Thursday, February 18, 2016

Steak in a Drawer by Eric Conroy

Title: Steak in a Drawer
Author: Eric Conroy
Published: 2012
Published by: Markplan Inc.
Format Read: Paperback
Genre: Non-fiction
Date Read: January 6 2016
Rating: 4/5

In the summer of 1963, at the age of 17, Eric Conroy would take a summer job that he would cherish long after his last shift. With the help of an acquaintance and claiming to be a year older, Conroy got a job waiting tables on the CPR passenger liner SS Keewatin. 

“The Mighty ship Keewatin” sailed between Port McNicoll on Georgian Bay (Lake Huron) to present day Thunder Bay (Lake Superior) from 1912-1966. Steak in a Drawer chronicles the two summers Conroy spent on the ship and what life was like sailing on the great lakes. 

In 1967 the SS Keewatin was saved from a scrapyard by a Michigan man by the name of R.J. Peterson and turned into a floating museum. In this second edition of Steak in a Drawer, Conroy includes the journey it took to bring the ship back to its rightful home in Port McNicoll, Ontario. 

I left home at 17
Ran away with a Great Lakes Queen
Prettiest girl I'd ever seen
The Might Ship Keewatin

                              -Albert Hall

It started with a tour:
A couple of years ago I went on a tour of the SS Keewatin, which is now open to visitors as a floating museum. During the tour our guide led us through the beautiful dining room. Near the back, just outside the kitchen entrance was an ornate hutch that the servers used. The lady began to tell us the story of how a certain waiter would use a drawer in the hutch to hide an extra plateful of food, which he would save for himself to eat after his shift. The waiter she mentioned is one Eric Conroy, author of this book and the story being its namesake. After the conclusion of our tour, I took a look in the gift shop and found this very book for sale. I was eager to learn more about what it was like sailing the Great Lakes and wanted to help support the operations of the museum, so I picked up a copy.

Full to the brim
Steak in a Drawer is full to the brim with Conroy’s experiences serving on board the SS Keewatin in the early 1960’s. Although he only served for 2 seasons, he learned many lessons and always kept a space in his heart for her. Aside from his own personal stories and the ships history, he has also included numerous pictures of the SS Keewatin from her glory days, to her most present use as a museum. 

My reading experience
As a lover of history (especially that from my own province), this book was of great interest to me. Having been on the ship itself I was able to picture each of the locations mentioned. Conroy weaved some witty commentary in with historical facts which made for an entertaining reading experience. 

Remembering today
Unfortunately faster and more modern modes of transportation have replaced these beautiful old ships, like the SS Keewatin. However it is important to remember their roles sailing the Great Lakes, a task Conroy successfully has done with this book and his work in the museum. 

I would recommend Steak in a Drawer to people interested in Ontario history including transportation and educational attractions. 

 For more information on the SS Keewatin visit the website:


  1. Thank you for your review. This was a labour of love and it was first published in the US when the ship was owned in Douglas Michigan. When I get the opportunity to return the ship to Canada I incorporated the "Bring it home" part of story it made for a great ending..We have sold over 10,000 copies and it is a main source of revenue towards renovations.

    1. Hello Eric,
      Thank you for taking the time to visit and read my review of your book. I really appreciate it. I enjoyed hearing your "steak in a drawer" story when I toured the SS Keewatin and then again when I read the book. Congratulations on your success and all the hard work you put into bringing her home.