Lois Miller’s piano has been in her family for a hundred years and while it still plays beautifully, it bears the scars of Halifax’s deadliest day.
“You can still feel the little craters, the dents that were left by those shards of glass,” said Miller. “It was as if we were touching a witness to the Halifax Explosion.”
Miller’s grandfather, Stanley Robson, bought the piano in the new year following the explosion. The piano, Miller was told, had been in the front window of the now-defunct Phinney’s Music Store on Barrington Street in downtown Halifax at the time of the blast. The store refinished the piano and sold it to Robson, who lived in Clam Harbour, N.S.
‘A very sad story’
The story about the piano’s past has been in Miller’s family for generations. She said her grandmother “would always tell us … about what the little dents meant.”
About 2,000 people were killed in the Halifax Explosion, which occurred Dec. 6, 1917, when the Belgian relief ship Imo collided in Halifax harbour with the Mont-Blanc, the French munitions ship.
In addition, it’s estimated that about one in 50 survivors was blinded by flying glass and debris, making it the largest mass blinding in Canadian history.
“It was a very sad story because, even though this is only a piano that was damaged in the explosion, those same kinds of shards of glass were the cause of so many injuries, horrific injuries,” said Miller.
“Many people in Halifax were blinded: children looking out of school windows, workers rushing to a door to see what was happening, moms looking out their kitchen windows with their kids going out to school. People were severely injured and killed by shards of glass just like this.”
New home sought for piano
Despite the instrument’s history, Miller said she and her husband are looking to downsize, which means getting rid of the piano.
And while Miller said it would be nice if one of her daughters took it, she said it’s just not possible at the moment. She said she wants to see it go to a good home.
“I would like to see it go to a museum, a gallery, some location where its story would be valued,” Miller said. “It’s still a good, functional piano. And I would like it to go somewhere where its history would be memorialized in some way.”