It has been said over the years that Medicine Hat’s clay industries – whether it be brick, pottery, sewer pipe or something else – formed the original backbone of this city in the beginning of the 20th Century. It even reaches back to the 19th Century when you consider the McCord Brick Yard.
The Historic Clay District museum at Medalta is based on that fact and its designation as a National Historic Site lends further credibility to its impact. Not only locally but across Canada.
But despite those high-level acknowledgements, one reaction from our visitors trumps everything else. When they take the time to look around our museum and displays, the conversation always takes on a very nostalgic air. We find people telling us of their interaction with Medalta pottery – a thought that has probably long been buried.
Because of the prolific production from this particular factory, Medalta’s pottery formed a significant backdrop to many Canadians’ lives. It wasn’t necessarily as obvious as the first television set in a home but it was always there. Butter was made in Medalta churns, water was stored in Medalta water coolers, wine was made in Medalta crocks.
Medalta was the catalyst for a lot of fond memories and stories. That’s what we notice with nearly every visitor through our doors. So we decided to take that idea and run with it. The pottery produced in Medicine Hat was created by people who had fascinating stories to tell. Over the years some pretty interesting ones made their way back to us. A man named Bill had a long life blasting clay out of the hillsides with his bare hands. A Mr. Hehr demanded a raise to $0.50 an hour. Many Canadians riding boxcars across Canada slept in kilns in Medicine Hat – some spending entire winters moving from one kiln to the next.
We have captured these stories for you and more are being revealed all the time. We hope you enjoy them and decide to pay us a visit. With any luck, the memories sparked in our museum may lead to one of those stories.