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Saskatchewan: Moose Jaw - Family Vacation Fun, and Tunnel Secrets? “Tunnel tours?” I said, “What tunnel tours?” My mom handed me a brochure as we headed south from Regina. Hmmm, The Tunnels of Moose Jaw, as I read on I found out there were two tours and as if on cue she replied before my question, “If we hurry there will be time to do both.” So I read out loud about both tours, thinking maybe mom would have less questions when we got there.

While reading I learned that there was a Chinese emigrant tour called Passage to Fortune. Chinese in Saskatchewan, really? The other tour  “Little Chicago” had to do with some fellow named Al “Scarface” Capone and was called The Chicago Connection. After I read this I wondered who Al Capone was and why his name was Scarface. So I asked my mom. She said Al Capone was a gangster from the twenties during the Prohibition. I had learned about the Prohibition in school so I knew it was when the 18th Amendment of the Constitution had forbidden the manufacturing and sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors.  I still had tons of questions about how this little town in Saskatchewan had anything to do with Al Capone and gangsters.

When we got to Moose Jaw I found out it wasn’t as small as I thought. True we could go around on foot but it was no smaller than downtown St. Augustine, my hometown in the States. It was not hard to find the Tunnels. The main starting point is right on Main Street near the ice cream place and in sight of the old train station.

We decided to go see the Chinese tour first. When we got there we picked up our tickets and waited for a matter of minutes before our guide, Rodger came and took our group outside and up the street about 30 steps. He was talking all the way and gave the impression he was in a hurry. We turned down a staircase that led us below the street. My plan to stay near Rodger because I know being near the guide always has its benefits.

He opened a door and led us into to what seemed to be an old fashioned shop. He then explained that we would never be more that thirty feet away from an exit to the street so if anyone for any reason needed to leave they would be able to do so. There were murmurs among the group and one older lady told him she had difficulty seeing in dimly lit areas. Rodger was very kind as he explained she should stay near the back of the group.

He then led us into what seemed to be a Chinese herbal shop. He explained about it and then took as into a little movie theater. We watched a movie about the head tax on Chinese people coming into Canada. The black and white documentary showed harsh conditions and their hopelessness.

Just as the movie ended our guide (Rodger) came back but he introduced himself as Dawson. It was obvious that this new character Dawson was both an aggressive and prejudice man. We had now taken on the role as Chinese workers also called coulees, meaning worker. We were lead through the normal day for the coulees. Dawson was very believable and the work areas and living quarters were really a surprise to me. We even saw a replica of an opium den. It was an awesome tour and I was sad to see it end. To my surprise, we arrived back in the building were we first started.

We had more time before the next tour started so we walked down the street to get some ice cream in Treats-R-Us, a little ice cream on the corner. When we had finished we walked across the street the building where the next tour would be starting. This was the one I was really looking forward to doing because of the Chicago connection. I still have relatives that live in Chicago.

This tour also began in an unsuspecting way. We walked through the doors and up the stairs to what seemed to be a gallery. When we arrived there were to double doors that were opened and we were invited into a speakeasy, an illegal (secret) bar used during the Prohibition times. We were introduced to the owner named Trixie. She told us Ol’ Scarface was in town and he might be interested in buying some of our goods. It was then that I noticed we were playing the part of bootleggers. Weird. She then took us through Big Al’s private rooms.

This living history tour is allows participants to be part of a complicated story and it is really fun. In the private rooms Trixie received a signal from one of Capone’s thugs. She handed us over to Gus, a gangster saying be careful. He was to take us to get the goods. He meant the liquor. We went through a secret passageway, down some stairs and under the street again. He took us through more tunnels all the time telling us about the Prohibition and Big Al’s business. He was really believable.

The tunnels are real. Some narrow and some smell a little bit like wet mud and oil. We had to duck down a lot because there were a lot of over hangs. The sound effects were great and several times we had to escape through a hidden door or secret passage. It was really cool to be part of the tour not just listen to boring words. There are many surprises but I don’t want to ruin it for others. When the tour was over to my surprise we again found ourselves in the tour office building.

After the tour my mom talked to Gus, who is really Chris, our tour guide. I looked around at the souvenirs. I bought some post cards and a book about the tunnels in Al Capone’s time called Tunnels of Time, A Moose Jaw Adventure, by Mary Harelkin Bishop. I highly recommend this book. It was really cool especially because I had been in those tunnels.

So I guess I was wrong about Moose Jaw because for a small town it has lots of secrets. This might be why it was called Little Chicago and for sure there is nothing boring about the Tunnel Tours!

The Tunnels of Moose Jaw. 18 Main Street North, Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Canada S6H 3J6. 1(306) 693-5261  or
Make it happen: Visit Saskatchewan at or toll-free 1-877-2ESCAPE.

Content by J. Nelson-Duac for The Family Travel Image courtesy of Tunnels of Moose Jaw. Copyright 2014.
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