Friday 6 December 2019

Book ~ "The Blind Mechanic" (2018) Marilyn Davidson Elliott

From Goodreads ~ Eric Davidson lost both eyes in the Halifax Explosion when he was two years old. Against all odds, he taught himself to become an auto mechanic and had a successful decades-long career as "one of the boys."

Eric Davidson was a beautiful, fair-haired toddler when the Halifax Explosion struck, killing almost 2,000 people and seriously injuring thousands of others. Eric lost both eyes - a tragedy that his mother never fully recovered from. Eric, however, was positive and energetic. He also developed a fascination with cars and how they worked, and he later decided, against all likelihood, to become a mechanic. Assisted by his brothers who read to him from manuals, he worked hard, passed examinations, and carved out a decades-long career. Once the subject of a National Film Board documentary, Eric Davidson was, until his death, a much-admired figure in Halifax.

This book does not gloss over the challenges faced by Eric and by his parents. Written by his daughter Marilyn, it gives new insights into the story of the 1917 Halifax Explosion and contains never-before-seen documents and photographs. While Eric Davidson has been mentioned in previous Explosion accounts, his story has never been told in such fascinating detail. Davidson overcame such odds that his life story might not seem believable if it had not happened.

The Halifax Explosion was a maritime disaster in Halifax, Nova Scotia, which happened on the morning of December 6, 1917.  The Norwegian vessel SS Imo collided with SS Mont-Blanc, a French cargo ship with explosives, in Halifax Harbour.  About 2,000 people were killed by the blast, debris, fires or collapsed buildings, and an estimated 9,000 others were injured.

Nearly all structures within half-mile radius, including the Halifax community of Richmond, were obliterated.  A pressure wave snapped trees, bent iron rails, demolished buildings, grounded vessels and scattered fragments of Mont-Blanc for kilometres.  Across the harbour, in Dartmouth, there was also widespread damage.

Relief efforts began almost immediately and hospitals quickly became full.  Rescue trains began arriving the day of the explosion from across Nova Scotia and New Brunswick while other trains from central Canada and the northeastern United States were delayed by blizzards.

The blast was the largest man-made explosion at the time and in the North End of Halifax, there are several memorials to the victims of the explosion.

Eric Davidson (1915 - 2009) was two years old when this tragedy occurred.  He was watching out the window when the blast happened.  Shattered glass went into his eyes and the doctor determined that his eyes couldn't be saved.  His eyes were removed and he was fitted with prosthetics.  Quite an experience for such a young boy but he adapted.  When he was old enough, he was sent to The Halifax School for the Blind for his education and to learn a trade.  But he had an interest in cars and he really wanted to be a mechanic.  After understandably being turned down by garages, Eric taught himself how to fix cars and with his keen sense of hearing and touch, developed a reputation of being an expert at repairing cars and was eventually hired on at garages, fulfilling his dream.

Eric would marry Mary and have three children.  His daughter, Marilyn, is the author of this book.  She tells of Eric's life ... his childhood, his marriage and raising a family, his hobby of collecting and repairing antique cars, the recognition of his achievements and goodwill, and more.  With Eric's death in 2009, there was only one last survivor of the explosion still living.

I liked this book and found it interesting.  Despite what had happened to him, it sounds like Eric was a happy helpful fella who didn't let his disability stop him.  I liked the writing style ... it's told in a conversational manner.  You should check it out if you would like to know how the Halifax Explosion affected a family and how they moved on from the experience.  Plus it's a personal perspective on some Canadian history.


raidergirl3 said...

I’m in line at the Halifax online library, waiting for 6 months to get this book. I can’t wait!

Teena in Toronto said...

Hopefully your wait won't be much longer.