By Hazel Miskew – Viking, Alta.
When the government took over Golden Valley Dairy Farm to grow vegetables for a prison camp of 5,000 men, all the families had to move off the farm.
My folks found a house in Medicine Hat and dad got employment in Medalta Potteries. His job was to pack clay crocks into railway boxcars with straw to protect them from damage. The straw came in semi-truck basket loads.
Back in the early 1900s, most families owned crocks of various sizes: one gallon, 2, 5, 10, and 20-gallon. There was even a 50-gallon crock available which would be used for water.
Crocks had many uses for preserving food. There was no electricity or freezers in those days.
My folks made sauerkraut in a 10-gallon crock. Mother saved fresh eggs and packed them in water glass in a crock for winter use.
Dill pickles were made in 10-gallon crocks and jams made from rhubarb and wild berries were put in the cellar in crocks. Lard was melted and poured over the jam to keep it airtight.
In spring on the farm, a pig was butchered and cooled, and then put down in a salt, sugar, and saltpetre brine for the summer months.
I remember my grandparents’ cellar in Saskatchewan. Grandpa had several 45-gallon wooden barrels filled with dill pickles, salt pork, or sauerkraut. Everything was produced on the farm.
Medalta Potteries Ltd., where dad worked in later years, produced mugs, plates, bowls, and platters in addition to crocks. All were made from clay obtained from the cliffs along the South Saskatchewan River.
It was a common sight everywhere to see pottery with the Medalta insignia on it.
Today, every antique store and farm auction has an assortment of crocks made at the Medalta Potteries in Medicine Hat.