Nova Scotia

Remembrance Day display in Dutch Settlement 'means so much' for veterans

A man in Dutch Settlement, N.S., has put together a Remembrance Day display around a homemade cenotaph.

Clarence Hines created the display in his front yard for the first time

Veteran Doug Saunders of Dartmouth stands before the Remembrance Day display on Highway 277 in Dutch Settlement, N.S., on Saturday. (Jeorge Sadi/CBC)

Doug Saunders gathers his breath as he takes in the three figures in military uniforms positioned around the cenotaph, a Canadian flag snapping in the wind.

The Remembrance Day display set up in the front yard of a Dutch Settlement, N.S., home caught his eye while driving by earlier this week,

But, on Saturday, Saunders said he finally had time to pull over and examine the details.

"It's so realistic," said Saunders, a Royal Canadian Air Force veteran living in Dartmouth, which is about 50 kilometres from Dutch Settlement. "It's phenomenal the work that was put in, the time that was put in, to do this to honour the military vets.

"It's unspeakable. It's just phenomenal."

Special military mannequins, originally from the United States, were used in the Dutch Settlement display. (Jeorge Sadi/CBC)

This is the first year Clarence Hines put together a display on the front lawn of his family home on Highway 277, where he lives with his brothers and mother. But his collection of military paraphernalia has been about 25 years in the making.

A true collector, Hines has a permanent display in his basement of military medals, models, helmets, commemorative plates, photos and certificates from his own father who served in the Second World War, and much more.

Although he usually puts out a massive Halloween display, Hines said he decided this year to take some pieces, including his specialized military mannequins, and make them into something for the public. 

He also created a cenotaph out of plastic foam. It is modelled after the nearby Elmsdale war memorial.

There is a permanent display of military paraphernalia and mementos in Clarence Hines's basement. (Jeorge Sadi/CBC)

Peggy Campbell, Hines's sister, created a burlap wreath for the project. She can only shake her head at the sheer volume of military memorabilia Hines has gathered over the years.

Besides their father, who served overseas in England and Italy before he was married, Campbell said two of their great-uncles were also in the First World War. One did not come home.

Campbell, who often drops in to the house to visit, said it "feels good" to see so many people stopping by to take photos of the display. Most are welcomed into the basement to see the full collection.

She knows how her late father would feel about Hines's handiwork.

A photo of Clarence and Peggy's father, Vincent Carl Hines, who served in the Second World War with the Canadian army. (Jeorge Sadi/CBC)

"Oh, I think he'd like it. I think he'd be very proud of what he did," she said with a smile.

For Saunders, the old uniforms bring to mind his own father's Second World War service. 

Although he didn't tell his son much directly, Saunders recalled listening through a wall to hear his father tell stories one night a year with old friends. In one, Saunders's father talked about going into a neutral trench with the German soldiers and playing cards whenever there was a "stalemate" in the fighting.

"Then when it was over, they knew that they had to go back into the trenches and, you know, it was you or them," Saunders said. 

Saunders said he was honoured to see the display in Dutch Settlement. (Jeorge Sadi/CBC)

Saunders himself joined the air force in the mid-1970s. He was stationed in Germany, Shearwater and Alberta before moving over to the reserves in Dartmouth, and then retiring.

He said it truly moved him to see someone take so much time and energy to honour those who fought for Canada, and hopes that anyone who sees it takes a moment to reflect on the sacrifices of military members past and present.

"Everybody will take a look and honour in their own way. But for us in the military to see something like this … it's heartbreaking. And it's a joy, it's a real joy," Saunders said with tears in his eyes.

"I'd just like to thank these folks here that did this. It just — it means so much."

Clarence Hines says he wanted to share some of his military collection with the public. (Jeorge Sadi/CBC)

Hines plans to keep the display, which is also lit up at night, through to next weekend.

He will then store the cenotaph in the garage until next year's project, when he said there will likely be something new to see.