Saturday, August 9, 2008
A Checkered Past
Moose Jaw Saskatchewan, Aug 9 (~2,100 miles traveled). Moose Jaw, it’s a place with a colorful history, to match its rather unusual name. If you’ve ever traveled much in Canada you too must have noticed that the “moose” rules. There are more roadside warnings of moose hazards (i.e. hitting a moose on the highway or any roadway is likely to put an end to the car and likely the driver and/or passengers). The warning signs range from comical to downright frightening…and as such, are pretty effective. Anyway on to Moose Jaw.
Moose Jaw was originally settled as an Indian fur trader’s camp. The name Moose Jaw is derived from the Cree Indian name for the place, moscastani-sipy. The term means a “warm place by the river” To the white settlers, the first two syllables, “mosca”, sounded like Moose Jaw.
A railroad was eventually built here, farming commenced and the town’s prosperity eventually depended on the success (or failure) of wheat crops.
At the turn of the century, a large number of Chinese immigrants came to Moose Jaw to labor in the steam laundries and gunnysack factories. They worked in basements, which were scattered throughout the town. A series of tunnels eventually connected much of this, creating a whole “underground” world. The conditions these people worked in were despicable.
American prohibition brought a whole new, and much more lucrative trade to Moose Jaw…bootlegging. During the 1920’s Moose Jaw grew to become a hub of illegal liquor distribution into Chicago and elsewhere in the mid-west. The tunnel system provided excellent cover for the operation. Speak-easies, prostitution and gambling all flourished in Moose Jaw. This colorful chapter in Moose Jaw’s history is now a pretty interesting tourist attraction, complete with a tunnel tour, actors and a fair amount of animation. Worth seeing if you find yourself in this neck of the prairie.
On the subject of Moose, the mascot of this road-trip, the protector of the trailer is lacking a name. Not sure of the gender since I only have the head…but as you can see from the photo…its one very attractive moose. This moose holds a place of prominence on the wall of my trailer, and is deserving of name fitting its station in life. So, send me your name suggestions…e-mail or comments section is fine.
I need a name!