MOOSE JAW, 70km west of Regina, was founded as a railway depot in 1882 and is now Saskatchewan's fourth largest city, with 35,000 inhabitants – a number that has remained almost static since the 1940s. Its name may have come from a local word for "warm breezes", or the jaw-like turn that the river takes just outside town, or even the repairs made to a cartwheel by an early pioneer with the assistance of a moose's jawbone.
Moose Jaw achieved some notoriety during Prohibition in the 1920s, when liquor was smuggled south by car or by train along the Soo Line, which ran from here to Chicago. For most locals this period of bootleggers, gangsters, gamblers and "boozoriums" (liquor warehouses) was not a happy one, and for years various schemes to attract tourists by developing the "Roaring Twenties" theme met with considerable opposition from the substantial portion of the population that actually experienced them.
A network of tunnels in Moose Jaw runs underneath River Street from the basements of the old buildings. No one knows who built the tunnels, or why. What is known is that they were extended and used in the early 1900s by Chinese railway workers and their families hoping to escape the $500 "head tax", a measure designed to force them to return to famine-stricken China after the completion of their work on the railway. Later, during Prohibition, Chicago gangsters used the tunnels to negotiate their deals for Canada's liquor supplies and to hide out when things got too "hot" in Chicago.