The Rum Runners Tour Timeline
(The following information is a general guide. Adjustments can be made to accommodate bus arrival times to Windsor. As well times may be affected by weather and/or traffic conditions. Depending on scheduling, some tours may start at The Canadian Club Brand Centre, while others may finish there.)
It’s 10:00 A.M. and your bus has just arrived in downtown Windsor when there’s a knock on the bus door. Your bus driver opens the door and a gentleman dressed in a suit and hat reminiscent of the Roaring Twenties quickly enters the bus. He thanks the driver for allowing him on board, as he is being pursued by the local police for something he didn’t do. This is Benny da Weasel and after a quick introduction, he is about to welcome everyone to Windsor with a taste of some fine Canadian whiskey made right here in town. Suddenly a commotion outside catches his attention. It’s a newspaper vendor hawking his papers and when Benny invites him on board the bus to find out what all the commotion is we discover that the big news in the headlines is “U.S. Government Ratifies Prohibition”. Benny quickly recaps his bottle and apologizes for not being able to give away any of his liquor which it seems may now be a precious commodity, but he announces with a great sense of pride that he knows where we can get some and instructs the driver to head for the waterfront. The newspaper vendor whose name is Yorkie distributes to each passenger a souvenir copy of a newspaper with actual photos, editorial and advertising reminiscent of the 1920’s. This newspaper will help guide you along for the next few hours as you have been taken back to that period in history known as “The Roaring Twenties” and your Rumrunners tour has officially started.
Your bus will travel along the riverfront as Benny and Yorkie begin to tell the secrets of the bootleggers and the ingenious methods they used to smuggle liquor across the river in the dark of night and over the windswept ice in the dead of winter. They’ll tell of the bootleggers hideouts and divulge the location of the Speakeasies and Blind Pigs where the Purple Gang and Al Capone made their deals. Benny will tell of the crooked cops and customs agents who were on the take.
At 10:30 am: You arrive at the old courtroom in Mackenzie Hall. Benny may have to sneak away as one of the local police officers shows up. Don’t worry though because the officer knows as much as Benny does and he will continue to tell you the story of the Rumrunners. After leaving Mackenzie Hall, the officer will take you down to the Detroit River to get a close-up look of the Ambassador Bridge, which connects Canada to the United States and you’ll be told of the unique ways of transporting illegal liquor across it. He will point out the hidden coves where the bootleggers loaded up their boats and waited for the signal to speed across the river and he’ll tell stories of pirates who would steal the bootleggers’ cargo. After a short visit at the waterfront the officer will bring you to Bedford United Church, which in the time of the Rumrunners was known as Sandwich Methodist Church.
11:00 am: You will be greeted and ushered into the church by a member of the Women’s Temperance Movement. Grab a seat and hang on tight for you are about to meet the gun toting, fire and brimstone preaching reverend known as “The Fighting Parson”. Reverend Leslie Spracklin along with the help of the temperance woman will tell the story of “The Fighting Parson” and how he fought the bootleggers and owners of the blind pigs and speakeasies with fists and guns. After this raucous presentation you will have a few moments to view the photo of Reverend Spraklin, hanging on the wall.
11:30 am: Your next stop is a re-enactment of a roadhouse, where the legendary Bertha Thomas, who operated one of the more popular speakeasies, will greet you. She served Hollywood movie stars as well as some of the most notorious gangsters. While you enjoy a delicious lunch, Bertha will tell the story of the speakeasies and how they managed to operate right under the nose of the law. She will explain why many were built along the waterfront and tell tales of the secret tunnels to the river and passage ways to hidden rooms where even local politicians revelled in the illegal gambling and drinking. Of course, music was a big part of the speakeasies and our resident piano player “Fingers” will tickle the ivories with tunes from that era and Bertha will tickle your funny bone with a couple of songs.
1:00 pm: Benny and Yorkie will board the bus with you and head back along the waterfront to the upscale neighbourhood of Walkerville, dominated by mansions built with rumrunner’s money. You’ll see Willistead Manor; a thirty six-room mansion built by the Hiram Walker Family, the grand Tudor Mansion built by Harry Low who went from being a toolmaker to a millionaire in a short period of time and hear the story of the famous Cooper Court.
1:30 pm: Your bus will arrive at The Canadian Club Brand Heritage Centre. For the next hour and a half, you’ll hear the story of Canadian Club Whiskey and how the Hiram Walker Family built their empire. As you tour their original offices you will have the opportunity to view a wonderful art collection as well as beautiful antiques and discover the secret speakeasy hidden below. Before you leave, you will be invited to take part in a sampling of several Canadian Club Whiskeys, after which you will have the opportunity to shop for souvenirs.
At this point we will say our final goodbyes as you board your bus and head home. We hope you will have had an enjoyable and informative day.
Thank you for taking