Welcome to the
J.A. Boan story
John A. Boan - Regina, SK
My early days were spent on a farm two miles east and a mile south of Claybank. On a Sunday, in the summer, when we had visitors, Dad (Alex Boan) would pile us all into the Model T Ford, and drive the mile or so up into the hills, to see the Clayworks. I can remember being spell bound by the fires in the kilns, and watching with fascination as the man in charge opened the door to show us what was going on in there, wondering how on earth he could stand the heat that was given off. I can remember seeing stacks of bricks on metal shelves, slate grey in color, waiting to be pushed into an empty kiln to be fired; and stacks of reddish bricks ready for sale. The little railway tracks and the cars on the tracks used for transporting the clay to the "works" was also most intriguing to a little kid. In retrospect, there must have been a supply of clay at the site, but this type eventually was used up, because in later years after WW II, they were trucking clay from the Blue Hills area.
For me, as a six year old kid, the Clayworks has been there forever. Not so, however. But I don't know just when it was constructed. My mother, many years later in an effort to record some Boan history, mentioned the Clayworks in the historical statement she put together, from which I am going to quote a couple of paragraphs. The time she refers to, by the context, must have been during The Great War. The "boys" she talks about were the Boans, Alex, her future husband, and Dave his younger brother, who moved from Pioneer, west of Moose Jaw to the Roseville District, south east of Briercrest about seven miles. A couple of years after he was married, in 1917, Alex moved a few miles south, to the farm mentioned at the beginning of this account.
"Now the boys were looking for work to keep the farm going and were able to get jobs at the brick factory at Claybank which was just getting built. Alex took two teams, one of which he drove, the other was rented to another man and they proceeded to excavate for the foundation of the factory, using plows and scrapers. Dave was hired to help set up a huge motor which was imported from England. An expert came with it, to set it up. It took from 6-8 weeks to unpack and assemble, a beautiful piece of workmanship with a huge fly wheel weighing 2 or 3 tons. It was so large that part of it had to be below floor level. No one else had a hand in all this, just Dave and the expert.
"No battery was used to start the motor, just compressed air. When all was in place the expert said 'Now, Dave, just turn that switch and see if she'll go'. Dave says, 'No, not me! I don't know enough about this thing!' He replied, 'Turn her one, she'll go'. And 'she did! With a beautiful purr. The expert returned to England and Dave was hired as engineer. He worked at the site for some time but finally had to quit as the fumes were affecting his health. The man who followed was continually in trouble and Dave would be sent for". (Boan History 1906 - 1918 as told by D.G. Boan, March 27, 1977).
This must have been one of the earliest examples of diesel power in the Province. Of course, as a kid visiting the Clayworks , I knew nothing of what was powering all of the machinery that was so intricately doing its job. It was taken for granted - something that seemed to have always have been there, like the hills that cradled it. I wish I knew more about the Clayworks. One moves away; another great war (WW II) comes along; and if it hadn't been for Dorothy G. Boan, my mother, and her realisation that a record should be made, I would have very little to go on. Hopefully, like a jig-saw puzzle, other people's recollections combined with the above, will enable the big picture to be assembled.