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Saturday, June 25, 2016

Beck Theater gave town 'eyes to the world'

Thursday, April 23, 2009

People referred to the movies as a "picture show" when I was a kid.

The movie theater at Thayer during that time was owned and operated by John and Helen Beck who did a great job booking first-run films, while keeping their theater nice and clean.

Movies were by far the most popular form of entertainment in the small town before television.

Some people, like the Grissoms and Harbors, among others, rarely missed a feature film.

With the theater being "the place" to take a date, holding hands and maybe an arm around the shoulders was the limit that Mrs. Beck would allow after the lights were dimmed.

John Beck purchased Mr. Glimpse's interest in an outdoor motion picture theater (inside a burned-out building) on the corner of Chestnut and Front Street in 1925 and moved it into a building on Front Street. It was named The Royal Theater and John Beck Jr. helped run it.

The Becks leased the former Old's Brothers annex at Second and Chestnut from Dr. Cooper in 1941 and completely renovated the building with a new sloping floor auditorium, 340 new seats and state-of-the-art projection equipment and moved The Royal to that location.

John Sr. died that same year, leaving his wife Margaret, John Jr., and his wife, the former Helen Bone, to run the theater. At this time tickets were 10 and 25 cents, but due to a Missouri mill tax were later raised by one cent each. About 1950, they went to 14 and 35 cents. The films were shown at 7 p.m. in the evening, with a 2:30 p.m. matinee on Saturday and Sunday with the features changing around four or five times a week.

Ernest "Pooch" Hollowell worked at the theater popping corn and assisting. He got married and was replaced by Marvin Boles, who was in high school.

Johnny Beck was drafted into the army in 1942 and Boles was replaced by Roscoe Mitchell, a freshman in high school.

When John came home in 1945 from the war, he and Helen bought his mom, Margaret's interest in the theater.

Helen then took over the ticket takers position and John went back to the projectionist booth assisted by Roscoe.

That's when John purchased a new outdoor neon sign that first carried the name Beck Theater.

About that time, Gertrude Sanders sold tickets. Mary Sue Mitchell took her place and was in turn followed by her sister Margret Ann who was replaced by Shirley Beatty in 1949. Shirley stayed until 1952. Roscoe left in 1946. (Roscoe remained life-long friends with the Becks and furnished much of this information before he died in 2007).

Eddie Sanders sold popcorn and assisted at the theater for a number of years when he was in school.

J. A. Beck took over from his parents, John Jr., and Helen at some point and ran the theater until selling it to Dick and Billie Rae Mooney in 1974.

Margaret Ann and Raymond Wiggs ran the outdoor drive-in theater, which the Becks built on T. Shelt Taylor's former pasture south of town.

The Mooneys ran both theaters until 1978 when Robert and Joe Dan Tucker acquired them and later went out of business.

Kevin Steed, the present owner of the building, had the old sign refurbished and re-installed about a year ago.

Much of our culture emanated from the big silver screen at the Beck Theater.

It was our eyes to the world.

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