When Joe Senn was a kid growing up in Phillipsburg, he would come to the Gillioz Theater to see a movie.
“Going to the Gillioz was like going to a palace,” Joe said.
That was 75 years ago.
Now, at age 86, he and his wife, Hazel, who have been married 63 years, will be special guests at the May 1 matinee performance of “Our Town,” presented by the Ozarks Technical Community College’s Theater department.
The day will be extra special for Hazel for a couple of reasons.
She will turn 83 a few days before the performance. And, when she attends the play, it will mark the first time Hazel has ever been inside the grand structure.
“I don’t know what I’m more excited about, seeing the play or seeing the Gillioz,” Hazel said.
Joe said he’s thrilled his wife will see the ornate building.
“I will have the pleasure of taking her to the beautiful Gillioz as a special birthday present,” Joe said.
The couple has lived in Springfield for 17 years, after living 47 years in Thayer, where Joe operated a Ben Franklin store. Hazel served as the first school nurse in Thayer.
As a boy, Joe would get to travel the 50 miles with the family to Springfield to see the latest movie at the Gillioz.
“It was magnificent. You could stand on the steps and see into the lobby. Being on the square was a big deal. I took my first elevator ride in the Heers Department store,” Joe said.
The couple met when Hazel’s aunt brought her into Joe’s store on the pretense of needing a spool of thread. But as they look back now, the couple said it was all planned.
“She had it all setup. I don’t know if we ever got that spool of thread,” Hazel said.
While Hazel was in Memphis at nursing school, Joe built her a house to convince her he was the one to marry.
“I wanted to show her she couldn’t say no,” he said.
Tickets are still available for the play. Performances are April 29 and 30 at 7:30 p.m., May 1 at 2:30 p.m. and May 7 at 7:30 p.m. Call the Gillioz Theatre for tickets: 863-9491.
Steve Koehler is coordinator of publications for Ozarks Technical Community College. Contact him at email@example.com.
College Director of Communications
Coordinator of Publications
Phone: (417) 447-2666