I’ve posted a couple of pictures of what remains of the Wadena Drive-In Theater before, but last weekend I had the opportunity to walk around the area with my friend Dave whose family owned an operated the theater from May 1955 to July 1989. Dave grew up working the projectors at the Cozy Theater, which he now owns, as well as working at the drive in during the Summer months.
If you were fortunate enough to grow up in the era when drive-in movie theaters were commonplace, you know how integral a part it was of your teenage years. My first memories of the drive in were from a dusk to dawn that my older brother took us to. I have no idea what the movie was, I just remember being there. I used to help my friend Kelly clean up at the drive in on the mornings following the show, and it was evident that some adult beverages definitely made their way in based on the number of empty beer cans that we picked up. There was a gigantic recycling pile that we put them in back in the woods. From that point, it wasn’t until we received our much sought after driver’s license (or someone we knew received theirs) that it became the place to be. Having the opportunity to attend the movie in your car offered an experience that going the movie in the theater did not. The ability to walk around and, “see who else is here”, was more important than the movie in many cases. In addition to cinematic classics like, “Beach Girls”, there were always horror flicks like “Friday the 13th” and “Halloween” to be seen as well. We would run into guys from other towns that we played Legion baseball with in the summer or talk to Dave when he was running the projectors. The mosquitoes were always part of the equation as well, even if you bought a Mosquito Coil whose smoke was supposed to keep the bloodthirsty creatures at bay.
Dave gave me a tour of what remains. The screen was removed, but the concrete anchors that held it in place still remain. The pics below show the old ticket booth, the marquee, Dave in his old stompin’ grounds, the concrete anchors for the screen, the pumphouse and the kids merry go round and teeter totter that sat in front of the screen.
A big thanks to Dave Q. for taking time to walk around and share his memories of the place.