Joy, a Broadway actress and radio star, married Charles Kenny, a composer, author and violinist, in June 1939 on her parent’s property here Pitt Meadows. (Contributed)

Joy, a Broadway actress and radio star, married Charles Kenny, a composer, author and violinist, in June 1939 on her parent’s property here Pitt Meadows. (Contributed)

Looking Back: The story of Orchard Park

Elementary school, townhomes on land in Pitt Meadows today.

This story begins on the land that is now the Windsor Oak townhouse complex off Harris Road in Pitt Meadows.

Once a 10-acre estate owned by Major W.D. Bruce, reeve of Pitt Meadows from 1924 through 1928, the property was named Orchard Park and contained a profusion of fruit, nut and other trees, as well as a chicken farm.

Major Bruce had left the property in an abandoned state in the early years of the Depression when Henry Clemens Meeker purchased it and moved his family from Merritt to Pitt Meadows in 1933.

The Meekers were not farmers, and Henry quickly established a shingle mill in Ruskin, leaving his wife, Bessie, and her five sons to enjoy the property while he ran the business.

Their daughter Joy, who grew up in Merritt, had become a teacher and remained there. Gradually, the boys also grew up, with two taking on management jobs at the family mills, another (many years later) becoming a local municipal alderman and the youngest becoming a doctor.

Henry Meeker sold his business in 1942 and passed away four years later.

Eventually, the property in Pitt Meadows was sold, the first five acres in the early 1950s so that Pitt Meadows elementary could be built, and the last of the acres in 1980, when a Coquitlam development company purchased it. This group sold it in 1989 to the company that built the townhouses that occupy the site today.

A bit of fame came to the family when their daughter Joy gave up her teaching career and headed for New York, where she became a Broadway actress and radio star.

There she met Charles Kenny, a composer, author and violinist, and eventually married him in June 1939 on her parent’s property here in Pitt Meadows – the event of the season for this tiny community, replete with the media and more than 100 guests in attendance.

A daily newspaper described the setting for the ceremony: “A pathway of rose petals led from the door of the house to the artistic setting which had been prepared for the ceremony under the cherry trees, and festoons of lights glistened above the tree-canopied green lawns.”

Under her stage name – Joy Hathaway Kenny – she performed primarily in radio plays, the most famous of which was Amanda of Honeymoon Hill, with Joy as “the beauty of flaming red hair.”

One 1953 article described her as “a former school teacher, an able Savoyard, an authority on Elizabethan music, an ex-Broadway actress, and a lute player.”

Joy passed away in November 1954, a few weeks after the birth of her fourth child.

Windsor Oaks comes by its name from an enormous oak tree that once graced the property – one of two or three royal oaks the then-district of Pitt Meadows acquired from England in 1937 to mark the coronation of King George the Sixth (our present Queen Elizabeth’s father).

The other oak, still standing and giving shade to those waiting for a bus, is outside the Old Heritage Hall on Harris Road. The trees, likely two, were planted at the hall by then-reeve William Park, with the assistance of Mrs. Meeker, her young son George, and a small group of community residents.

Leslie Norman is curator of the Pitt Meadows Museum and Archives.

 

The Meeker house in the 1980s. (Contributed)

The Meeker house in the 1980s. (Contributed)