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Kimball, Minnesota
October 24, 2013     Tri-County News
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October 24, 2013

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PAGE 6 Thursday, October 24, 2013 Kimball Drive-In Robinson's death in 1989, and liv- ing in St. Cloud. As it turned out, they went through all 25 dozen buns they had ordered. It was so hectic the first day that one customer came up to the drive-in window to complain: "I don't have any hamburger on my bun," Fuchs laughed. The burg- ers were being prepared on an assembly line, she recalled, and "somehow the bun got out with- out a hamburger." "Everybody went there," Ron Knaus of Kimball remembered. "It was kind of a hangout." Knaus, 71, attributed part of its early popularity to the fact the founders were young and well- known former athletes at Kimball High School. Besides the burgers, soft-serve ice cream cones were a big draw. "A lot of people stopped there for that." The drive-in was a big deal for a small town, said Carol Newman, 71, of Kimball, who used to stop on weekends when she returned home from her out-of-town job. "It was one of the few spots where you could go and eat and socialize a little bit." Co-founder Jerry Robinson still lives in Kimball not far from where the old drive-in stood on the south side of Highway 55. "You wouldn't believe the cars that were in there because of the 15-cent hamburgers," Robinson, 78, said. On Saturday nights after dances at the old Playland Ball- room down the road, "there were cars on both sides of the highway waiting to get in .... We pumped burgers out of there like you wouldn't believe." It was a mistake to charge so little, causing the drive-in to be so busy "it was unreal," he said, and as the summer wore on the part- ners weren't getting along. "We had a heck of a business," Robinson said, but "it just didn't work out" and they sold the place to his brother, Marvin Robinson, and his wife, Gertrude. They ran it for a year or so and sold it to Kimball-area farmer Merton Eaton in 1962. He hoisted a large sign to the roof of the building announcing the Kimball Drive-In to passing drivers and advertising 7up. Rosalea Hoeft of Kimball has fond memories of the drive-in where she worked as a carhop tak- ing and delivering orders because that's where she met the love of her life 50 years ago. Local History (continued from page 1) This i964 photo shows owner Merton Eaton standing in front of the Kimball Drive-In. Photo courtesy of Rosalea Hoeft. Back then her last name was Eaton. She grew up in Sandstone and came to Kimball in May 1963 at age 16 to work for Eaton, her second cousin. Her older sister, Irene, had worked there the sum- mer before but graduated in '63 and went to work elsewhere, so Rosalea replaced her. She admitted to "kind of" being on the lookout for Jerry Hoeft, who, with his two brothers, had impressed Irene. He even asked Irene out at the end of the previ- ous summer, but she was unable to accept. "But she told me how good looking he was," Rosalea, now 66, smiled. It wasn't long before the two met when he rolled into the drive- in with a banjo in the back seat of his car just as Irene had said he would, and Rosalea startled him by asking if his name was Jerry. He asked her out a couple weeks later and they were mar- ried the following January. Jerry died in 2006 at age 66 after the couple had shared 42 years of marriage and raised a family of four children. "It was worth coming to Kim- ball for, I tell you," she said dur- ing a visit to the now vacant spot where the drive-in once stood. Even after a half-century, she could still remember his favor- ite drive-in meal. "It never failed. When Jerry came he would have a Carhop Rosalea Eaton relaxes in front of the Kimball Drive-In during a lull in business in the summer of 1963. The sign above her advertises hotdogs for 20 cents, French fries and malts for a quarter, and root beer for a nickel. Photo courtesy of Rosalea Hoeft. tuna sandwich and a strawberry shake." There are probably other cou- ples like Rosalea and Jerry Hoeft, Joan Fuchs suggested. "I think there are a lot of young girls that met their future husbands car- hopping there," she said. Rosalea continued working at the d rive-in for a few summers after her marriage, learning the cooking and cleaning end of the business as well as serving customers. Carhops there didn't wear uniforms, she said, but Eaton required them to be "appropri- ately covered" with jeans or skirts down to their knees. One of the tricks of the trade she and some other carhops used was to write each car's license plate number on the ticket to avoid mixing up the orders. "That was the only way I could keep things straight." Rosalea saved the cast alu- minum press that Eaton used to make hamburger patties at the drive-in, and she kept the recipe for sloppy Joes. "I sometimes wish I'd gotten one of the trays that we'd hang on the window" of cus- tomers' cars. The drive-in was still in busi- ness in 1972, she said, because she has a photo of Eaton and his wife taken in front of it that year. And she recalled stopping there on the way home from the hospital with her and Jerry's third child, who was born that May. Eaton, who died in 2006 at age 88, was "a real good cook, and that's what drew him to the drive- in," Rosalea recalled. "He liked to try new things," serving up pizza burgers, chicken burgers, shrimp patties and hamburgers with cheese inside them. "He was the kind of man that would give you the shirt off his back .... He cared about people," she said. "He loved kids. He was like an extra grandpa to my kids. He was like another dad to me." Dawn Robinson, Joan Fuchs' daughter, also remembered some good times as a carhop there in the early '70s while she was a stu- dent at Kimball High. "I'd never say a bad thing about it," she said. "I enjoyed it. I loved it because I'm a people person." For some reason, people always ask if she wore roller skates, Robinson said, and the answer is no. "A McDonald's it wasn't," she .... ::.,, ........ Civil War digest: This week 150 years ago Major Highlights for the Week Wednesday, Oct. 21,1863 Federal Major General Ulysses Grant conferred with displaced commander, Major General Wil- liam Rosecrans, at Stevenson, Ala., and then headed to Chat- tanooga, Tenn. From Bridge- port, Ala., to Chattanooga, Grant faced almost impassable, muddy, washed-out mountain roads and was further handicapped by being on crutches since his fall from a horse in New Orleans. Thursday, Oct. 22,1863 Federal Major General Ulysses Grant continued to toil over the atrocious roads en route to Chat- tanooga, where Major General George H. Thomas doggedly resisted the Confederate siege. Elsewhere, fighting broke out near Volney, Ky.; New Madrid Bend, Tenn.; Brownsville, Miss.; Bloomfield, Mo,; and at Annan- dale, Rappahannock Bridge and Bealeton, Va. Friday, Oct. 23,1863 In a major command change, Eonfederate President Jeffer- son Davis relieved General Leon- idas Polk from command of a corps in the Army of Tennessee. Polk was assigned to organiza- tional work in Mississippi, replac- ing Lieutenant General William J. Hardee. Davis issued the order from Meridian, Miss., while on his Western tour. Federal Major General Ulysses Grant arrived at Chattanooga just after dark and stopped by the headquarters of Major Gen- eral George H. Thomas, where he learned the details of the situa- tion that threatened the besieged Army of the Cumberland. MINNESOTA 186i CIIV| L WAR. 1865 Saturday, Oct. 24, 1863 At Chattanooga, Federal Major General Ulysses Grant made a personal inspection and ordered a supply line to be opened at Brown's Ferry on the Tennes- see River, which would enable the bases in Alabama to sup- ply the city more directly than by the long, rugged and difficult mountain trail north of the Ten- nesee. Farther west, Major Gen- eral William T. Sherman formally assumed command of the Army of the Tennessee, replacing Grant. President Abraham Lincoln instructed Major General Henry W. Halleck to prepare the Army of the Potomac to attack Confeder- ate General Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. In compli- ance with the order, Army of the Potomac commander Major Gen- eral George G. Meade agreed to the speedy preparations. Sunday, Oct. 25, 1863 Confederate Brigadier Gen- eral John S. Marmaduke's forces attacked-Pine Bluff, Ark. after his demand for its surrender was refused. Eventually Marmaduke withdrew his forces after partial occupation. Civil WarTo page 9 said, "but we were always busy." , Now 58 and living in Hono- lulu, Hawaii, Robinson hadn't forgotten the best things on the menu. "My favorite to eat there was a pizza burger and a banana shake." Some customers arrived at the drive-in on four legs rather than four wheels, accordilag to Bill Stein, 69, of Kimball. He recalled riding Billy Joe, his gold palo- mino quarter horse, to the drive- in along with other riders from the Kimball Saddle Club in the mid '60s. Fuchs remembered the strong odor of gas when she and others arrived at the drive-in one Mon- day morning not long after it opened for business. Fearing it was going to explode, they called the gas company, which determined there was no emergency. "Here we thought the place was going to blow up and it was just the onions," which the drive-in used on top of its trade- mark hamburger. Someone had left them out and uncovered. Ron Knaus chuckled at the memory of Eaton's promotion of another menu item, cheap turkey wieners, years before they became popular for their low calorie con- tent. "I remember Merton trying to talk people into turkey wier 's" without much success, he said, and the phrase "turkey wiener" became a joke between them. Stein recalled one occasion when police were called because two teenagers were dancing on the drive-in roof. The pair jumped in a car and headed east on Highway 55, but the city police officer got the impression they had gone the other way when Stein quoted Hor- ace Greeley's advice to "Go West, young man." Nobody seems to know what happened to the Kimball Drive- In. Only a few chunks of con- crete that once formed the floor of a small picnic shelter next to it remain. Like most of its counterparts, its place has been taken by shiny, look-alike chain restaurants with drive-through windows, and about the only things left are the memories. Editor's note: Writer Chuck Sterling lives on the property where the Kimball Drive-In was once located. Rosalea Hoeft, now coordinator at the Kimball Senior Dining site, shows off the press once used to make hamburger patties at the Kimball Drive- In. Photo by Chuck Sterling.