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Column: Drive-in nostalgia

Many holidays make one nostalgic for times gone by.

As a kid growing up in Detroit Lakes, July 4 was always a holiday amongst holidays. If you were into causing a little trouble and doing a few things you weren't supposed to be doing, that is.

Trek back, shall we, to 1987, a year of change.

There was one place one could always go in Perham to find a place for trouble: the Prairie Drive-In Theater.

This month marks 33 years from the closing of the drive-in.

For troublemakers, the drive-in was an oasis for dates, a little beer drinking and smoking cigarettes, which was legal for we 16-year-olds at the time.

Cigarettes were also under $1 a pack, but not for long.

In 1975, Minnesota enacted the Minnesota Clean Indoor Act. Our state was the first to ban smoking in most public spaces. It took awhile to catch on and certainly never hampered troublemakers at drive-ins.

We could even smoke in school. Well, we couldn't boldly light up in a lounge but smoking around school was easy to get away with until 1987.

In May of that year, the Perham school board was asked to adopt a smoke-free policy for its facilities.

A committee was formed of three adults and one student from the school who devised a survey for employees and students to gather their opinions on a school smoking ban.

They never did this in Detroit Lakes. There was no survey for our rules. I would have erupted in horror!

An overwhelming majority of Perham employees and students were in favor of the ban.

Staff members voted 104-12 in favor and high school students followed suit 166-90.

One of the 90, an obvious troublemaker, said, "There should be a student smoking lounge."

The teacher's smoking lounge was always like some kind of mythical nightclub in the middle of school. We smoking students were relegated to the parking lot or our cars and according to school rules, off the property.

Adamant arguments were on both sides of the issue.

"I think if people want to screw up their life let them," another student said.

Attitudes of this nature were increasing and healthier winds of change blew elsewhere in the town of Perham.

Plans were finalized and fundraising was underway to construct the Perham Area Community Center.

It is not in the troublemaker's idiom to work out or exercise.

However, the growing trend for a healthier American human, regardless of your stance on health, was just a small trickle compared to the rushing river of health consciousness today.

Community Centers are popular places to go nowadays, even in what used to be the capital of July 4 fun Detroit Lakes.

Another Perham change in 1987 was talk about adding on to the golf course.

The Perham City Council agreed to assist Perham Lakeside Golf Club financially.

"We're not looking for a donation," Spokesman Peter Irvine said. "We feel it's time to go from nine holes to 18."

The votes were unanimously in favor of contributing to the expansion of the golf course.

Golfers are renowned for finding trouble. Bunkers, water hazards, out-of-bounds, the rough, the 19th hole.

As a representative of 1987 troublemakers, I can fully attest to enjoying the golf course. Perham's now 27 holes are a great place to spend an afternoon and about as close to exercise as I am going to get.

I can go shoot bogey golf, if I'm lucky, anytime. If I change my ways a bit, I can go work out or play some hoops at the PACC. But I can't go enjoy an outdoor movie just out of town. I could not even find any coverage from 1987 in the newspaper about the death of the drive-in.

It's like the place just went to sleep and is now a small billboard for coming attractions anywhere else in town.

Robert Williams

Sports Editor at the Detroit Lakes Tribune. Williams worked prior as the Sports Editor in Perham for the Focus, a Forum Communications newspaper, from 2010-14. 

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