by Susan Taylor Block
E. V. Richards, Jr., son of North Carolina stained glass artist E. V. Richards, plays into another aspect of Wilmington’s art history. E. V., Jr., born in the 500 block of Chestnut Street in Wilmington, NC, worked at the Bijou Theater during his boyhood years. That was during the period of time in which Foxy Howard and Percy Wells owned the theater that sported a tent-top instead of a real ceiling. Mr. Howard mentored the boy who left at age 16 to seek his fortune in the entertainment world.
E. V., Jr. worked his way through the movie ranks to become a partner in Paramount Pictures and Warner Brothers, Inc. At age 30, Richards was the second largest holder of private theaters in the U.S. He never forgot his roots and returned to Wilmington in 1922 to visit Mr. and Mrs. Percy Wells at their Wrightsville Beach home. It’s probable that Richards engaged the Hollywood film teams who came to Wilmington in the late 1920s to record Feast of Pirates’ celebrations. Encouraged by Richards, Wilmington clothier Beulah Meier won a part in the movie “Goodbye Again.”
Richards had a hometown friend named James H. “Jimmy” McKoy who ran the Paramount Theater in Goldsboro for a time. Along with assistant Gar Faulkner, McKoy managed floor shows and aired movies until both men moved back to Wilmington where they established St. John’s Tavern at 114 Orange Street. Jimmy McKoy, who kept his Paramount connections fresh, was famous locally for his collection of signed celebrity photos and the stars he drew to town and to St. John’s during the 1940s.