In Their Shoes: Stepping back into the prohibition era

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While everyone was in their offices along Main Street working away, actors were scurrying underground beneath them, preparing tourists for a memorable experience.

Times-Herald reporter Mickey Djuric spent Thursday morning job-shadowing the actors of the Tunnels of Moose Jaw tour The Chicago Connection.

And I was scurrying just to try to get to the Tunnels of Moose Jaw on time. The plan was to meet at 9:30 a.m. Thursday to job-shadow the character Fanny for the Chicago Connection Tour.

I was one minute late, and if I actually worked at the Tunnels, I probably would have been fired on the spot.

“If that was Fanny coming in late, she would have been in big trouble with me,” said boss lady Kelly as she walked me over to 23 Main Street Cafe. “She’s already setting up!”

She led me to the second floor of the cafe and that’s where I was greeted by Andrea Martineau, 19, or, as tourists know her, Miss Fanny.

Decked out in a teal flapper dress, her hair was in a perfect up-do. Jewelry hung off her body and she wore a feather in her hair. I was mesmerized, until the vacuum came out. We quickly tidied up the area where tourists would soon be congregating, and made sure the props were in place.

It wasn’t daunting, but I wondered where she got so much energy early in the morning.

“Sometimes coffee and a good breakfast,” she said.

Man, did I regret not getting my morning espresso.

We had about 20 minutes until the first tour of the day started.

The second Fanny (Jocelyn Williams, 17), who picks up the second shift, joined us along with first shift Gus (Jordan Bosch, 21). What I quickly learned was that starting at 10 a.m., tours begin every 15 minutes. So there has to always be a Fanny at the front door greeting tourists.

I finally got boss lady’s tight ship. She runs a disciplined schedule, and everything must run accordingly for the tours to work.

We all chatted to pass the time. I quickly learned this is a summer job for the three of them. They told me how it’s basically the perfect summer job. I tried to grill them about tourist behaviour, but they said they are rarely bothered by tourists.

“We just brush it off,” they said in regards to tourists hitting on them or being obnoxious by challenging them.

I was soon going to find out exactly what they were talking about. I was unable to get any acting lines (it is a tight ship after all, they can’t just let any reporter ruin their entire system), but they offered to give me a free tour.

I anxiously waited with the other tourists for Fanny to greet us. I mingled with an elderly couple from Long Island, N.Y. They are driving across Canada and decided to make a pit stop in Moose Jaw. There were even Australians on my tour.

Then it hit me.

These tourists travel from all over the world to take this tour, and that’s a lot of pressure for these young actors. They are perhaps the first impression of the city. Suddenly I got nervous for my new friends.

Bang! The door flew open, interrupting my thoughts. There stood Fanny (Martineau) in her full glory, with the 1920s slang and everything.

“Oh, boy,” shouted the older man from Long Island, eyeing Fanny up and down, and checking out her, well ... fanny.

Like a pro, without even skipping a beat, she ignored his crude behaviour. The men in the group with me were immediately charmed, and I found myself being lured by her acting.

We continued to Fanny’s Club, and I had a whole new perspective on the tour. I felt like I wasn’t participating in the eyes of a tourist, but in the eyes of Fanny.

Later on in the tour, a grown man blamed me for touching a fireplace that wasn’t supposed to be touched. I could not believe my eyes when he backed away and pointed at me proclaiming to the entire room of 15, “She did it!”

Now, at this point it felt like Fanny and I went way back. She knew I didn’t do it. She asked the man to poke his head in the fireplace to see if anyone was in there. I witnessed the same grown man push his younger daughter, who was probably 10, into the fireplace to check instead.

I almost felt like I was in a nursery and Fanny was the babysitter.

Fanny and Gus switched off, and Bosch (the actor playing Gus) gave me a nod as if to say, “Welcome back.” He kept picking on me to help engage other tourists, and included me in his act.

He called on me for questions and made me search secret passageways.

Earlier, I was a little bummed I wouldn’t be getting my 15 minutes of fame, but Bosch gave it to me anyways. They say to be careful what you wish for, and boy, is that true.

Just being called upon was a lot of pressure for me. I was barely awake. I stressed out in trying to make 15 pairs of eyes evoke some kind of laughter or happiness.But just like how Fanny charmed the men, Gus was charming the ladies. They both improvised quickly, and were extremely intelligent and completely witty. When the tour ended, I was overwhelmed with a sense of pride for those three actors I had met early that morning. It made me feel good about the youth in our community.

Those three actors reflect the hard work and dedication many young people have today, and I know, speaking from experience, that we don’t always get enough credit.

All three will be returning to university in the fall, with some of them starting as freshmen.

If their time at school is reflective of their time spent at the Tunnels of Moose Jaw, I know only good things will come their way.Despite them being younger than me (I’m 24), I took away some valuable lessons from them: hold your head up even when things aren’t going according to plan, brush off the small stuff because it’s not worth worrying about, and always continue to work hard.

Mickey Djuric can be reached at 306-691-1263 or @Mickey_MJTimes.

Organizations: Chicago Connection Tour, Martineau

Geographic location: Long Island, N.Y., Canada Moose Jaw

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