BEHIND THE LINES: Little Chicago PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 26 September 2014 12:48

BY BOB JALDON

 

MOOS JAW, CA. — “Little Chicago”. This small, lazy town northwest of Regina, Saskatchewan is nicknamed as such because of mobster Al Capone, public enemy no. 1, in the 1930s in the United States who moved his illegal liquor operations here when it got too hot for him in New York and Chicago. He and his goons built a tunnel here to hide their boot-legging activities from authorities. The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service in the U.S. were hot on his trail led by Elliot Nes (remember the movie “The Untouchables”?).

Here, Al Capone was known as “Big Al”. To us, he is known as “The Scarface Mob”. Law enforcers did not get him for the dozens of people he ordered killed, including policemen, or for his illegal gambling operations. They got him on tax evasion. After serving time at Alcatraz, he lived in Florida where he died of syphilis. I guess he got the sickness from the dozens of gals he slept with, just like King Henry VIII. Capone had everybody in his payroll — from cops, judges to politicians — except Nes and his three loyal men.

Also, in this small town are tunnels where big-time Canadian businessmen kept Chinese immigrants to work more than slaves in the 1880s. Hundreds of Chinese migrated to Canada for a better life, but found misery as living and working conditions were so deplorable. They were forced to work in the railroad and sweltering laundry shops below ground.

The Chinese then, and even now, crave for a better life and good fortune. The 45-minute tour of the sweat tunnels will show you the “poignant early history of Chinese immigrants in Canada, how they suffered in the underground spaces and how they endured intolerable conditions to realize their dreams and succeed.”

In order to reach Canada, they had to borrow $50 from their “recruiters” payable in five years. When the Canadian government raised the head tax to $100, still they came. Even when the fee was raised to $100, that didn’t deter the Chinese from migrating to Canada. That’s how desperate they were. They came because of the promise of good fortune — which they got after 50 long years.

Moose Jaw? Described as: “A distinctive city with a distinctive name, originating from the Cree word “Moosegaw”, meaning “Warm Breezes.” The railway, they say, came in 1882 and quickly transformed Moose jaw from a lonely trading post into a bustling prairie town. It is also said that in 1903, Moose Jaw had all the basic essentials of a growing community and was incorporated as a city. “Along with the boom came economic prosperity, electricity, paved streets and a vision for the city reflected in its grand architecture.”

Ah, yes, Moose Jaw has a casino, a small one, though, for the retirees and some Chinese-Canadian locals.