Farewell to the Edmondson Drive-In

November 17, 1991

After nearly four decades as an outdoor movie screen and two decades as the site of a popular weekend flea market, the Edmondson Drive-In Theater will close Dec. 31. If all goes as planned, a large Home Depot do-it-yourself home-repair and garden center will be built on the sloping grounds west of the beltway and Baltimore National Pike.

The closing of the Edmondson will leave the Baltimore area with just two weekend drive-ins: the Bengies, at 3417 Eastern Boulevard, and the Bel Air, on Route 22 in Churchville.

There are all kinds of theories about what killed the drive-ins. Some maintain their decline started with Daylight Saving Time and World War II gasoline rationing. More recently, those outdoor screens, with their tinny speakers and inevitable car engine noise, have withered in a hopeless competition with multi-screen indoor cinemas, cable television and VCRs. The remaining outdoor theaters, which once were in the middle of semi-rural fields, now often occupy valuable suburban land that can be put to far more profitable use.

A slice of Americana is being lost. Not only was the drive-in a popular destination but so was Edmondson's parking lot, which has hosted the Baltimore area's best weekend flea markets for years. A nice-weather Sunday attracts up to 8,000 browsers to inspect the offerings of vendors, some of whom are in line before midnight Saturday to stake out a good location.

The Edmondson flea market offers a fascinating variety of vendors and patrons. They are a veritable United Nations. Soviet emigres haggling over prices, Asian-Americans undercutting one another on everything from T-shirts to watches and sun glasses. The polyglot accents of America.

On a Sunday morning, the Edmondson Drive-In is the place to be. Other flea markets remain, of course. A large new one opened Friday at the Mount Clare Junction Shopping Center, at Carey and Pratt streets. But will they have the variety and flavor of the Edmondson?

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