Verne Hornquist’s love for architecture has found a place in most things he does. Retired for the past 20 years, the 82-year-old continues to paint structures that catch his eye.
Hornquist was born in Kimberley, but moved to Fernie in 1945 at the age of 10.
He attended school in Calgary for a year, studying surveying and drafting. He returned the following summer and worked underground in a mine on a survey crew.
In this job, it was his responsibility to maintain accurate plans of mines as a whole, update maps of the surface layout, as well as surveying the underground mine workings in order to keep a record of the mining operation.
“I got to see every hole in the mountain,” he said.
At the time, there were 14 individuals, around the same age, working as surveyors. After a major drop in the value of coal, everyone split up.
Hornquist moved on to a job with the department of highways as a surveyor, and loved his job. Two years later, he married his wife Bernice, and got a job with East Kootenay Power in Fernie. In 1962, Verne and Bernice built the house in which they currently reside.
As a child, Hornquist was always good at drawing. This skill became useful with his work in surveying and drafting. Even after he retired, he continued drawing. He has a special love for old buildings, and architecture done right. Referencing photographs, hornquist has painted many of these scenes. Over the years, he’s sold around 25 works of art.
Age has broken down many of the original buildings in the Elk Valley, but Hornquist believes some of the most special still standing are the Fernie Museum (previously East Kootenay Power) and the Leroux Mansion.
“You could paint in the valley forever,” he said.
His mind is filled with memories of a bustling city, where horse-drawn carriages were still used to deliver goods in the summer and winter months. Not many cars were seen because of the war movement at the time.
During the 60s, around 4,000 people resided in Fernie and had 12 bars to choose from, and Hornquist remembers when it was 10 cents a glass, $1.75 per case, and gas was 25-cents per gallon.
“I still live back in the 60s,” said Hornquist. “I (can’t) believe the prices.
“It was a different little town, for sure,” he said.
A key memory for Hornquist was when Fernie was introduced to television in 1958.
After all these years, Hornquist has never had a desire to live anywhere else. He considers it fortunate that all three of his kids, and now seven grandkids, never left the area either. Hornquist believes this is rare for a small town.
“It (Fernie) has always been a good town,” he said. “These mining towns are so friendly.”