June 1: Hilltop Drive-Inn Theatre, Gregory SD

It’s Day 152 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey. This was my shortest drive in months – less than a half hour on US 18 from Winner SD to the Hilltop Drive-Inn Theatre west of Gregory.

The Hilltop is the oldest drive-in in South Dakota. It was built in 1946 and has the biggest screen, 72 by 40 feet.

Cecil Harsin started part-time as a projectionist at the Hilltop in 1954. He bought the place in 1989 and still runs it with his family. Louie Harsin told the Rapid City Journal in 2010 that drive-ins are “slowly making a comeback.”

And there was big news just a couple of weeks ago. The Daily Republic of Mitchell reported that the Hilltop had finally acquired a digital projector to keep operating. In a great story with a nice video, it wrote that the Gregory community had raised enough money for a down payment, and that fundraising would continue over the summer to pay it off.

The Daily Republic wrote, “Between 40 and 50 people attend shows each night the theater is open, Harsin said, and he hopes that number increases with the installation of the new projector.”

Even with the new projector, the Hilltop will probably just open on weekends. In any event, it was dark on this Thursday night.

Miles Today / Total:  22 / 19542 (rounded to the nearest mile)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: dark / 68

Nearby Restaurant: I’ve had great pizza at a bowling alley before, and with the drive-in closed for the night, I needed something to do. Gregory Lanes provides the food, the beer, and the entertainment for a good time in this small town.

Where I Virtually Stayed: Now there’s something you don’t see every day – a TripAdvisor listing with 18 reviews, every one of them 5 out of 5. That probably tells you all you need to know about the Gray House Motel, but I’ll also point out the fridge and microwave, the free wifi, and the mom and pop friendliness you would expect with reviews like that.

Only in Gregory: I was going to mention the South Dakota Outhouse Museum, but it recently moved out of Gregory. Instead I’ll point out the large pheasant statue that’s still there, with a plaque quoting Fortune magazine calling Gregory “The ground-zero of pheasantdom.”

Next stop: Pheasant City Drive-In Theatre, Redfield SD.