Sunday, 23 August 2015

History Lessons and Tunnel Tours

Location: Tunnels Of Moose Jaw, 18 Main Street North, Moose Jaw, SK S6H 3J6, Canada
If you read the feedback for our warmshowers host Glenda you will see mentioned the history of Canada lesson. What is interesting is that the history of the creation of the United States of America is such a huge part of the media that we watch or read that it seems to just creep into knowledge without us really having to learn about it.  However, the same cannot be said for Canadian history.  But one morning over breakfast Glenda went over the history of the country.  It was a fascinating history and in someways similar to the American history but with really important key differences that could go a long way to explaining the vast differences you get once you cross the border.

After the brief history lesson we headed into town to venture into the Tunnels of Moose Jaw.  The tunnels were built after a fire destroyed buildings on main street.  While the new brick buildings were getting built the building owners connected their basements to create an underground road connecting them all.  The tunnels that you go into on the Tunnels of Moose Jaw tours are not the original ones and are quite a bit larger, apparently, than the first incarnation.  The first tour we went on was "Passage to Fortune" telling the story of migrant workers from China working underground to get enough money to pay off a tax that they incurred as soon as they entered the country.  They mainly cleaned clothes and stoked boilers.  The tour was really informative and interesting.  Our tour guide switched between narrator and laundry matron, and while in this latter role spoke and treated us like the Chinese workers she was "employing".  We both really enjoyed the tour and learned so much about a period neither of us knew existed in Canada.  The tone of the tour was informative but also a bit apologetic; you really get the sense that this was once brushed under the carpet but now it's out they are sympathetic and understanding that this was an unacceptable dark stain on the nation.

After the Passage to Fortune we headed to "The Chicago Connection".  This was a completely different experience. First of all, I don't really know if they knew for sure if there was an Al Capone connection during Prohibition, it seems that when the heat got hot in Chicago Capone was said to get the train to the end of the line, and one of the train lines ended in Moose Jaw so a myth was created around it.  Anyway, true or not yes the tour was different.  The lesson we were part of seemed to be drama more than history but it was enjoyable all the same.  This time we were bootleggers looking to get some hooch to take back over to the States.  There was no narrator this time just actors taking us through the various rooms and passage ways.  With some awkward audience participation we learnt snippets about the gangs running liquor around Chicago and the maybe involvement of Moose Jaw.

The tunnels are well worth a visit if any of you are planning to get to Moose Jaw.  Passage to Fortune is much more an interesting history lesson into an underground world in the 19th Century where as The Chicago Connection is a frenetic, mad dash down through the romanticised underbelly of mob culture in the 20s.  If you find that you only have the time to go on one of the tours, in my opinion, I would say head to the "Passage to Fortune", it taught us about a period in time that neither Sophie or I really knew existed.

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