A Rebel Carving out some Fun!
Hans Singer, Fort St. John B.C.
His Canadian wife calls him a rebel. Well, as I see it, he is not rebelling against two obvious things:
1) the cold in Fort St. John
2) my cheeky questions
The mayor of Fort St. John should give this 64-year-old Swiss born entrepreneur a gold medal.
Hans Singer is a walking and talking ambassador for Fort St. John! He plays down the minus temperatures in winter and swoons over the beautiful summers up there when the light almost never disappears.
He says things like: “It is the best place in Canada for young people to find work!”
His enthusiasm is understandable because it was the best place for him when he was 21 and a newcomer in Canada.
He should have been a dairy farmer in Switzerland and he went to an agricultural school in Sissach, a town in the Swiss canton Basel Land.
But then his teacher told Hans that a Swiss dairy farmer in Canada was looking for a man to milk his cows.
Hans loved to go to places.
Off he went to Canada. But one year later, Hans Singer went into construction. First as an employed carpenter for six years, but he got fired in 1997. Until this day, he is happy about it.
“It was the best thing that could have happened to me”, he says, “because I got my own construction company when the boom just started and I earned three times as much money!”
Hans still was kind of milking. But not cows. He was milking the boom in Fort St. John, a town surrounded by oil and gas fields.
Hans also rents out trailers to oilfield workers and engineers.
But today he wants to have some fun. He is going to retire. He has become a hobby carver. He is one of those guys who carve funny faces into trees. Wood spirits, he calls them.
He still builds homes but from driftwood. Houses for gnomes!
I remember his very words: “I just love building.”
It is about time Hans Singer starts to play.
UPC (Urgent Phone Call) to Hans Singer
Hans, did you strike it rich in Fort St. John?
Well, it depends on what you call rich. But yes, I’ve done better than most people. If you want to work, you can come far. I did not miss work for one day. Even then I had to turn down a lot of work. I could have worked 24/7. There is no competition here! There are not enough people to do the work.
That doesn’t surprise me. Who wants to live in such a cold place?
It is not as cold like it used to be. In the seventies and eighties, we used to have 40 below for six weeks straight. Now when we have 35 below for a week, it is a lot. But when you make good money, you can go to warmer places!
So where do you heat up your body temperature?
In places like Crete or Phoenix, Arizona. We also have a nice house in Sicily and we go there every couple of years. And we go to Switzerland where my three brothers live.
Does your Canadian wife call you a rebel because you did not take over your father’s farm?
Oh, no, not at all. My father wanted to become a carpenter himself when he was young but he had to look after the farm. When I told him I would stay in Canada, he said to me: “You got to do what you want to do.”
History repeats itself: Your son does not want to take over your company.
Yes, he is working in the oil field. As long as he is happy, it is fine with me.
So are you a rebel or not?
Sometimes. When I was in Switzerland, I got speeding tickets and once I parked a car longer than eight hours and got a ticket. But I did not want to pay it. It did not make sense.
My brother went to the town hall and straightened it out for me. I did not pay the fine in the end.
So life in Fort St. John is better than in Switzerland?
At least we don’t have a lot of traffic up here and we don’t spend time to find a parking spot!
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