Remembering the Kim-Hi nights

It’s very nearly drive-in movie season again, another opportunity to reflect on what we’ve lost.

Yes, we know that there’s really little use for a drive-in anymore, not when we can view movies with higher quality in our homes, but a reflection in the St. Cloud Times today provides a reminder that with every step forward, we lose something too.

The Kim-Hi Drive-in stood in Kimball, Minn., until 1983, run by Ron and Valerie Greely and their four children. Son Troy ran the projector. The youngest kids mowed the grass and picked up trash.

“People socialized there,” Troy Greely added. “It was a place to meet, hang out and talk. There were sections where families could park and different sections where people got out of their cars. Sometimes people weren’t even watching the movie. They were having a party.

“You could bring in your own beverage. Days were different back then. But things didn’t get out of hand. We never had a lot of problems. People would come to the drive-in on Fridays, then go to the Playland (Ballroom) on Saturdays. Of course, I usually had to work at the drive-in on Saturdays. So I missed out on that.”

The drive-in was heavily damaged by a tornado in the ’60s, but the show went on. They used the third of the screen that was left. Everyone just had to move up a bit to see it, apparently.

The Kim-Hi was done in by the VCR (ask your parents what those were). We didn’t have to socialize to get our movies anymore. And no mosquitoes.

“People thought it was cool to sit at home and make their own popcorn,” Troy Greely said. “But then all the drive-in places started closing and they realized they were losing something.”

The couple who started the drive-in divorced and sold the land. There’s a church there now. And an assisted living facility.

“We’d go around checking tickets,” Troy Greely said. “Sometimes the windows on a car would be so fogged up you couldn’t see inside. You’d pound on the window once, and if there was no answer, you’d just move on to the next car.”

Today, of course, there are only a handful of drive-ins left in Minnesota, patronized mostly by a crowd that has a more difficult time fogging up the windows these days.