During Prohibition in Saskatchewan from 1915 to 1924, when all bars and liquor stores were closed, both the provincial and federal governments passed laws regarding availability of liquor. These laws had various loopholes, and Harry Bronfman who was then owner of the Balmoral Hotel got to work to find them. His brother Sam, who owned a hotel in Winnipeg at the time, got together with Harry to beat the system. They bought a liquor outlet in Montreal (no Prohibition in Québec) and went into the mail-order business, also buying hard liquor from international markets. By 1919, it was legal by federal law to manufacture liquor for medicinal purposes. So, they set up a company as seen in this letter head. Their operation was legal. They were not making the illegal homebrew as some people think. (A great number of people were making and selling homebrew in every part of the province, but not Bronfmans.) They sold legally made liquor to pharmacists, who filled out prescriptions from suddenly very busy doctors. Manufacturers could not sell to individuals or businesses within the province, but could supply out of province markets. What Bronfmans and others in the manufacturing business were doing that was illegal, were the extra shipments made to various people around the province. These shipments had to be made covertly, mostly in the deep of the night. It was important not to be obvious and not be seen. For that reason, it is possible that there were short tunnels to carry, hide and stash extra booze between the hotel and the manufacturing building next door to the east, seen in this picture. There could have been a short tunnel between the hotel and the theatre on Third Avenue South which was owned by Bronfman. Another could have been one from the hotel leading to the Bronfman garage on south Broadway. Perhaps, more importantly there could have been one leading to a freight shed by the CPR tracks. However, so far we have a number of stories of strange openings in the walls of the hotel basement, some claim their ancestor walked into a tunnel, etc. Fire claimed our landmark, the Balmoral Hotel on February 12, 1985, and with it went the best chance to investigate for hard evidence of the existence of tunnels.
Contact Terri Lefebvre Prince,
City of Yorkton, Box 400, 37 Third Avenue North
Yorkton, Sask. S3N 2W3