Bond, family bond: The father-son tradition at the Starlite drive-in

The story of a father and son carrying on a family tradition


Bob and Jaden Murray
  • Bob and Jaden Murray

More often than not, we can thank our parents for the traditions we hold dear. During our early years, we learn to ride bikes, we choose which holidays to celebrate, and we live and learn around the dinner table.

Bob and Jaden Murray share a near-weekly tradition that has brought them closer over the years and provided them with many unforgettable nights at Bloomington's Starlite Drive-In.

Bob's pickup truck is modified for the optimal drive-in experience. A full size mattress fits snugly in the truck bed, which allows him and his 12-year-old son Jaden to comfortably lie on their stomachs during the movies. Adjacent to where their heads rest is an old computer speaker with wires snaking back to the radio, providing crisp audio.

A setup like Bob and Jaden's doesn't form overnight. In fact, it took Bob decades of nights under the stars at the Starlite Drive-In to find out what works best for him. "This was my parents' favorite drive-in, and it also happens to be the closest to us," he said. Coming to the Starlite nearly every weekend since he was a kid in the 1950s, Bob is now continuing the tradition with his son.

Jaden has seen some of his favorite movies at the Starlite ever since he can remember, which he said was somewhere around age 4 or 5. More recently, he said he's had the pleasure of seeing both Kung Fu Panda 2 and Kung Fu Panda 3 along with the critically acclaimed Inside Out. He may have seen some others, but he said he often falls asleep after the first movie. "Mark always plays the kids' movies first, which I like," he said.

Bob and Jaden said they continue coming to the Starlite because it's their father-son tradition, but they also keep it up because of Freeman's commitment to younger viewers. Whether Freeman is tweaking the schedule to showcase kids' movies early, driving his tractor train ride around the field or letting kids 5 and under in for free, he is fostering a family environment.

"Mark always has the best variety in movies, and he's always doing stuff for the kids," Bob said.


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