Drive-in theaters, the historian Erica Robles-Anderson says, were a kind of stop-gap technology: a fusion of the privacy and publicness that cars and TVs engendered. (And they'd long had unique by-day identities — as makeshift amusement parks, as venues for traveling flea markets, as theaters for traveling Vaudeville acts and the acts that advertised them.) We tend to think of suburbs, Robles-Anderson told me, as symbols of the collapse of civic life; drive-ins, however, represented a certain reclaiming of it. And a drive-in church service was an extension of that reclamation. It was, with its peculiar yet practical combination of openness and enclosure, an improvised idea that happened to fit its time. The Schullers' motto? "Come as you are in the family car."
(Photo of the Starlight Drive In by Flickr user glockkid)