BC Sports Hall, BC Sports Hall of Fame, BC Veterans' Commemorative Association, Canadian Pacific Airlines, Jim McKeachie, North Atlantic Squadron, Operation Chipmunk, Victoria Sports Hall of Fame, West Vancouver, World War II
by Laura Anderson,
North Shore News
Born into the sports loving McKeachie family in 1924, Jim started out writing for the Victoria high school paper, the Camosun Et and for the Victoria College paper, The Craigdarroch and later, the Victoria Colonist. Sportswriting, he figured, would be good training for a young man considering a career in journalism.
World War II altered that career path, as it did for so many men and women. Jim was seventeen in 1941 when he joined the Royal Canadian Air Cadets, an organization so new the cadets did not have uniforms. In January 1943, he enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force and was posted to Gander, Newfoundland. Jim was assigned to the No.10 (Bomber Reconnaissance) Squadron, also known as the North Atlantic Squadron, responsible for anti-submarine and convoy escort. Jim was 21 years old at war’s end, captain of a four engine B24 Liberator.
As life’s twists and turns would have it, Jim’s wife to be, Joyce Morley, also from Vancouver Island and also serving in the RCAF, was also in Atlantic Canada, posted to the airport control tower at Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.
They met in Victoria in 1946, at the home of a mutual friend on the eve of her wedding. Joyce, the bridesmaid, wore a long yellow dress. The couple laughs as Jim recalls Joyce was the first girl he’d asked for a date without a view of her ankles. “They’re still pretty good,” he affirms.
Jim completed his education at UBC supporting himself as a sportswriter with The Province. In 1948, he was home in Victoria, with a job as the cityside reporter at the Victoria Times and a bride. Joyce was working for the BC Electric Company, earning four times what Jim was making. “She accepted me anyway,” Jim says with a laugh.
Jim came close to returning to aviation thanks to Operation Chipmunk. During the Korean Police Action, better known as the Korean War, Canada supplied flying clubs with de Havilland Chipmunks, or “Chippies”, for use in refresher training of RCAF Reserve pilots like Jim. Jim retained his commercial pilot license and instructor’s rating current until just a few years ago.
Jim left the paper in 1951 to work in public relations at the BC Power Commission, charged with bringing electrification to the rural areas of the province. Jim’s familiarity with the resource based economy of the province led to his next job, in 1956, with Crown Zellerbach, the forest industry corporation.
From their home in the Glenmore area of West Vancouver, the children enjoyed their forested backyard and Joyce began her hopeless, but rewarding, attempt to ‘manicure the mountain’.
Jim’s kept up his ties to the world of aviation. He joined the Air Cadet League of Canada in 1957. On January 1, 1963, Jim went to Canadian Pacific Airlines, the job he was born and bred to do, retiring in 1986 as director of public relations for the company.
Jim didn’t retire right away. He represented British Airways for several years and wrote for travel journals but volunteer work was taking over. Jim joined the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award in 1987 and the B.C. Veterans Commemorative Association in 1994. Jim is national honorary treasurer of the Air Cadets League of Canada. He received the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal ten years ago and Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012.
Few of us get the opportunity in life to blend our work with our passions. Perhaps for Jim McKeachie, it was a little easier with three passions – sports, journalism and aviation – to draw upon. Recognition arrived in the form of awards and accolades but for Jim McKeachie, the true reward is more personal. “I have a fourth passion and always have. Her name is Joyce.”