Joy Theater

609 Douglas Street,
Pawnee, IL 62558

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The Joy Theater was open on Christmas Day in 1941 and was the 57th theater opened by the Frisina Amusement Company. Dale and Mary Turvey were the managers, and the first feature was “Sun Valley Serenade”, with Sonja Henie. Admission was .30 for adults and .10 for children.

The upper story of this building was once the Opera House, and later Dominic Frisina started his theater chain showing “talkie” productions on this top level. He wanted to open the Joy because of the sentiment for Pawnee, the location of the beginning of his company.

The theater was closed in the 1950s and now is part of the Nelson Drug Store. The upper level, once the Opera House, and the beginning of the Frisina Amusement Co., was beautifully renovated by the Pawnee United Methodist Church and serves as a meeting place for church services, youth activities, town functions, etc.

When I think of the Frisina Joy Theater, memories of a simpler kinder time come to mind. A small community that helped each other and that filled the square on Friday and Saturday nights with people who came to town to do grocery shopping, pay bills, maybe eat at Darrell’s Grill, get a milkshake at Millburg’s Drug Store and see a movie. I am privileged to have been part of that era.

Contributed by Marilee Turvey Wright

Recent comments (view all 14 comments)

Marilee on February 8, 2006 at 6:55 am

The Frisina Joy Theatre in Pawnee, Illinois holds many childhood memories for me. Although it’s been years(more than I care to remember), this is where I saw may first indoor talking movie. Little did I know then that this theatre would become part of my family history. I distinctly remember Mr. Turvey(my future father-in-law) standing on the stage during the month of November, holding a Thanksgiving turkey that he had acquired from the Smith turkey farm, forcing a fake smile and praying that the drawing for the turkey would soon be over. Though cutomers did not realize it, Mr. Turvey hated particularly turkeys, and these Thanksgiving birds tend to be rather large. I also recall that the back row west side was where I began attending movies with my first girl friend. In those days going to a movie followed by a hamburger at Darrell’s Grill was THE way to show your date a fun time. I can also remember the numerous times that Ted S.,an usher, came down the aisle with flashlight in hand, shined it on me and told me to be quiet. Frisina Joy Theatre,thanks for the memories.
Lynn Wright

DonnaDeLayVick on February 9, 2006 at 8:21 am

This theater was where I saw my first movie as a young girl and also where I had my first stolen kiss, so it holds very dear memories for me. I was and still am a movie addict, because this was my first exposure to a huge world outside of my small hometown. I collected signed pictures of the famous movie stars of the time by writing to their studios and had many scrapbooks filled with them and pictures I cut out of my Photoplay magazines. Oh, how I regret not keeping them now! Because the owners of the theater (The Turvey’s) were good friends of my parents and knew of my collections, they would give me some of the advertising posters of the current movies they used in the glass cases in front of the theater.Another huge regret I have for not keeping! My dates (before being 16 and allowed to go in a car with boys) usually ended up with a cherry coke or Green River at Millburg’s Drugstore. Guess they were too cheap for a hamburger!Those days and the “poodle skirts” were pretty fun!!!!!!!!!!!!!

idaheiberg on November 14, 2006 at 10:41 am

I found this page searchin for Mary Turvey, originally from South Africa, who was a fellow student of my father’s at the Academy of Architecture in London in the 1930-s. Could it be the very same Mary Turvey that was a manager of the Joy Theatre, and who was/is perhaps related to Marilee T. who wrote the comment? If so, I would very much like to get in contact with her (if she is still living), or with someone who knew her. I have some information and some photos of her. I am Norwegian and live in Norway.

Marilee on September 4, 2007 at 11:52 am


No, I am sorry that is not the same Mary Turvey. I wish I culd help but my mother is not the lady in your search. HOpe you find her.

Marilee Turvey Wright

RMillik on September 6, 2007 at 7:24 am

Marilee-That certainly brings back lots of forgotten memories. Like my brother, I too worked at the theater. My favorite job was making the popcorn! And to this day I still LOVE popcorn. Maybe that’s why I like it so much. I used to take my earnings next door to Millburg’s Drug Store and purchase plastic model airplane kits. Oh to relive those carefree days! Thanks so much for the memories! Have a great day! You certainly brightened mine!

kencmcintyre on January 10, 2009 at 3:33 pm

Here is a view of the theater from Google maps:

Marilee on January 12, 2009 at 2:51 pm

Appreciate the photo!

ChuckBrawner on January 12, 2009 at 5:09 pm

This is just another “Thanks for the memories” from me. I believe the cost upon my last attendance was a whopping 20 cents and it was a western starring Tom Mix. I can still recall the “look” on Mr. Turvey’s face when we were bad. Kinda made us want to crawl under the seats. I hope this isn’t too inflamitory but we were an “all white” town then. We will inaugurate our first negro president in just a few days My how things have changed. Chuck Brawner

GeneCrowl on August 25, 2010 at 1:45 pm

As a “farm boy” it was a big treat to go into the big city and see a movie on such a large screen. I know I saw dozens of movies but the only one I can remember is “It’s Mine to Give”. It only stands out because it was the sadist movie I have ever seen, even to this day. Thanks for bringing up that emotion. (Just kidding). That was a good time of my life.

Marilee on September 20, 2010 at 7:53 pm

When I was a young boy growing up in the 50’s there was a “rite of passage” into manhood that involved the Frisina Joy Theater on the square in Pawnee, IL. If you could jump and touch the top of the marquee which was in front of the theater you could enter the realm of manhood or so we liked to think or perhaps we just had fun trying. Yes, i accomplished my feat and now wish that entering into adulthood had really been that easy. I still do wonder why I, like all the others had to pay 14 cents for my ticket, and the Beam Kids admission was much cheaper??? I believe it had to do w/ a land deal.

Jim Jones, Sept 19, 2010

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