Born in Frankfurt, Germany in 1927, Paul Hambruch spent most of his youth in the spa town of Baden-Baden. In 1943, he was drafted into the German army and in May 1945 became an American prisoner of war. Discharged in June 1945, he was unable to go home because Baden-Baden was occupied by the French, so he started work on a farm in Bavaria. This lead to a proper German apprenticeship and a degree in agriculture.
After earning his degree, he spent two years working on farms in France. Because of the possibility he might be drafted into the newly re-formed German army, and a desire to see more of the world, he decided to take an offer to emigrate to Canada, which is how he ended up in Brisco, B.C.
“I fell in love with the valley the very first day I was here and I have been in the valley ever since.” In 1956 he brought his wife and daughter out from Germany. Realizing that he didn’t have the capital to get started farming, he worked several years in the bush and in mining.
In 1957, Ingrid and Paul bought a house on 5 ½ acres in Brisco for the princely sum of $2,500. Of course, with wages at $1.50 an hour, it still was quite an investment. When they first looked at the house, Ingrid asked the owner where the water tap was, since there was a sink in the kitchen. His reply: “Young lady, there is a creek right behind the house.”
Living in the area gave Hambruch the unique knowledge of the back country around Brisco.
“There wasn’t much competition back then. We were quite upset if there was someone out where we were on our trips back there,” he said laughing.
Since there were no greenhouses in the area, they decided to build their own greenhouse and found that they could sell any surplus. This lead to them opening the Golden Flower Shop on March 2, 1961, followed by the purchase of the Valley Flower Shop in Invermere in 1968. The greenhouse was heated by using coal. He burned around 150 tonnes of coal a year to keep the greenhouses warm.
One of the biggest changes Paul has noticed is in the economy of the area. All the small sawmills are gone. And most of the land on both sides of the highway between Brisco and Invermere was privately owned and close to a million Christmas trees were shipped all over North America. Some of the smaller sawmills shut down from September to the end of November to allow the workers to go cutting Christmas trees.
Golden has changed a lot over the years, with many of the changes happening over the last 15 years. Organized garbage pickup and recycling was big progress for Golden. He considers Spirit Square, the rebirth of the Civic Centre and the concerts we now have great progress.
Going into the future, Hambruch said he is worried about what will happen after highway re-construction is finished.
“What will drive the economy next? What will happen to the forest industry? We can’t rely on expanding out cities forever.”
He said he no longer enjoys travelling to places like Vancouver even though he used to love to visit the lower mainland, due to the population explosion.