Monday, 2 April 2012

The Titanic disaster and Manitoba's most tasteless memorial.

Titanic sign
Winnipeg's city hall memorial

You will be hearing a lot about the RMS Titanic in the days ahead. April 14 - 15, 2012 is the 100th anniversary of the tragedy that killed 1,517 of the 2,223 people aboard. Of the couple of dozen Manitobans, or immigrants with Manitoba listed as their final destination, just four survived.

Titanic Victims on Mackey-Bennet
Retrieved bodies aboard the Mackey Bennet (source)

As with most tragedies, the passage of time has dulled our senses to the significance of the event. Earlier this year many realized just how irrelevant the sinking had become when at least one international "showbiz-news" show declared the sinking of the Costa Concordia to be a "Real Life Titanic - just like in the James Cameron movie."

Here in Manitoba one company has been commemorating the Titanic tragedy for a number of years with a tasteless memorial.

Playworld Fun Rentals rents out a 25 foot tall inflatable "Amazing Titanic Dual Adventure Slide." Yes, your children can have fun sliding down the deck just like the 1,517 men, women and children did to their death all those years ago. They bill it as "great for any event." Indeed.

Forgetting a tragedy is one thing, but turning it into family fun is downright disrespectful.

I checked the rest of Playworld Fun Rentals' site to see if there were other atrocities-made-fun games on offer. Perhaps a "Battle of Vimy Ridge Shooting Gallery", "Nazi Concentration Camp Spray Pad" or "9-11 Tower Jump." Thankfully, they don't offer any - yet.

Manitoba Free Press, April 20, 1912

Hopefully for this anniversary people will take the time to remember those lost their lives. Even though it was 100 years ago, the Titanic tragedy still has lessons to teach us.

It puts a breaking strain upon the mind to try to imagine the scenes on the different decks of the great steamer when she suffered her death wound as the result of the collision with the iceberg that came bearing death to so many hundreds. The appalling suddenness of the disaster, the agonising terror, the heroisms that we may be sure there were, the partings, the terribleness of the ice-laden midnight ocean to the women and children in the life-boats - these things the imagination is powerless to realize in any of their actual poignancy as it was felt by those who passed through the disaster, either to be rescued, or to perish. Every feeling heart will sympathize with the families and friends of the victims of the shipwreck.
Manitoba Free Press editorial, April 17, 1912

For more, check out my This Was Manitoba blog post Manitoba's Titanic Connections. I''m updating it for the April 14 anniversary.


reedsolomon.matr1x at gmail.com said...

The Titanic was 100 years ago, and as the basis for a horrible movie, it has entered the realm of fiction and mythology. I doubt there are very many friends and families of the shipwreck who are feeling deeply offended by a plastic boat.

Maybe in 100 years people will indeed be able to look back on 9/11 with a detached sense of macabre humour and some might even rent some sort of Tower Jump trampoline. Who knows. Well, Probably not, as one is a man made act of war and one is a natural disaster. Might be more akin to a Fukushima Tsunami water park or something involving the New Orleans Levy

Carol Lindsey said...

a titanic shaped slide for kids - too soon? um yes! lol

Norman Beattie said...

I was at a school fun fair last Wednesday and saw the Titanic slide in action. It was a major attraction with a perpetual lineup of kids waiting to climb to the top of the stern and slide screaming down the deck. I guess its an indication of how times change.

When I was a kid the Titanic was still a sobering memory and still gripping after two world wars and a parade of much more deadly disasters. It was also a tantalizing mystery -- where was the wreck, and would it ever be found?

Coincidentally, soon after the fun fair I was leafing through George Orwell's collected essays, journalism and letters and stumbled over a passage that I hadn't seen before (vol 1 p 588).

Orwell was eight years old when the Titanic went down. "I remember that in all the long list of horrors the one that most impressed me was that at the last the Titanic suddenly up-ended and sank bow foremost, so that the people clinging to the stern were lifted no less than three hundred feet into the air before they plunged into the abyss. It gave me a sinking sensation in the belly which I can still all but feel. Nothing in the war [WWI] ever gave me quite that sensation."

A 20-foot-high inflatable slide is not a 300-foot death ride, but the Titanic's transformation into a children's amusement shows how far the disaster has faded from the popular imagination.