Welcome to the Oscar Manz story
Richard Welsh former Manager and Oscar Manz former Chemist at the Claybank Brick Plant
Claybank Brick Plant Site
OSCAR MANZ STORY
"A Short Year at Claybank"
(photo: Oscar (r) with Richard Welsh (l)
June, 2003 Heritage Day)
My father was a Lutheran pastor in Alberta and Saskatchewan. I graduated from high school in Moose Jaw in 1945, and worked that summer at the sewer pipe plant in Medicine Hat, where my parents had moved. I was on a crew removing sewer pipe from beehive kilns at 52 ˝ cents an hour. Karl Baumler, a ceramist at the Medicine Hat Potteries, convinced me to take ceramic engineering. I spent my first year at Regina College, where the freshmen from the southern part of Saskatchewan were assigned. I continued at the University of Saskatoon, where I had Professor W. G. Worcester briefly for classes. I developed sinus problems, and was forced to drop out of school for one year, during which I worked at the Medicine Hat Potteries. I graduated in 1951 with a B.Sc. in Ceramic Engineering, and began working at the Claybank Plant as Superintendent of Production, at $125/month. I lived in the staff quarters at the bunkhouse with Albert Reed and Ken Newans. Since we were 'white collar workers' we had our meals served in the room with the fireplace between the three bedrooms. Bill and Jim Fong were the Chinese cooks. I remember specifically having pie, a choice of three or four different kinds, for both lunch and supper. I have loved pie ever since that time. I used the outhouse as much as possible, since the indoor toilet, located in the basement was pretty gross. The shower left much to be desired, too. I don't recall ever using the tin bathtub. At the 2002 Heritage Day, I had a tour of the basement at the bunkhouse, and was shocked at the remains of the facilities.
My job as Superintendent of Production was to keep track of production, so it involved being in the Plant most of the time. I had made up a form that had a rectangle for each dryer tunnel car, so I would know where each car was located at any one time. I also did testing of brick and clay in the laboratory next to the office. Due to the nature of my job, I had a good rapport with the men in the Plant, perhaps too much in the eyes of some of the management staff. I agree with Mr. J. Cameron Worcester that, "Mr. Goodman was very class conscious, very dignified and not one to approach as a pal" (? newsletter ? 2002). I remember him with his white gloves and Homburg hat, leaving for Moose Jaw with his wife every Friday. In my one year at the Plant, I was never invited to either the senior manager's homes.
Being single, with many friends in Moose Jaw and Regina, I resented having to work Saturday mornings. Luckily, the younger Chinese cook, Jim Fong, had a car, and would take me with him to Moose Jaw, most Saturdays. I would meet him Sunday nights at a Chinese café on River Street to return to the Plant. After growing up in Moose Jaw, and not being allowed on River Street, it was revealing to see the prostitutes, pimps, and drunks in the café. At a dance in Moose Jaw, I met a girl whose father was Bill Schleede, who worked at the Plant. One Saturday night, I went to a dance in Bayard with Gotfried Harlos. On another occasion, I started back to Claybank on Sunday night with men about my age, and we were snowbound in Briercrest and were late for work on Monday morning. Still another time, I missed my ride to Claybank on Monday morning, and was forced to hitchhike. I don't recommend hitchhiking from Moose Jaw to Claybank, I arrived at work at 10am. I remember a few tough trips in blizzards when a few cars would be stuck, and we had to shovel our way out of the snow banks. Mr. Welch heard about my weekend activities, and I was reprimanded. As a consequence, I decided to quit my job in the summer of 1952, and went to Lemberg, where my parents lived at that time. I worked a few months on a farm. In November, I received a call from Professor Worcester, informing me about a position available at the University of North Dakota. Dr. Wilson Laird, Chairman of the Geology Department there, and Head of the North Dakota Geological Survey, had been a classmate of Professor Worcester at Ohio State University. I was interviewed with Dr. Laird at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks, and was hired as an assistant professor of Geology at $4500/year. I began working with clays and shale of North Dakota on November 20, 1952. The Civil Engineering Department needed additional faculty, and I began teaching service courses that all engineering students are required to take. After four years, I finished taking the remaining courses needed for a Civil Engineer degree, and received my second bachelor's degree in 1959. In 1963, I obtained my Master of Science degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Minnesota at Minneapolis, MN. I spent 13 summers investigating clays and shale for the North Dakota Geological Survey, and during the school term, taught many different civil engineering courses. I retired in 1989 the same year the Claybank Brick Plant closed it's doors.
I had a fulfilling career at the University of North Dakota, where I also met my wife, Dorothy. We have six children, with four of our five sons engineering graduates of the university.
It was exciting for me to come back to Claybank for the 2002 annual Heritage Day event. In many respects, it was as if I'd never left. I was surprised to see Dick Welch again, as well as Adam Wostradowski, Jim Clarke, John Russell and Ken Oakley. Several memories came to mind as I walked or rode around the Plant on the horse and wagon ride: the perfect serenity of the clay hills; the sight of the burned-out caterpillar after it ran over a hot ash pile; Fred Message, firing the kilns, or sitting by the bunk house having a beer; Bill Schleede walking back from Claybank with a gallon of wine; Carl Oberdorfller, the hermit who lived south of the Plant, walking to Claybank for supplies; Albert Reed's spotless diesel engine and generator, now dust covered; the hand molders with sweat pouring off their bodies; the masterpieces of wooden molds made by John Wostradowski; the very dusty job of sawing the insulation brick blanks to the final size; the convenience of firing the kilns with gas instead of lignite coal. The Plant is truly one of its kind in North America.
I am proud to have been a small part of the history of the Claybank Brick Plant. My wife is happy that it was only a small part.