Richards, Bill

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                                          BILL RICHARDS
                                         By Patti L. Moore

Miramichi native Patti Moore has posted this tribute to Bill Richards on the Great Canadian Story Engine found on the internet at

I grew up in Newcastle. It was one of our rituals to go to the Saturday matinee and see whatever would be playing. Back in the seventies there were not a lot of choices as to which movie that you would go to see, there was one playing and that was it.

Nevertheless, it didn’t matter to me. I always got a thrill when the lights would dim and the crowd would hush as we were treated to a cartoon and maybe a few previews before the main feature. I would clutch my popcorn and my pop and settle down to the business of enjoying the movie. We saw just about everything, lots of Disney movies, a generous portion of cowboy films, and wonderful, magical tales about mythological creatures and giants and sea horses that you could raise to underwater magical kingdoms. These ones, especially, fuelled my imagination for months to come, and I would often lie in bed at night imagining myself in the same situations.

                      First Trip to the Movies Alone at Age 9

When I was about nine or ten, my mom let me go to the movies by myself. I would hold my little sister’s hand all the way to the theatre, as we made our way along the small streets of our town. Mom would entrust me with a dollar to pay for the movie and our pop and popcorn. The movie cost 45 cents each, and a pop and popcorn cost 5 cents each.

“I couldn’t conceive of going to the movies without my popcorn. This was part of the experience, and I looked forward to this treat as much as I looked forward to the movie itself. One Saturday, we made our way to the theatre as usual, but when I handed my dollar to the lady at the ticket booth, she didn’t give me back my dime. I waited for a moment, still holding my sister’s hand, and then I politely pointed out that she hadn’t given me my change. She replied that the price had gone up. It now cost 50 cents to buy a ticket. I stood there stricken, and then as the tears started flowing, I cried, “Well how am I going to buy our popcorn?”

                             Free Popcorn “Just This Once”

Witnessing my disappointment, my little sister immediately started to cry too, and we both stood there rooted to the spot until the owner of the theatre, a large and barrel-chested man, came over and gently ushered us away. In a hushed whisper, he told us that ‘just this once’ he would give us free pop and popcorn each, and then smiled down at us as he reminded us to bring an extra dime the next time we came.

As a little girl who loved going to the movies more than anything, Mr. Richards’s kindness meant the world to me and I always liked him. He was as much a part of the movie experience as anything else. He always greeted us at the door and took our tickets as we entered the theatre. Every Christmas he would show a special movie and ask us to bring a toy for a needy child as the price of admission. I continued to greet him over the years as I became a teenager and began going to the movies with friends and boyfriends.

Eventually, I left the area as I went off to study and work in another province. A few years ago, I was back home attending a funeral in the company of my parents and couldn’t help but smile to myself during the hymn at the sound of an elderly gentleman singing lustily and just slightly off-key behind me. When the service was over, and we were preparing to leave, my mom saw the gentleman and was starting to introduce him to me, when I exclaimed “I know you! You’re the man who gave me the popcorn!” and proceeded to tell him the story.

                          Story of Kindness Sparks Tears Years Later

Much older now, he was less imposing and far smaller than I remembered. We both cried as I told him, finally, how very much his one small act of kindness had meant to me. It was a rare privilege to be given the opportunity to thank him for something he had done for two little girls twenty-five years before.

Last September, my mom sent me a clipping of Mr. Richards from the local paper. He had just passed away, and the article spoke, among other things, of his involvement in bringing movies to our town for so many years. The picture was an old one, and he looked very much like the big, imposing man that I remembered from so long ago. I have tucked away that article among the things that I hold dear.

The movie theatre is gone now. Sometimes when I was going about the business of growing up and heading out into the world, they put up an office complex in its place.

When I go home to visit, I can never go past that building without averting my eyes. I feel betrayed somehow, that such a treasured part of my childhood, of our community’s past has been lost. Going to the movies remains one of my favourite things to do. I still get a thrill when the lights are dimmed. I still love the previews. I always stay for the credits. A really good movie stays in my head for weeks, and I never, ever go to the movies without buying my popcorn.

Thank You Mr. Richards!

Source: Miramichi Leader – January 03, 2001

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