Arlo Levisen is the President of the Grant County Historical Society. He has extensive knowledge on the history of the area, including: Grant County History, Big Stone Lake History, the History of the Holland Grist Mill, the History of the Milbank Congregational Church and much more! Each week, he answers your questions.
Q: When was the drive-in movie theatre in Milbank built? What was the first movie that was shown? – M.K.
A: The drive-in theatre was built in the spring of 1949 by Michael DeFea – who also built the current, existing movie theatre in town today, on the west side of Main Street, in 1947. More people might remember his brother, Pete DeFea, better as he actually managed both of these theatres for his brother for many years.
Michael DeFea came to Milbank in the 1930’s, from Wheaton, MN, where he was in the movie theatre business. Initially he bought the Chateau Theatre, located on the east side of Main Street. He later sold the Chateau.
While I do not know for sure the very first movie shown in the drive-in, “The Sands of Iwo Jima” starring John Wayne – or “It Happens in the Spring” starring Ray Milland would have been very popular possibilities.
Typically though, the drive-in theatre would only screen movies that had, first, been screened in town – with the more popular movies having a “second run” in the outdoor theatre during the summer months. Seldom were first-runs or first showings ever held in the drive-in theatre.
Q: When did the sturgeon get fished out of Big Stone Lake? – A.A.
The last know sturgeon found on Big Stone Lake was in 1946. It was 72 inches long and weighed 110 pounds.
Pictured Below with the fish are left to right: Otto Meyers (GAME WARDEN), Art Evans (MAYOR), Hugo Wickland (GAME WARDEN), Gus Kleinschmidt (GROCER) AND Fred Wickland (JEWELER).
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Arlo Levisen currently serves as the president of the Grant County Historical Society. He was born in Milbank in 1944 and grew up on his family's farm just east of Stockholm. Arlo attended school in Stockholm, Milbank, and South Shore. In 1967, he graduated from Northern State College with a B.S. degree in Elementary Education and History. He also earned degrees in Elementary School Administration and School Superintendency. He was employed as the Grant-Deuel School Superintendent from 1990 until his retirement in 2005. He and his wife, Paulette, reside near Big Stone Lake. They have two children and four grandchildren.