History meets Explosions

Now, I consider myself to be the sort of person who doesn’t make a connection with something just because it is from the same place I am. Just because a movie or television show or book or a band is made in, or by people from, Halifax, I don’t give things any extra credit for being from here. In fact, if someone is telling me about something and they bring up its local origins before convincing me of the thing’s quality on its own merit, I’m likely to hold it against the thing, telling myself that if it’s localness ranks so high in its importance, it must not have much else going for it. Unfair? Probably, but this is how I am (That is, always looking for something to complain about).

That said, I don’t think I can separate the Halifax Explosion Heritage Moment from my being born and raised in Halifax. I have no specific memory of when I first was taught about the Explosion, but there is a good chance this was the only Heritage Moment about an event I knew about before I saw it. In fact, it is one of the few that I can say with certainty I was taught anything about in school (Though, the Underground Railroad is another of those few. If I was ever taught anything about Irish immigrants to Quebec or the struggles of women trying to learn medicine, I don’t recall it. And I know for sure that the Canadian school system doesn’t teach enough about Superman.). So, as a child, it was neat to see this one.

It’s a simple story, Vince Coleman see that the ships are gonna blow, he warns everyone he sees to get as far away as possible, then he remembers a train is coming into town and he sends a Morse code message for them to maybe not come into town, on account of the explosion that’s gonna happen.

Someone sacrificing his or her own life to save others is always the sort of thing I like in a protagonist, so I’m behind Vince. I guess, in real life, some of the facts were not quite the same as depicted here, but the message he sent (“Hold up the train. Munitions ship on fire and making for Pier 6… Goodbye boys.”) does make it sound like he knew he was going out, but he still managed to keep his cool and get the message to the trains. So he’s a good guy, even if the commercial did kinda feel the need to fluff him up.

Still, historical accuracy has never been one of my criteria for these reviews. As an entity unto itself, the commercial tells its story quite well in the minute. We get the set up, the struggle to get the message out, the success, and the tragic end all at breakneck speed. As for quotability, I could see “C’mon Vince, C’mon” being the sort of thing I’d say if I knew a Vince (which would likely annoy Vince). But “C’mon, c’mon, acknowledge.” is the real star. If I’d been asked before re-watching, I would have been sure that line played a much bigger role. Anyway, we should all use it on computers when they’re taking too long to load and stuff.

So anyway, it’s entirely possible that there was a time in my youth when I would have called this my favorite Heritage Moment (with the possible exception of the Superman one), but that was just my regionalism. But still, I do like this one even looking at my new, bitter-about-everything eyes.

  1. Yeah, this is one of the better, most dramatic ones. Halifax for the win!

  2. My one complaint about the heritage moment was that he never told people it was a munitions ship and just ran around telling people it was gonna blow. Everyone was like “Old man Coleman has finally lost it.”

    • I never noticed that! I wonder if people who didn’t learn about the Halifax explosion would even understand the video?

    • “Old man Coleman has finally lost it” has made my epitaph shortlist.

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