It’s been three years since I left Atlanta behind, and it feels as if I left an entirely different way of living. The Atlanta animation community has a curious quirk; it’s primarily made up of men in their late 30s/early 40s who have an obsession with the 1950s and 60s. And old friend use to theorize that we become obsessed with the generation of the decade in which we were born; either he’s incorrect or Generation X doesn’t think the 70s are interesting enough to obesess over.

A couple of relevant examples: Alton Brown is classic Atlanta, and if you watch his show often enough you’ll see plenty of retro dishes. And then there’s the Starlight Drive-in. Every summer they host B science fiction double features, and then ramp up the festivities with surfing bands (who play on the roof of the snack bar) and tiki merchandise. People arrive in Betty Page haircuts and mopeds to watch the show, and some of them seem a lot more interested in being part of the image than watching the movie.

But the heart of retro Atlanta for them who cartoon is the annual Clay Croker Halloween party. Clay is the voice of Zorak and one of the creators behind Space Ghost: Coast to Coast. He’s also a collector of all kinds of oddities, including film reels and Godzilla models, and his home is a monument to the mid-century. When one of Atlanta’s drive-ins closed down he bought the leftovers, and on Halloween he plays monster movies on a backyard screen while serving popcorn from a tiki bar. Who knows if the parties are still going on, but when they were it was the place to see every animator in town, young and old, in every medium, even when they weren’t getting along. They would pass in and out, eat hot dogs and cheer on the cartoons, Japanese serials and space schlock flickering on the screen. There was always a crisp bite in the air, there was always plenty to eat, there were always dramatic reunions before sober mornings brought back the drama. He would probably laugh if he ever found out how much I looked forward to those parties.

As Halloween rolls around again, remembering those days got me thinking about doing something similar on a tiny scale. Too bad I won’t have the tiki torches, but at least I can make hot dogs.

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