The Coffee Encounter in Moose Jaw isn’t Starbucks, but the coffee is more than adequate and the atmosphere is pleasing with a bit of an old-world touch. More importantly, it has wireless.
Moose Jaw may not be everyone’s first choice for a week long vacation and it wasn’t mine either. I’m here on a bit of a "working break" keeping my wife company in the evenings while she’s down the road at Briercrest, taking an "addictions course" as part of her Counseling association’s annual requirements.
But here’s the thing about this town, (pop., 34,000 or so): Until a couple decades ago, Moose Jaw, quiet, upstanding, largely church-going, is now doing everything it can to market it’s half-mythical, half-true, seedy history.
The "history" goes that during the U.S.A.’s Prohibition era, from 1917 to 1933, the local police force "fell into the greased palms of organized crime — reputedly controlled by Capone," who was said to run gambling dens and houses of prostitution up and down River Street, the Jaw’s main drag.
Now it’s probably a stretch that Alphonse Capone ever walked the streets of Moose Jaw but it’s not entirely out of the question. There is the old dentist’s appointment book that has the entry "Al Brown," a known Capone alias. And there’s the local paper that, according to one resource I found, quoted a retired doctor who no longer lives in Moose Jaw as saying that he treated Capone for tonsillitis.
But regarding Moose Jaw being a major trafficking hub for bootleg liquour, the opportunity and logistics work. Prohibition after all was not a Canadian law and since a major railroad connected western Canada to Chicago, the little city was in a good position to be the centre that funneled bootleg spirits into prohibition parched America. For this there’s ample evidence.
And of course centrepiece of the evidence is what was discovered in 1985 when a truck fell through the street into a tunnel that lead to a network of tunnels connecting all the downtown hotels of Moose Jaw.
As Art Linkletter–who by the way was born in Moose Jaw–might have said, Little towns tell the darndest stories.