Book Project on Wisconsin Drive-ins Seeks Help

posted by MrDriveIn on March 14, 2006 at 4:32 am

Hello, my name is Charles Bruss. I am currently working on a book project about the histories of Wisconsin drive-in theatres. Your help with this is greatly needed. I am looking for interesting stories of people’s fond memories of attending and/or working at any of Wisconsin’s current or closed drive-in theaters.

Also needed are any photographs of any Wisconsin drive-in. All photos used in the book would of course get photo credits. Do you have any memoribilia with the drive-ins name on it? I am interested in those things as well.

Visit my website at: Contact me at 414-327-0457. Or email at: Thank you for your help in advance.

Comments (2)

JimRankin on March 14, 2006 at 7:11 am

Mr. Bruss: I wish you well on your book project, and as a life-long Milwaukeean I can give some insights based upon my 60 years. You will find my major memories here on this site’s page for the recently lost ‘41-Twin’ at: /theaters/2682/

Note there at the top of the page the line of brown type where if you click on WISCONSIN you will be taken to a list of both the theatres and DRIVE-INs that have been listed. Click on each of those and you will have a beginning to your book.

Are you aware of another fellow’s Web site about Wis outdoors? I can’t recall the name or URL of it, but I’m sure that if you Google it with such a search term as “outdoor movies” or “Drive-In Theatres” you will find it as well as other such sites. I assume that you have already gone to such as to review the several books already out on the subject in a nation wide sense. If you need help locating a title or two, go to and click on their link BOOKSTORE, and when you click on a title you will be taken to the Amazon page for that book, and on the bottom of that page you will find some links to similar titles.

You might want to contact the author of the 1986 title MILWAUKEE MOVIE PALACES, Larry Widen, who has a listing of Outdoors along with data, in his new book to be released next October: SILVER SCREENS. He can be reached via his web site: where there may also be a listing of Milw. area Drive-ins.

I hope you find this of some help. Best Wishes, Jim Rankin

StuartGrulke on September 20, 2006 at 6:11 am

Charles Bruss

While browsing my home town area newspaper “Watertown Daily Times” via the internet, I discovered your article posted “Book Project on Wisconsin Drive-Ins Seeks Help” The article initiated a lot of childhood memories when growing up, in what was then referred to as “Old Lebanon “,which was located at highway 109 & county trunk M.

My parents, Emil & Charlotte Grulke, operated a bar business under the name of “Elm Terrace Inn” which was founded in 1933-34. It was a full three story building in which a family of ten was raised, five boys and five girls. We all attended the Main Street Rural School or the Lutheran Parochial School, which was approximately a three quarter to a one mile daily walk under all weather conditions.

On the business property a full official baseball diamond was located and was a part of the “Rock River Baseball League. My fatherâ€\s right hand was accidentally shot off in the late 1920â€\s when rabbit hunting. He played baseball but was disqualified as he was a tremendous bunter as new rules disqualified him. He also did manage the team. It was upon this baseball diamond that an outdoor theatre was established.

The baseball diamond was turned into an outdoor theater once a week, normally Wednesdays during the late period of World War II. The backstop was used to create the screen for the movies. The projector equipment was placed at the pitchers mound. The movies were contracted through Khran Radio Repair business which was located in Hustisford, Wis. Mr. Khran did travel to various sites for business sponsored movie nights. When the film would brake or mechanical failure happened, the impatient viewers would start blowing their horns if not back on screen within a reasonable time. They would also use the horn for acknowledging a good movie or itâ€\s time to start.

As part of the family we had specific duties to prepare the outdoor theatre for the movies. The Lebanon Town Hall was located across the highway. We borrowed the homemade benches and carried them onto the bas ball diamond, placing them up near the home plate area for those that wanted a front row seat. The cars were parked in back of the bench area on the baseball field area for watching the movies on the backstop screen. Additional chores included setting up livestock type water tanks in which beer & soda was placed to cool with block ice, from the Watertown Ice House located along the Rock River from which it originated. Fresh pop corn was purchased from the Pagel Bakery in Watertown and was placed in large tin containers. We had to then bag the popcorn, which sold for five cents a bag. Soda sold for ten cents.

The movies normally were the western type movies, Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, Zorro, etc.
I was always amazed at some of the western movies, particularly when the good guys chased the bad guys, shots would be fired into the air and the bad guys fell off their horses. Of course the “Looney Tunes” was a favorite with all, including the Abbott & Costello films.

My uncle, Otto Grulke, ran the Lebanon Hotel, which was then referred to as New Lebanon on Highway 109. He was my Dadâ€\s brother; he also had a hand missing. His left hand was amputated when caught in a fly wheel of a gas engine pump. He also had movies, using the side of the hotel as a screen. He had root beer on tap and was a very popular drink at the time.

These reflections of outdoor movies in small villages and towns certainly inspired the advent to many Drive-In Theaters.

I do have a picture of our place of business. If you would like a copy, I would be glad to send it to you.

If others can contribute to this period of time & place, they can reach me at the following:

Stuart Grulke
14665 Lake Street
Sterling, NY 13156

Phone: 315-947-5225

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