Milly Harrison started work with Marine Atlantic in 1973 when the Corporation was known as Canadian National Railway (CNR). Her father, an Assistant Chief Steward with CNR, moved their family from Fortune Bay, Newfoundland to North Sydney, Nova Scotia to be closer to work.
She remembers getting hired with a group of eight to ten other females at a time when it was relatively new to hire women for assistant steward positions.
“They flew us into St. John’s for training,” said Milly. “We spent three or four days doing boat drills and learning other skills for working onboard ships.”
Milly’s first position was onboard the MN Princess of Tasmania, a ship brought to Canada from Australia to do the crossing between Port aux Basques and North Sydney. In 1975, the ship’s name was changed to the MV Marine Cruiser and during parts of the year it was used between Yarmouth and Maine.
Assistant Stewards were responsible for cleaning the Captain’s mess, and serving in the cafeteria. During the summer months she would serve for the ship’s bar.
One of Milly’s most memorable experiences with Marine Atlantic was the inaugural run of the MV Joseph and Clara Smallwood. The inaugural trip started in Sydney, Nova Scotia and from there it travelled to St. John’s, Port aux Basques and Corner Brook. There were several special guests onboard including Joseph Smallwood, the first Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador and the vessel’s namesake. At each port along the way there was an open house where people could see the ship and meet with staff and guests.
“That was one of my favourite things about my time with Marine Atlantic,” said Milly. “I loved talking to people, getting to know them. I always did my best to communicate with passengers.”
It wasn’t just passengers that Milly really connected with, she also loved all the people she worked with over the years.
“I really enjoyed going to work each day, my co-workers were my family, like brothers and sisters. Now I have friends from all over, through Marine Atlantic.“
Milly retired in 2000, after 27 years with Marine Atlantic. She currently lives in Baddeck, Nova Scotia.
“After retiring I realized you were never alone at Marine Atlantic, and now, you sort of wish you’re around people like that all the time. I really looked forward to going to work, and miss that.”