OXFORD — It’s almost like being in a time warp from my teen-age years, when drive-in movies were in their heyday and Mississippi families grew their own vegetables and had a few chickens to produce eggs and an occasional chicken dinner.

With the coronavirus shutting down movie houses across the country, drive-in theaters are reported to be doing a booming business.

Some are using LED screens to show movies during the day, unlike the old days when they only operated at night.

One movie theater in Utah is showing outdoor movies on a temporary screen set up on a parking lot near its building.

The advantage of a drive-in is that families can see a movie on a big screen while maintaining social distancing. Couples with babies and toddlers don’t have to hire a sitter if they are of a mind to take the kids along.

When I was in high school, there were at least three — maybe four — drive-in theaters in the Hattiesburg area where I lived.

However, teenagers and young adults, on dates with the opposite gender, didn’t always go to the drive-ins to see a movie. For them there was no social distancing.

I have no desire now to go to a drive-in theater to see a movie. There are too many to watch on my big screen television while sitting in my lounge chair in air-conditioned comfort.

But if I was 17 again, I might be tempted.

In addition to a spike in drive-in movie attendance, there are some other items, aside from toilet paper and hand sanitizers, that are hot sellers and a reminder of bygone eras.

Among them are baby chickens and vegetable garden seed.

Sales of baby chicks are usually up this time of year, right before Easter, and have been for a long time. I recall in the 1960s that a shoe store in McComb gave away a dyed baby chick with the purchase of a pair of shoes, a practice that is frowned on by many these days.

My kids got one that grew up to be a mean rooster that eventually was farmed out to my mother-in-law. When he attacked one of her grandchildren, he ended up being in chicken and dumplings.

But this year, according to reports, more people are buying baby chicks to start their own flocks to produce eggs, which have been in short supply lately at supermarkets.

Also, judging from seed purchases, more people are planning to plant gardens this year than in the recent past.

Firearm and ammunition sales also are booming as they seem to do during every crisis, real or imagined.

Those sales, though, are more of a 21st century thing than in the mid-20th.

According to NBC News, Hyatt Guns of Charlotte, North Carolina, which bills itself as “America’s Largest Gun Shop,” has seen sales surge for handguns, shotguns and AR-style rifles bought for personal defense, along with ammunition, “to unprecedented levels,” said Justin Anderson, the store’s director of marketing.

“Most of what we’re hearing is fear and uncertainty,” said Anderson. “Our customers want to be able to protect themselves and their families, and they want to ensure they have the means to do so.”

Back when I was going to drive-in movies, working in my parents’ garden and gathering the eggs from the henhouse, we didn’t feel the need for personal protection unless it was in a fistfight at school.

We had hunting rifles and shotguns. But we felt no need to carry them to the grocery store or to church, and we could leave the doors unlocked when we went to the movies.

So, even if drive-ins, home gardens and chickens turn out to be more than short-term fads, things still won’t be quite like they were back then. The time warp is only partial.

One other similarity between today’s virus outbreak and my childhood and teen-age years is that a crippling and sometimes deadly disease was going around then.

As a kid, I worried more about catching polio than I now do about coming down with COVID-19, although I am not taking that prospect lightly and am doing what I can to prevent it.

Thanks to Jonas Salk and medical science, polio has been wiped out in most of the world, but there are still people my age and younger dealing with the long-term effects of the disease.

It’s safe to predict that eventually there will be a vaccine against the coronavirus.

Charles M. Dunagin is the retired editor and publisher of the Enterprise-Journal in McComb. He lives in Oxford.

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