He didn't let his size act as a deterrent though. At 13 years old, he managed to get from his family home in Lloydminster, Alta., to the Arctic with nothing but spare underwear, some warm clothes and art supplies in his backpack.
The kid hitchhiked his way from his small hometown to Edmonton, where he heard small planes often flew to the polar region. Once he arrived, he asked an airport worker to point out a north-bound plane. Shortly after, he had weaselled his way outside and sparked up a conversation with the pilot.
“Are you flying to the Arctic?” the young Berghammer asked. Hearing what he wanted to hear, the next question was simple: “Is there a chance I could come with you?”
The pilot asked Berghammer if he had a ticket, to which the kid replied no.
Feeling defeated, Berghammer didn't know what to do. Perhaps the pilot was feeling sympathetic, or perhaps fate was at work, when the pilot told the kid to find a seat near the back of the aircraft, and cover himself with luggage.
“That's how I got to the Arctic,” Berghammer said, nearly 60 years later.
Convinced his “mean old father” would never find him there, Berghammer spent 30 years living in the Arctic.
He would take up residency with Inuit families under the agreement that he would paint their culture.
Every now and then, Berghammer would make his way back to Alberta, where he would make some money working on farms and riding in rodeos. When he returned to the west, he would often visit his mother, provided he could do so without encountering the man who drove him off in the first place with all sorts of abuse.
The trips to the prairies never lasted long, though — each time he landed on the flatlands, Berghammer was already dreaming about life in the Arctic again.
Despite the challenge of adapting to their diet and way of life, Berghammer loved the north. It not only provided him with opportunity to do what he loved, it also provided him with inspiration.
“I painted every day, all day,” he said. “That's what I wanted to do.”
From his adolescent years spent in his grandfather's leather shop, Berghammer always ended up making art on leather. Not much has changed, even today. Leather is still is primary canvass, and his love of painting hasn't slowed since the time he was four years old.
Had he not left his abusive home life when he did, Berghammer doesn't know if he would have been able to pursue his passion.
“I may have never been a painter,” he said. “My dad hated it. He thought I was going to be a bum.”
With a chuckle, Berghammer said his father's prediction may not have been too far off. While a life of art may have presented its share of “first-world problems,” Berghammer knows he did the right thing.
“It's the greatest life a person could live,” he said.
There was never a time when Berghammer wasn't doing what he wanted to do.
That still holds true today. A spinal injury prevents Berghammer from painting as often as he wants, but it hasn't stopped him yet.
“I've got a million things in my brain that still need to be done,” he said while overlooking the artist table in the basement of his New Sudbury home.
Painting isn't the only thing he plans to accomplish. Since moving to Sudbury, Berghammer has been inspired to tell his story.
A manuscript, neatly printed in two loose-leaf binders, give a detailed account of his upbringing and experiences. He plans to eventually publish the story, so others can hear his story.
For more information on Berghammer himself and his art, visit www.askart.com and search Berghammer.