Life Story of Henri Jean Bourquin


This is my life story of to date (March, 2009) as I remember it, or as it was told to me by others, or from memories renewed by looking at old pictures in many photo albums.

I was born on July 5, 1921, at the family farm about five miles south of Estevan, Saskatchewan and was greeted by proud parents, a brother Louis, and sister Annette.† I was baptized on November 6, 1921 in the United Church (I still have this certificate of baptism).† (Photo)† As for my early years, I only know the stories my family made up about me.† I apparently had a terrible temper.† My brother was quite a bother at times, so one day, when I had had enough; I hit him on the head with a hammer.† He survived and I ended up with a real sore bottom.† (Which by the way seldom had much affect).† And then there was the time when I threw my small wheelbarrow at him, it missed and went into the slough behind our house.† That scared him as I went in the water after it.† My mother rescued me, full of mud and covered with weeds.† (another seat warming, I guess).

Our favorite play toys were, for myself, a small wooden wheelbarrow, (Iím not sure if it had a wheel, or if they made me push it.† Kind of cruel donít you think?)† Louis had his old tires or a hoop to push with a stick.† Annette had her baby carriage (with wheels) and her dolls.

I kind of remember our farmhouse with the trees, the barn, and the little picnic area in front, with motherís flowers and our swing.† We lived there in the summer, and moved to our small tar papered house near Grandpas place where Dad worked with his Dad and brother Paul in the winter months.

As kids, we were always miners too, and I remember our mines were ditches dug and then covered with grain doors, with dirt over the top.† The mine I recollect the best is the one we had at Uncle Johnís near the Big Lump Mine.† Andre, Louis and myself were the ďdirectorsĒ.† I have a copy of our signed and notarized contract.† It reads as follows:† (Photo)

"Estevan, September 1, 1926.† We; Andre Bourquin, Louis Bourquin & Henry Bourquin of Estevan are from this day partners in the "LITTLE LUMP MINE" value $10.00 and situated on Andre Bourquin property, and we are to have no disputes.
Dated this 1st day of September, 1926
Notary: Louis Bourquin Sr."

I was definitely my Grandfatherís pal, and was with him every minute I could.† I still remember the whisker rubs with his pointed beard and his big mustache.† Iím told that once one of his whiskers broke off in my face and I refused to let anyone take it out, hoping it would grow.† I have a big-framed picture taken in 1927, of the coal miners in front of the mine tipple, with the horses and wagons, and there I am right next to Grandpa.† One day at the age of two, I rolled down the stairs at Grandpaís house, landed on my head in the coal box near the stove.† That was my first skull fracture, but this too I survived.† (I still show the big scar from that fall).† Another thing that happened, or so they tell me, was that one day when we had the boarding house for the miners, mother took a large kettle of soup off the stove and placed it on the floor.† Somehow, I didnít see it and backed into it falling in bottom first.† It was a real dis-ass-ter.† I was treated for burns at home with the famous Raleighís horse medicine and was very uncomfortable until the blisters disappeared weeks later.† (The soup was boiling so there was no danger of infection from it.† It was not wasted† -- it just had to be reboiled.)

Then there was the day that I jumped off (or just maybe, Louis pushed me!?!) the barn and missed the hay pile, landed on a board with a nail which went in to my knee, nailing it so that I could not straighten out my leg.† Dad came to the rescue this time, pulled out the nail and then Mother fixed it with iodine and a cloth bandage. (That was before we ever heard of Band-Aids).† The following year when Louis and I were on a sleigh riding and I broke my arm.† This called for a doctor this time.† I wore a splint on my arm for a long time.† (Lesson:† donít steer you sleigh dragging your arm in the snow if there are rocks around).† The list of my tricks could go on, but, I wasnít through as yet, and many more were to follow.

In 1927 school started for me.† French was the only language spoken at home, so even though Annette and Louis were already in school and had English pretty well in hand, I didnít.† Dad had taught himself English by a course he had on the old roller gramophone.† (Annette still has this gramophone and the old roller records).† So I knew a little English but I would still get confused.† One day my teacher had asked us all to bring our favorite dog to school the next day.† Mother said ďNO not old shaggy BusterĒ and this started quite an argument.† It turned out that we were asked to bring our ďdollsĒ not ďdogĒ.† (Dog / Doll Ė it all sounded the same to me.† Why hadnít she said poope, then I would have understood.††† ("CRAZY language! ").

After Grandpaís death (June 13, 1930, age 59, Grandma had passed away on November 18, 1929, at age 57), we moved into their big two-story home, where we could really live it up.† We three kids were given the upstairs room away from our parents in the far extended lower floor.† I got a scare one night, after a fight with Louis.† He stopped breathing!!!† I hollered for help Ė it came rushing up the stairs† --† Louis survived.† (Episode # 15 or 73, Iím not sure).

At the age of seven, a new family member arrived in our home, Helene.† We had been rushed away to Aunt Jennyís while they took mother to the hospital.† (I now knew that babies didnít come from the cabbage patch).† I donít recollect our feelings at that time, was it excitement or disgust?† Helene and I became inseparable; we had to protect each other from our big mean brother and sister.

All kidding aside, we grew to be a ďloving, happy considerate, faultless, perfect in all ways, family.† My many thanks to the good Christian upbringing of our parents.

My first construction project was a wood house I built behind our tar papered home.† It was about four foot square; complete with a roof, and in it I built a working model of a radio.† I would invite my Great Grandmother (and anyone who would have that privilege) to come in, and after I crawled behind my apple box radio, I would sing and tell stories.† My broadcasting career ended there.

In 1929, our Salvation Army officer, Captain Nelson, got all us young boys and gals, to start playing brass instruments.† After a shopping trip to Winnipeg, Manitoba with Dad, they came back with a box full of old cornets, horns, etc.† Mine turned up to be a cornet, kind of beat up, but after a bit of brasso and elbow grease, it shone like its new owner.† Our first music sheets were marked for our valve fingering, 1. 1&2, and so on, written above each note.† That made it easy, but as I was a little slow in reading, I was always a little behind and I always had a few bars to play when the others were finished.† In TIME, our band got pretty good.† We played for meetings, open air meeting and even put on concerts in the town hall, played in Regina, and Minot, North Dakota.† We played in all the small surrounding towns while others were collecting. (I think they paid us to get off the streets and out of town!) (Photo)

In my early years, I was always inventing something.† I made a paddle wheel boat, with a fan from an old thresher for the wheel.† It was powered by a set of pedals in the boat.† (This took a lot of engineering!)† It was a ďBeautyĒ!† The day of launching came; Louis and I pushed it out on to the river, and with me at the helm it SUNK!† I guess the wheel was too heavy for the eight-foot homemade wooden boat.

Perpetual motion always interested me as no one had ever succeeded in accomplishing it.† I worked at many different ideas, (I kept all my ideas to myself as I still think it should be possible). I always believed in impossible dreams!

I 1932, our officers were Adj. Stratton and Lt. Bassingthwaighte.† This young Lieutenant (Nellie) fell in love with Jack Murray, our flag sergeant, and left the work to marry him.† In 1935 Nellie invited her two young sisters from Edmonton, Alberta to visit her.† Iíll always remember the two young city slickers, in their nice city cloths and funny hats as they sang a duet at the open-air meeting under the trees in front of the theater signboard on 4th Street.† All us young fellows, Louis, Oliver, and Wilbert and I got together and decided we should show these gals the town.† As was our regular Saturday night entertainment, we walked up and down the two city blocks, (quite a thrill for the girls after coming from Edmonton) eating peanuts, and telling jokes with lots of laughter.† Next weekend we repeated our entertainment, and I borrowed a nickel from Louis to buy some peanuts to share with the girl I thought was the nicest.† (Louis claims that I never repaid him, but it was the best investment of my life).

A couple of weeks after Esther and Corrine returned home to Edmonton, I was surprised to get a letter from this young honey, saying how she enjoyed herself in Estevan.† (This was the first letter I ever received addressed to me).† Of course, I had to reply so letter writing began. †Esther used to kid me about this first letter, saying it was all about the new red truck Dad had just bought, signed sincerely Henry.† As you can see at this time my main interest wasnít girls, but I did begin to see that girls were kind of interesting.† The following summer, Esther visited her sister again and I probably bought her more peanuts.

1937 & 1938 memories are not good.† Mother had been told that she had cancer.† This meant many trips to Regina for treatments and many, many trips to the local hospital.† In her later months the doctor did all her treatments at home.† My memories of this time are so painful that I will keep them to myself.† Finely on June 14, 1938, Mother was taken to her very well deserved reward in Heaven, finally at rest and free from pain.

Annette had taken over the household duties, which was very hard, as we were all just in our teens.† When she married Eddie Ward, Rose Oliver, from Regina took over for a short time, followed by Rose Bourquin (DeBienne).† Later Evelyn Johnston became our permanent housekeeper. (She remained with Dad until he passed away).

After passing grade 11, I decided to take the commercial course instead of grade 12.† (This was the year of millions of grasshoppers.† I remember the day when the sky darkened so much that we were stopped in the middle of a typing exam, as we could not see.† The power plant had been put out of working order by grasshoppers plugging up their supply of cooling water for the turbines).† I did fairly well in all subjects except for typing and shorthand (what a stupid subject!).† As for typing, my teacher said that I would never type, as my fingers would never loosen up as long as I kept shoveling coal as I was.† So ended my typing career, as both Louis and I worked in the mine and delivered coal by truck after school and on Saturdays.† Summers were spent by market gardening and selling our produce to the stores.† We also had fun entering our vegetables in competitions at the fair and we always won a lot of prizes.†


Some of my most vivid memories of my youth are:

A book could be written about every one of these, and many more.

Now back to where I left off.† Esther, who had a railroad pass, as her Dad worked for the C.N.R., arranged to visit her sister in the summers and our romance flourished.† In 1939 I took a trip to Edmonton, when and where I met Estherís parents.† (I think I passed the test).† It was a wonderful holiday.† We became engaged at Christmas in 1940.† It was a different engagement, as we were miles apart.† (Edmonton Ė Estevan).† The ring was sent by mail and her father put it on her finger for me in my absence.† Love conquers all.

In the spring of 1941 I told the family that I was going to go to Windsor, Ontario to work at Ford Motors, where my Uncle Paul was.† If I was to get married I needed money, and even if there was a good living provided at home, there was no cash.† On May 24, Dad and Louis drove me to Minot, ND. where I boarded a bus for Windsor.† My first job was in construction at the Ford plant, putting concrete tile on roofs.† Then while waiting for a call from the factory, I worked at the ice plant, making and selling ice.

September 20, 1941 was a wonderful day.† Esther and her sister Lil arrived in Windsor.† After the necessary things were done, we were anxiously awaiting for Saturday the 27th, our wedding day.† We were married at the Salvation Army officerís (Major Lorimer) home on a beautiful day.† Dad and Annette with baby Marilyn had come from Estevan for our big day.† Our reception was at the Norton Palmer Hotel with seven of us there.† The meal was a deluxe chicken dinner, which was enjoyed by all (Cost was $6.00 a plate, more than a weeks wages but it was worth it.† We went for our honeymoon walk down Seminole Street where our little upstairs two-room suite was.† The next day, Uncle Paul lent us his car and we went down to Leamington, about 20 miles south.† Our apartment was small, and we shared the kitchen and bathroom with the owners, the Fowlers, downstairs.† The next year they let me build a kitchen in the small dormer off the main room.† It had a rangette, two cupboards, a sink, and enough floor space for one person at a time.† Ford Motors called me for work in the early spring, imagine, finally getting a job paying one dollar an hour!† (My previous pay was 65 cents).

Our first Christmas was exciting; we had made our first purchases, a small tabletop radio, and had been able to send small gifts to our parents back home.† But, best of all, we had each other.† Christmas dinner at Uncle Paulís was a disappointment as we found them both very sick with the DTs.† We finally went home for a Christmas sandwich.

In the fall of 1942 the war in Europe was in full swing and conscription notices were being sent out, so instead of being drafted into the army, we decided that I should go into the Air Force.† On January 23, 1943, I was known as AC2-R201431 and was sent off to Galt, Ontario for training as an airframe mechanic.† Our first child was to be born near the end of February, so it was very hard on both of us to be separated at that time.

When news of Myrnaís arrival on February 20 was received, I got a leave to go home for a week.† In no time I was on the road, thumbing my way.† I was lucky that day and got a couple lifts getting me at the hospital by late afternoon to greet our pride and joy.† Esther was not well and landed home with pneumonia.† I phoned the office and explained the situation, so they gave me a 10-day compassionate leave, suggesting that I contact my insurance and get a V.O.N. to help.

Here I was with a sick wife in bed, and a little squirming baby with dirty diapers crying for help.† I had never even held a baby before but my education came fast.† The scariest part was that first baby bath, Iím sure I sweat enough that I hardly needed water in the basin.† It must have been terrible for Esther to see me handling her tiny baby with my clumsy hands, but we all survived.† We did get help from the Victoria order of Nurses and she came in daily, so in 10 days I was off again.† I thumbed a ride home on weekends and took a train back to Galt.† One weekend I slept in and missed my 6:30 AM train.† I took the next train that afternoon but I got to the barracks late.† I was charged with being AWOL and I was not allowed to leave my residence in Galt for three weeks.† The people whose home I was staying in felt pretty bad about this, so they invited Esther to come to Galt to see me and stay with them.† This she did, and with her little 3-month-old baby took a train to Galt, where she was picked up and brought home.

In the mean time, Dad had applied to close down the coal mine, as he could not get any help.† As it was classified as an emergency service, they refused his request.† He told them the only way he could carry on was if one of his boys returned home.† Louis was already over seas by now, so the finger was put on me.† I was in basic training in Toronto at this time, so I was pulled from ranks and had to stay in barracks for a month until my discharge papers came through.† On July 16, just ten days short of six months didnít mean anything at the time, but years later I was told that a person had to have six months in the service to get any war benefits).† I was allowed to go back to Windsor, pack up, and go with my happy family back to Estevan, the Government paying all expenses.† The whole family welcomed us home and we stayed at Dadís home for a time.

After the war, Dad and I went into the construction line of work, mostly remodeling and building kitchen cupboards.† In 1945 I was hired by Graham Construction working at the powerhouse.† It was here that Peter Graham took a real interest in me and got me into taking courses in the construction line.† I enrolled in a correspondence course, and after a long time of home study, I got my diploma as a carpenter foreman.† Within a couple of years I became the project superintendent, a position I held with Grahams until 1962.† During these years we were moved to Prince Albert in 1951 and back to Estevan, Swift Current in 1964 and again back to Estevan.† I was in charge of a total of 6 schools, 2 power plant extensions, 2 hospitals and 32 commercial buildings in Estevan and surrounding area.† I have a full list of all these projects, dates and locations.

During these years many exciting things happened.† Judy was born on December 1st, 1944 and Avril on July 22nd, 1951.† Esther started the Girl Guide work in Estevan and in time became a commissioner and was later on the National Board of Canada.† Our fondest memories have been our family holidays:† Banff, Yellowstone Park, Arizona, Disneyland and many, many others.† Firstly we tented, and then we had our home made fold down trailer.† They were all most enjoyable.† Then there were the weddings, later trips to Hawaii, Disney world, salmon fishing trips and so on.

From 1963 to 1967 we had our own Bourquin Construction business in Estevan.† We built and supervised the construction of another 19 projects.† In the fall of 1967 I was again hired as project supervisor by different firms to build the Estevan Comprehensive School, then on to the Dauphin High School.† From there in 1971 to Regina to build Luther College and then to Calgary Vocational Center in Calgary.† We moved to and lived in all of these cities for the duration of construction.† In 1972 we moved to White Rock, British Columbia where I hired on as superintendent for two contractors putting up 21 homes and commercial buildings.

Our three girls went to the Salvation Army Grace Hospital Training College in Winnipeg.† Myrna became a registered nurse, married Cam King in 1964 and still lives in Winnipeg today where she is a manager for the Waverley Home. Judy became a x-ray technician, married Kurt Hagen and lives in Invermere, BC. today.† Avril, due to health reasons was unable to complete her registered nursing course but did go on later to get her Practical Nursing certificate.† She worked many years in this field and was caring for an elderly gentleman that lived half year in Vancouver and half year in Hawaii for 11 years.† Avril now lives with her fiancťe in Invermere, BC.

In 1976 we started Bourquin Construction Ltd. up again.† We took on my brother-in-law Ernie Thorpe as a part time partner and bookkeeper. †We built 31 residents in this time period including our own home.† In the spring of 1983 we were asked to take over the supervision and maintenance of the Salvation Army Camp Sunrise at Gibsonís Landing.† I did all the repairs, building and general supervision of the camp while Esther was the girls staff supervisor and kitchen hostess.† This had to be the most interesting of all our undertakings to that date.† I designed and built the new chapel† at the camp, a building Iím very proud of, as well as two new dorms.
† (Photo page)

In 1986, when construction funds ran out, we left the camp and returned to Saskatchewan to build a new home in Macoun.† Ray and Helen came to Gibsonís Landing to help us move and they drove the rental truck back home for us.

In the last years, Esther had several major operations, the last being a cancer operation in March of 1990.† With the Lordís help, the surgery was successful.† Things like that sure do slow a person up, but even then with her bad heart problems she stayed very active.

Louis and I went into partnership, and I worked in the Estevan area building and remodeling until I was again hired as a Building Inspector, by a Regina architect, for the Midale Nursing Home.† This was a very enjoyable period of time.

On September 27, 1991 we celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary at Judy and Kurtís place in Invermere, BC.† A most enjoyable and memorable time was spent with family and friends. The weekend was complete with fireworks, a sight seeing plan ride a wonderful meal complete with entertainment and an evening drop by-tea.†† A second celebration was held in Macoun by our family who were unable to attend the Invermere function.† Another Great time was had.

On Oct 15, 1991, things came to a sudden stop when my accident happened.† A fall off my own roof (possibly due to a heart attack) put me into the Regina Plains Hospital to recover from a severely fractured skull and other internal injuries.† Thanks to a miracle from God and the loving care of my faithful wife, family and friends, I surprised the medical staff and survived.† (You just canít hold a good Frenchman down).

I have lost the sight in one eye and the hearing in one ear, but the good Lord in His wisdom gave me two of each, so why should I stop.† My motto has always been and still remains: ďNever look back; you canít get far looking in a rear view mirrorĒ.

After this forced retirement, we sold our home in Macoun and moved to Invermere, BC where we had hoped to set a mobile home on Judy and Kurtís property.† Existing building codes did not allow us to do this so we bought and remodeled a small home in Athelmere.† This was our home for three years and then we decided to sell out and move back to our hometown of Estevan, Saskatchewan.†† We bought another old home and with our renovations and repairs our little dream home was very comfortable.

Oh July 22, 1997, after a lengthy illness, Estherís failing heart stopped beating and she left me alone.† After 56 years of happily married life, I could not stand living alone in our home.† I sold out and moved to Cranbrook, BC where my daughter, Avril had a rented a basement two bedroom suite for the two of us.† There were numerous problems with the Landlordís family that lived upstairs and after six months it was decided that the house was to be sold forcing us into yet another move.

Avril had found a very nice gentleman friend who lived in Invermere.†† After much thought they decided to go it together and they offered me a good home in a full basement (level entry) suite. Now Avril and her husband (Val) and myself enjoy the living accommodations and as we are all retired, we have lots of time for fishing, prospecting and touring the beautiful mountains surrounding our home.

I have gone from 2000 to the year 2009 at this point.

Now in the year is 2010 and at the young age of 88, I can say that it has been a good life and itís going to get better yet in the years to come.

These years have been filled with trips to the many beautiful mountain lakes in this part of the country .. On longer stays, we camp and do a lot of fishing. Val and Avril have their boat and fifth-wheeler, and I have my boat and use Avril’s travel van, Days are filled with fishing, relaxing,and a nice big bonfire in the evenings --- What could be nicer.
Our trip to Tiger Pass in 2001 to visit a friend at his mining site will always be rembered. The roads - The picnic on top of the world. God's handiwork in nature at it's best!

Side trips to the rugged parts of the mountains and canyons, ( that Val knows so well), are most exciting. A long cliff hanging road to the site of Val’ old mill and the history that goes with it, was a real bonus.

March 36, 2006
I am very grateful to David and Marilyn in Calgary, for letting me join them in motor trips to Estevan, ( four in number,) for a chance to visit all the families there, and get in on the “family parties” . One highlight was Annette’s 90th birthday in 2008, what a time of fun and laughter . ( I bus from Invermere to Calgary where David picks me up, and away we go) .

Tammy, Cherie, Judy, Kurt
Henri,Doug & Tyson, RyanMay 15, 2004
Judy & Kurt's Farewell Party

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Avril. John
Cam, Henri, Myrna & Bill
Ewan & Alexandra July 19, 2005




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Cherie Hagen (grand daughter in law with my Great Grandchildren July 17 2005
Tyson, Ryan, Alexandra,Ewan, & Bill



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Henri, Bill & Ewan
July 21, 2005


Judy (3 dogs) and I on Quadra Island.
(Feb 26, 2003)
Visits from my girls and relatives are always so appreciated. In 2008 Cam and Myrna treated me with a day trip to the Columbia Ice fields, which was very interesting. Two trips to Quadra Island to visit Kurt and Judy in their new location was very exciting as well. One visit included a trip to Alberni, and the west coastline, enabling me to meet and visit with many of Esther’s relatives, which was another big bonus.
Gardening is a yearly fun time, where I look after the vegetable garden ,while Avril has the flower garden, and Val does the hard part of the yard chores, (ten acres is a lot of respond ability). I made a study and hobby of growing tomatoes., and am quite proud of the big fruit I produce, My system of pruning , fertilizing, and watering pays up well.

Spring Garden May 14, 2008

Summer Garden June 28, 2007
I still keep my woodwork shop going strong, and most days find s me there. The occasional garage sale I have of my products is profitable, and as well gives me pleasure in meeting all the nice people that come around.

Life for me in very interesting and enjoyable, and I look forward of many more years of the same.


July 11, 2008
So, for now, I will goodbye. How about dropping over for a visit? As you can see, I always have an extra chair ready.




Photos of Interest

1.     Home Sweet Home and the View from My World


Story by Henry, typing by Avril.†† Blame who you choose for any mistakes made here in the article.

This page was last updated
July 19, 2000

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