May 8: Milton-Freewater Drive-In Theater, Milton-Freewater OR

It’s Day 128 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey. The fastest way to get from La Grande OR to Milton-Freewater wasn’t the shortest way, but an hour and a half later I arrived at the Milton-Freewater Drive-In Theater.

I was fortunate to find another drive-in video profile, this time for the M-F. (It’s sometimes called the Milton-Freewater, sometimes the M-F, and I’ve got to admit that three characters are a lot easier to type.)

The M-F was built in 1953 and was bought by the Spiess family in 1961. Big bills came in a cluster about 50 years later. The M-F sustained terrible damage (as seen here) during a windstorm in January 2008. “That was the first year we were in charge of day-to-day operations after my parents semi-retired from running it,” Mike Spiess told Ruralite. In 2011, Oregon drinking water laws required them to drill a new well, and they bought a digital projector in 2013.

In 2014, at that time of the Ruralite article, Mike and his wife Lorie owned the M-F and also held down day jobs. “The drive-in is our family hobby,” he said.

The M-F is open Fridays through Sundays this time of year, so I was on my own on a Monday night.

Miles Today / Total:  77 / 14051 (rounded to the nearest mile)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: dark / 59

Nearby Restaurant: I’m glad I got to Wee bit O’Heathers in time for lunch. They serve the kind of thin hash browns that mix well with other vegetables, and the cinnamon rolls were amazing. It was kind of crowded, but you know that’s always a good sign for a small-town restaurant.

Where I Virtually Stayed: There are some chain hotels across the border in Walla Walla WA, but I wanted to stay in town and same money, so I spent the night at the Out West Motel. Clean, if not fancy, with a fridge and a coffee maker in my room. Sometimes that’s all I need.

Only in Milton-Freewater: There aren’t that many cities with hyphenated names, although there are plenty of newspapers with hyphenated names. In Milton-Freewater’s case, the reason was the same as it typically was for newspapers – a merger. In 1951, the neighboring rival cities of Milton and Freewater voted to merge.

Next stop: 99W Drive-in, Newberg OR.

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