Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Discovering a drive-in movie theatre in Luverne & a nation-wide effort to save these icons August 15, 2013

A FEW WEEKS AGO, while traveling specifically to Luverne in the southwestern corner of Minnesota to tour the Brandenburg Gallery and Blue Mounds State Park, I discovered a vanishing icon of American culture.

That would be a drive-in movie theatre on the south edge of town just off Interstate 90.

Verne Drive-in entry sign

The Verne Drive-In Theater, built in the 1950s, is one of only a few drive-ins remaining in Minnesota. Others include the Long Drive-In in Long Prairie, the Starlite 5 Drive-In Theatre in Litchfield, the Vali-Hi Drive-In in Lake Elmo and Sky-Vu Drive In in Warren. I think I’ve covered them all.

Nearly a year ago, the Cottage View Drive-In in Cottage Grove, in a controversial move, was closed and the land sold for construction of a Walmart store. (Click here to see Minnesota Public Radio photos of a September 2012 event celebrating the Cottage View’s 46-year history.)

Although I didn’t see a show at the Verne Drive-In, my husband and I drove through the vacant theatre parking lot on a Saturday morning just to check out the place and reminisce. We went to a few outdoor movies together when our community of Faribault still had a drive-in theatre. We also each attended drive-in movies separately while growing up. Me in Redwood Falls and he once in the Little Falls area and then near Brainerd.

Verne Drive-in, screen w filmstrip

I expect most of you hold on to some drive-in movie memories whether its cramming into the trunk of a car, making out with a long forgotten boyfriend or girlfriend, waiting in line for a concession stand snack or burger, tuning in to a movie via those little boxes stationed throughout the gravel parking lot, piling the kids into the car in their jammies for a night out under the stars…

At the Verne Drive-In a young couple, who went on their first date at the drive-in four years ago, recently became engaged there.

Drive-in theatres, most assuredly, are a part of our history, our culture, our growing up years and our personal memories.

Verne Drive-In exit sign film strip

Once commonplace in communities across the country, drive-ins are vanishing with only 368 remaining in the U.S., according to Project Drive-In established by Honda Motor Company. Honda, via an online and texting voting process, is giving away digital movie projectors to five drive-in theatres. The goal is simple: to save as many drive-ins as possible.

The financial challenge for drive-ins today lies in the need to switch to digital projection by the end of 2013, an upgrade which costs an estimated $80,000.

For theatres like the one in Luverne, winning a free digital projector through the Project Drive-In giveaway would be huge. You can vote online and/or via texting for these two Minnesota drive-ins daily for the next 25 days: the Verne Drive-In or the Long Drive-In. Click here for more information.

Project Drive-In also includes opportunities to donate monies toward saving our nation’s drive-ins and to pledge to go to a drive-in movie theatre. Win. Win.

WHAT MEMORIES DO YOU have of drive-in movie theatres? Let’s hear.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Tom comes home & how you can help a young family in need February 20, 2013

There’s something about home. The creak of the porch floor as you walk to the front door, the glow of the yellow kitchen walls in the evening light, the whiz of the furnace. It’s so familiar. Comforting.

As Tom sat in the living room for the first time in six weeks, taking it all in again, he said he could feel his stress and tension begin to ease.

It’s good to be home.  — Nina Hedin’s February 15 Caring Bridge entry

Nina and Tom Hedin with Jack and June. Photo courtesy of Nina Hedin.

Nina and Tom Hedin with Jack and June, before Tom’s accident. Photo courtesy of Nina Hedin.

I CAN ONLY IMAGINE the relief Nina Hedin, a young mother and blogger (The Adventures of Artsy Nina) from Glencoe experienced in the arrival home last week of her husband, Tom, after he was seriously injured in a January 5 snowmobile accident.

It’s been a challenging journey for Tom and Nina and their children, 4-year-old Jack and 8-month-old June.

Certainly, there have been the physical and emotional challenges involved in Tom’s recovery from a long list of injuries: brain hemorrhage and complications, fractured orbital socket, facial lacerations, fractured T6 vertebrae, broken and dislocated right wrist, broken left elbow and fractured upper arm, broken left knee cap with severed tendon and puncture wound, and a right knee ligament injury.

But the family has faced the added stresses of physical separation while Tom was hospitalized at Hennepin County Medical Center and later rehabbing, first in Glencoe, and then at Courage Center in Golden Valley.

Factor in lost wages and mounting medical bills and the family’s stress level has to be incredibly high. I cannot imagine. Nina, though, has managed to maintain a mostly positive attitude, at least publicly, on Tom’s Caring Bridge website.

I am especially proud of how the community of bloggers shared her family’s story and how folks have rallied—praying, providing words of encouragement and contributing to the GiveForward “Help for Tom Hedin” fund to help fund his recovery. Thus far 67 donors have contributed nearly $5,000 toward the $40,000 goal. You can contribute by clicking here.

Additionally, at least one blogger, Beth Ann Chiles of Iowa, has pledged to donate 50 cents for every comment made on her “It’s Just Life” blog posts to the Hedin family for two months. During January, she and husband, Chris, gave $176 to the Hedins through her “Comments for a Cause” program.

Wouldn't you like to win these goodies from Beth Ann?

Wouldn’t you like to win these goodies from Beth Ann?

To encourage even more comments during February, Beth Ann is giving away a package of goodies like tea, handmade greeting cards and coasters, a Monkey Farts lotion bar (yes, you read that right) and more. You will need to click here to read the entire list. To qualify for the prize package, you must specifically comment on Beth Ann’s “Giveaway with an Ulterior Motive” post.

But, don’t stop there, comment on any of her February posts and Beth Ann will donate 50 cents per comment toward GiveForward “Help for Tom Hedin.” How easy is that to donate and help a family in need?

Now, as long as I am writing about recovery, I want you to check back tomorrow for a review of Garrett Ebling’s book, Collapsed, A Survivor’s Climb from the Wreckage of the 35W Bridge. I promise, you will learn a thing or 20 about survival, courage, challenges, love, the power of prayer and more.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling