Throwback Thursday - John Ingram

by Stefan Carew

If you worked or traveled with Marine Atlantic between 1966-2006, there is a good chance you have encountered John Ingram. A well-known resident of North Sydney, John had an interesting career with Marine Atlantic that extended more than 40 years.

John worked as timekeeper, buyer, reservations agent, in the former freight shed and yard office, and helped introduce inventory tracking systems on the vessels. Having a talent for photography, John was also called upon to take pictures of corporate events over the years. Through all of these experiences, John has more than a few stories that show how Marine Atlantic has changed over 40 years.

John can vividly remember his early days with the corporation in the 1960s. He recalls when charcoal heaters were used on reefer units to keep produce from spoiling on its journey to Newfoundland.

“In colder weather, we would carry 25 pound bags of charcoal up the boxcar to ensure there was enough heat to keep the food from freezing. In the summer, the boxcar would have to be sealed to prevent the heat from getting in and spoiling the produce,” says John. “It was a dirty job, but one that had to be done on a daily basis.”

While working in reservations, John recounts a big wheel, like the ones used at garden parties, that was used to make bookings. The wheel had all the dates through the year, as well as the vessel sailing times. Agents would rotate the wheel until it aligned with the customer’s requested date and sailing time, then fill out the sheets that accompanied the particular crossing.

John also remembers cataloging inventory items by hand during the early 1970s, on vessels such as the MV Ambrose Shea, MV Marine Nautica, and MV Marine Atlantica. Inventory would be written down and then entered into a computer system for tracking purposes. This was the initial step of developing a full inventory system within Marine Atlantic.

He had the opportunity to sail with Newfoundland Premier Joey Smallwood, former Federal Cabinet Minister John Crosbie, and actor Gordon Pinsent as they visited Port aux Basques, Argentia, St. John’s and Corner Brook on the inaugural crossing of the MV Joseph and Clara Smallwood. John also captured Rick Hansen’s Man in Motion Tour as he traveled between Newfoundland and Nova Scotia.

John recalls a particularly vivid memory while working at the North Sydney terminal. “One day my colleagues and I saw sharp teeth, and a scary set of eyes peering at us from the inside of a wooden crate. It was a wolf,” says John. “But it turned out to be taxidermy, and headed for a new home in Newfoundland.”

After his 40 years of adventure, John retired in his hometown of North Sydney with a long-lasting legacy left behind at Marine Atlantic. While much has changed through the years, it’s people like John Ingram who made the service stronger each and every day.