A great morning in Moose Jaw – a gritty city stuck firmly in the last century. While waiting for our tour to start we amble around the downtown core,which consists of old brick buildings, murals liven up some of them. As we wander the streets we peer into the old CPR building, which now houses a liquor store, beauty salon and flower shop. We also see numerous old cars as well.
While two tours of the Moose Jaw tunnels were offered, we chose to take the one dealing with Chinese immigrants and I’m glad we did. I was aware of some of what we learned but most of it was new to me.
With a promise of a ” Passage to Fortune” most immigrants owed coolie merchants for their passage to Canada. Our tour showed them working in a laundry underground in the tunnels 12 to 16 hours a day, sleeping 3 to a bed in shifts and earning a whopping 35 cents a day, half of which the owner took back to cover their room and board.
They first started out washing the clothes using a scrub board and lye soap (very caustic causing burns). The next advancement would be using metal irons with metal handles heated on stoves that also continuously burned their hands. Finally the best job was making burlap sacks, but it took 10 years to move up to this job.
The average immigrant took 3 years to repay his debt. Some even managed to send money home, but most were treated no better than slaves and the promises made to them were never kept. Living and working in the tunnels in deplorable conditions was preferred by many as they could hide from some of the open discrimination on the streets.
We left Moose Jaw just after lunch, still traveling thru flat farmland heading towards a free campsite near Broadview. Our drive down was uneventful except for the slow downs caused by a lot of road construction and us trusting our GPS which became confused by all the detours.
We arrived at 4:30, an early end to the day but we have the time as we have no set schedule.