is, this just really makes me miss shooting in the snow even more…
As this year closes I’ve been spending more quiet time alone reflecting on my past and what lies ahead in my immediate future. I’m a very introspective person so as the end of each year approaches it’s common for me to assess the totality of my collective 12 months. I’ve analyzed all of my accomplishments, failures, set new goals, and compiled a mental list of ways to improve upon myself.
I, like most people, like the security of a regular routine, but it can create complacency so I have to frequently break free from my comfort zone and do things I’m not accustom to doing. This regimen has effected the way I view change. Being a creative individual it’s very easy for me to become bored extremely quickly, so forcing myself to sometimes be uncomfortable has presented an interesting challenge for me to overcome. It is this challenge that makes me look forward to change. Over time I’ve learned to embrace it more and more. For instance, 2015 has been an absolute blur! I sometimes find it hard to differentiate 2014 from 2015 because, in my mind they feel almost concurrent. I’ve made so many changes and adjustments in the past 24 months that I literally lose track of time!
With all that said, I am happy with the direction I’ve been taking with my work lately, and I’m always looking forward to progressing even further. I’m also very enthusiastic about the prospect of acquiring more knowledge to further enhance my mind and my skills. God willing, I will spend the last days of this year in preparation for the impending change. I welcome change at it’s own pace so there’s no need for me to make resolutions. I’d much rather make realistic declarations! I declare that as long as I’m able, I will continue to work just as hard next year as I did this year to achieve what I believe in. I see you coming 2016…I’m making room for you right now!
An aerial view of the colorful mountains over Nevada as the sun sets.
The sun rising above my house bright and early this morning.
Despite being mostly barren, I find that there is a stillness, a peaceful feeling of calm in the desert. This is the perfect time of the year to explore because, the temperatures are moderate to very cool. I was shocked to learn how cold it can actually get in the desert at night. While there isn’t an abundance of photo opps around every corner, there is still plenty of interesting sights to keep one occupied both as a photographer and as a curious human.
In the photograph below I happened upon a makeshift memorial for some unfortunate soul that lost their life in this exact spot. I can only assume it was from a traffic related accident? In the distance you can see how modern development has started to change the overall appearance of the scenery. In the far background lies beautiful outstretched mountains that I await to explore to uncover the potential mysteries I’m certain they’re hiding within. I’m really hoping to witness some of the native wildlife of this particular area.
I’m finding that it’s extremely cool to learn that there is more to Las Vegas than just casinos.
(Please click on the image for a larger view)