Northwest Iowa was not graced with many ethnic foods, especially Italian. But for locals and tourists alike, Tony’s Drive-In was hard to pass up.
Located just north of Milford at the intersection of Highways 86 and 71 in front of the Lakeland Drive-In Theater, Tony and Almeda Compiano of Des Moines opened the eight-sided fast-food shop in 1955. His pizzas and stromboli sandwiches were an instant hit.
Facing more competition every year, he sold the restaurant in 1966 to Lakeland Theater owner Jim Travis following an illness.
I WAS SO RIGHT…AND WRONG
Sometimes memory can play tricks on us. If you had asked me to stand at the location of the Lakeland Drive-In Theatre in Milford, I would have been off by a few hundred yards.
The popular drive-in was just north of Milford at the intersection of Hwy. 71 and what is now Hwy. 86. Easy, right?
Except…I had forgotten that the Hwy. 86 intersection was relocated to the south from where I remembered.
Following a two-year construction, the Lakeland first opened in 1948. This intersection was also the location of the Okoboji Speed Bowl, a stock car race track, which opened in 1952. The stock car and midget racer track closed in 1958. Although there were a few attempts to bring other racing there, it never formally reopened. The Lakeland Drive In closed in 1991.
Looking at historic aerial photos—see individual photos for the year—you can see that the drive-in and the race track were located where today is the Okoboji Village manufactured home community (the color photo). Prior to that, it was farmland.
So my thinking was wrong–the last movie I saw there, I believe, was *Patton* in 1970 and I didn’t even have my driving license yet.
The Speed Bowl opened the first weekend in June in 1952.
From the Speed Bowl’s opening week in June, 1952.
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