Dogs of the CSA

Our Intern, Sam, caught up with some of our 4 legged friends and they told him what they love most about the CSA! Just like us they like to talk and have their picture taken!


Left to right: Duncan McCormick, Crystal and Blackjack Congbalay (Pringle)

Duncan, Crystal, and Blackjack hail from the East Coast and Midwest respectively, but Northern Michigan is their home. Every year as they pass through the Frankfort archway, their ears perk up and they sniff the air with building excitement. Duncan loves Lake Michigan, taking every chance he gets to play on the beach. When he goes missing, that is where you will find him. Every time. Touring the CSA with their cousin dog Duncan is a favorite past-time of Crystal and Blackjack. They share his love of the beach, and love playing in the water.



Aero Miller is a CSA native. She lives in the area year-round, from the cold, snowy winters to the lazily warm summers. She considers it her duty to guard the Miller house, but will take any opportunity she gets to take a car ride (preferably to the beach). Swimming is not her favorite summer activity, but she loves to take long walks on the CSA Lake Michigan beach. 




Nico Schmidt is the fourth Schmidt family dachshund. He is from Santa Rosa, California, and was the product of a long and strenuous search for a successor to the legendary Boris. After a traumatic first day on the job, he was bonded for life with human Bob Schmidt. He enjoys lounging in the sun on the patio and loves to take walks on the beach and around the CSA.




Gladys Belknap is the namesake of David and Sarah Belknap’s grandmother who decreed that no dog should ever bear her name. They took note of that, but after a family dog was named after their other grandmother, they decided to make a pair. Gladys (the dog) loves to swim in Lake Michigan, and plays fetch there most every evening. In the mornings she can be found lounging by the fire, and under the table during mealtimes (but not for food, that would be silly).




Mason Murmann doesn’t like to say that he came all the way from Columbia, MO for the treats in the Assembly Building, but he would be lying if he said otherwise. He also enjoys walking around the CSA forests.





Chessie Brown is a very loving dog, but may or may not have been spotted trudging the grounds of the CSA in the Cone of Shame (for reasons undisclosed). He loves to take walks in the woods, and enjoys our many beaches.




History Night - August 4th from 7-9 pm

By Sam Buzzell July 2017

Every four years, large crowds gather in the Community Room to walk amongst their memories. They traverse a serpentine path through the complete history of the Congregational Summer Assembly, gazing in wonder at materials collected by archivists from Catherine Stebbins to Jane Cooper. This, of course, is History Night. Many use it to relive times past, some go to see their parents and grandparents as children, but all leave seeing the CSA in a new light, one of deeper understanding and appreciation.

The event’s creation was preceded by the appointment of Catherine Stebbins, then assistant to Ruth Nickels, as the CSA’s first archivist. She took the opportunity and ran with it, purchasing a filing cabinet and beginning to work to compile a complete history of the Assembly. With the scrapbook collection that she had begun as a child as a base, she created full chronological albums of the early days of the CSA which were later used as the primary sources of material in the first few History Nights.

HistoryNightIn the Community Room, a small crowd hunched over several dimly lit tables bearing the pages of Catherine’s archival scrapbooks. This was the night of August 19, 1983, the first History Night. Promoted only by a small blurb in the Sunday church bulletin and exclusively involving the photos from Catherine’s personal collection, the event had room to grow. The idea was presented again three years later, becoming a tradition every three years.

By 1993, Katy Gosnell was archivist. Her reign is responsible for the current format of the exhibition, constructed by arranging styrofoam boards on church pews and pinning photos onto the upright boards. Under Tammy Royle, the event was rescheduled to every four years, as the workload grew and setup became more complicated due to increasingly detailed exhibits. While some were disappointed by the change, it brought to light the reasoning behind the spacing of the events: History Night is an incredible undertaking for the archivist, and becomes at least a 14 hour day for the crew. In addition, the timing helps to create a more appreciative mindset when viewing the exhibition, as this is not something one sees every day.

The day itself now involves the movement of up to 16 church pews by the maintenance crew, followed by a complete movement of the contents of Pilgrim Place to the Assembly Building including not only hundreds of photos, but also ledgers, operetta scrapbooks, oral histories, cottage curios, old costumes, and more. When all of the materials are assembled, the photos are pinned to the boards. Due to the chronological nature of the items, they must be posted from oldest to most recent and must be handled carefully. When the room is ready, the archival crew leaves to get dinner and dressed for the event, and are replaced by ‘security guards’ in one-hour shifts - positions which they have no trouble filling as the recipients are allowed to peruse the exhibition at their leisure. Then, at 7pm, crowds begin to gather to see what there is to be seen - which is quite a lot, as it turns out. After the stragglers are gently nudged out of the place at close to 9:30pm, the archivist begins removing the items photo by photo, piece by piece, until the Community Room is bare once more.

Archives is one of the most important areas of the CSA. A huge portion of the history of our organization is very well reported on, and archivists have worked tirelessly for decades to continue that work. To have preserved documentation of the CSA from its beginnings in 1901 until now is an incredible feat; to save these items is to keep their contents alive, whether it is to learn from them, remember them fondly, or simply to appreciate them, and is invaluable to us today.

This year, the communications committee will be covering History Night from start to finish, filming the setup of the event and interviewing current archivist Jane Cooper and archivist emerita Tammy Royle. We will archive the archives at work, and capture the history of History Night. A complete version of the film will be posted on the CSA YouTube page shortly after the event!

Upcoming 2017 Guest Speakers and Concerts

By Sam Buzzell July 2017

It's a busy few weeks ahead full of arts, culture and lecturers here at the CSA. Here is a sneak peek of what we have coming up:

Swimmer’s Itch Lecture - July 18 at 10 am in the Assembly Building

Dr. Curtis L. Blankespoor is a leading biologist on swimmer’s itch. This talk is a culmination of years of research concerning cercarial dermatitis (the proper name of swimmer's itch). The lecture will focus on state-funded efforts of the capture and release program, moving broods of common mergansers and their ducklings - the key avian component - to other parts of the state so that Crystal Lake does not imprint in the ducklings memories. If you are obsessed by swimmer's itch, loathe swimmer's itch or merely interested in learning more about how to avoid cercarial dermatitis, this is the talk for you.

Burrows-Getz Concert - July 29 at 7:30 pm at the Meeting House


Composer George Gershwin became an American music legend in the first half of the 20th century - his revolutionary blend of classical, jazz and popular music paving his way to fame. He performed in homes across the country on the Steinway Model O.

It is on one such Model O that our latest guest, pianist Pierce Kagari Emata, will play the music of Gershwin on July 29. This nod to Gershwin comes after a recent refurbishment of the CSA's Steinway, the music completing a full circle for the instrument. Our 1917 Steinway O piano is 100 years old this summer. So it is indeed of the same vintage and model that Gershwin would often play. Emata is a member of the Interlochen Arts Camp's summer piano faculty.

Invasive Species Lecture - August 1 at 10:00 am in the Assembly Building

Katie Grzesiak and Jane Limmer Perrino will be speaking about the invasive species that threaten our area. Katie will focus on land-based plants, garlic mustard and poenemorlis - an invasive grass currently growing in the CSA. She will touch on the five invasive plants that represent the greatest potential danger to the Northwestern Michigan region. She is involved with the Northwest Michigan Invasive Species Network, a branch of the Grand Traverse Conservation District. Jane will update on the aquatic life, including zebra mussels. They both will update us on the organization’s work, and their close relationship with the CSA.

Armstrong Concert - August 5 at 7:30 pm at the Meeting House

The Manitou Winds will fill the Meeting House with chamber music, poetry and song aided by guest soprano Emily Curtin Culler. They have described their performances as a "conversation between musicians; each instrument contributes its own unique twist and perspective to the central theme while the musicians work together in shifting roles to keep the piece aloft and in motion." A relaxing night of music in the woods.

Gibson Series - August 7-11 at 12 pm in the Assembly Building

Our Gibson lecturer this year will be Dr. Maureen O’Connell, chair of the Department of Religion at La Salle University in Philadelphia. Her lectures will address the topic of racism in America, asking the question, "as a nation and as Christians, what is the role that we have played, can now play, and vow to play in the future as it relates to whiteness being the norm by which all other races seem to be measured." Bring your pack lunch and join us for a week of thought-provoking lectures on a very contemporary topic. 

The adult “teen” dance

By Ginanne Brownell Mitic July 2017

The Tuesday night teen dance memories of my youth have congealed together in my head. I can’t remember one specific night per se but I remember certain distinct moments. Like, I can recall Tim Royle, wearing a green and white Benetton rugby, getting really excited when the opening beats of a Police song—maybe it was the remixed version of “Don't Stand So Close to Me” or maybe it was “King of Pain”—blasted through the speakers. I also remember, years later, grabbing his sister, Megan (Carrella), and our friends Martha Errthum (Evans) Sarah Brown, Molly Bazzani (Campbell) and other friends as we headed for the middle of the dance floor when Moby Disc (aka Bill Howard), popped on a song like Erasure's "A Little Respect."

After my freshman year of college, when I should have had one foot vaguely planted into adulthood, I still went to the teen dances partly because my younger friends were still going and also because it still remained the place to get the best gossip for who was dating who and what was going to be happening after the dance. Each week the teen dance was social Mecca for my generation—and for many generations before and after me. “When you're a teen up north for the summer, you have the occasional bonfire, maybe you're lucky enough to stay out late and go to the drive in, or tell your parents you're going to the drive-in just to stay out later, but those Tuesday nights were a great excuse for everyone to be out between 9-11,” recalled Andy Campbell. “And you got to get down too. If you like music and enjoy dancing, which I do, having a once a week venue to do that? Pretty sweet.”

Dance GrapicJudy Stewart Rodes recalled that as a 12-year-old, she could not wait to be 13 so she could attend the teen dances back in the early and mid-1960s. “It was super crowded,” she told me in an email, “and I remember it being very hot and swimming in the lake after.” She says the songs she most looked forward to—which were played by local bands—were ones by the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, especially “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction.” Judy, like many teen girls and boys from all generations who attended teen dances, also said she remembered taking time deciding what to wear. That was especially important if you had a crush that you knew would also be attending the dance.

Back in the earlier days of the teen dances (post-record players and pre-DJs), it was all about local bands that would come and play. “The teen dances I attended were 1965-1969, and were absolutely mobbed,” recalled Jep Gruman. “Young people from as far as Glen Lake, Torch Lake and Petoskey would come down for them, have picnics on the Crystal beach or in the woods by the ball field. Glenn Schulz would try to discourage beer, but usually to no avail. The State Police parked their cars at the Crystal View. The ball field was filled with cars. The music was VERY loud and kids were dancing out among the cars.” He says he remembers cover songs being played like “Light My Fire” by The Doors, “Summer in the City” by Lovin Spoonful and “Wild Thing” by the Troggs.

Dean Rusch, who owns the Freeland-based Rusch Entertainment (the company that Bill Howard still works for) asked me in an email: “Do you remember Jim Buzzell? He started hiring my band CEYX in the summer of 1971 and we played through the early 1980s, then switched to the DJ format.” It was likely CEYX who would play songs like Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water” that Holly Freeburg recalls almost literally bringing the Assembly building down back in the early-1970s. “Everyone was stomping on the floor so hard that there was talk of having to shore it up,” she said. “I can’t hear that song today without smiling and thinking about going to the teen dance.”

Jim Buzzell was a fixture at the teen dances for generations, stamping people’s hands when they came in and he somehow had a sixth sense if people were getting up to something they weren’t supposed to be getting up to. He had some sort of internal honing device and could miraculously track where to find what was not supposed to be happening. In the 1980s and 1990s admission was $2, but often people, if they knew the right people, could sneak in—a teenage version of getting on a VIP list at a popular club. “When I was on the CSA staff I worked at the door to collect the cover charge,” recalls Beth Congbalay. “Two friends (who will remain nameless), always got in for free. I felt a little bad about that but they were CSA kids too and we were very loyal to our friends.”

Over the last few years, some CSA friends and I would joke about setting up an adult “teen” dance, with the two major components being it had to be held when most of our friends be up and finding Bill Howard, who seemingly had his finger on the pulse of 1980s and 1990s music. Molly Bazzani recalled his name and Megan Carrella remembered he was based in Bay City. A few searches on Google later and I found Rusch Entertainment. When contacted, Dean Rusch told me that Bill, when he found out the CSA wanted to hold a nostalgic “teen” dance on Friday July 28, he cancelled the wedding he was booked to DJ that Saturday in Detroit so he could come spin the tunes for us.

Though the dances petered off in the early 2000s when young people wanted to hang out more in the parking lot and chat, the teen dances still had some solid years in the mid and late 1990s as well. “Songs like ‘Feels Good’ by Toni, Toni, Toni, the “Humpty Dance” by Digital Underground, and “Poison” by Bel Biv Devo were mainstays,” recalled Andy Campbell. “Super Sonic" by Salt 'N Peppa always got Sarah Brown going. In 1993 “Daisy Dukes” was a big jam, and anything by Naughty by Nature was in the mix. 'Rump Shaker' by Wreck'n Effect always put me in a good mood. As always Moby Disc would finish with 'You Spin me Round' by Dead or Alive. Lots of folks at the CSA don't like change and somehow he understood that and closed every dance with that song regardless of year.”

Jep recalled that the fun of the dances did not stop when the bands packed up their equipment: "After the dances a bunch of us would go up onto the knoll above the Crystal View and play music (guitars), or go down to the CSA Michigan beach for a bonfire for more guitars and singing and star gazing...we would sing Donovan or Bob Dylan, Peter Paul & Mary, Tom Rush, Joni Mitchell, not the pop music we'd just been dancing to. Not so much pairing off but rather as a large pile of puppies. Then wandering back to the cottage, darkly, without flashlights because it was not cool to have a flashlight. Somehow we were supposed to find our way without them... lots of stubbed toes!” The songs may have changed over the generations but the fun times that have been had, and the memories made are one of those great continuities of the CSA. Here’s to more memories being made on the 28th!

2017 Dutton Concert: Singer-songwriter, David Mallett

By Sam Buzzell July 2017

The annual Dutton Concert, July 8 @ 7:30pm at the Meeting House, is the fruit of Betty and George Dutton’s labors on behalf of the CSA; after years of enjoying the music performed in church, CSA concerts, operettas and dances, the Dutton family wanted to secure a place for the arts in our summer community. Through the concert series they work to continue the CSA’s celebration of music, having attracted talented guests from across the country summer after summer for more than a decade.

David MallettThis year’s guest is American folk singer-songwriter David Mallett. From the highlands of Maine, Mallett pours the stories of his home into each carefully crafted song. Commenting on one of his latest records “Greenin’ Up” he explained in a previous interview that, “having grown up around country people and farmers, rural life has always been the wellspring for a lot of my best work.” His album is a culmination of a life in show business that began when Mallett was just 11 years old. He and his older brother formed the Mallett Brothers and, “we played  everything from old songs like ‘Carry Me Back to Old Virginny’, which was the only song that my father ever sang, to stuff that was on  the radio [at the time]; Johnny Cash to Peter, Paul and Mary to Sinatra.”

After several years of performing covers, David Mallett became a theater major. The music of singer-songwriters like Gordon Lightfoot  and Bob Dylan became his inspiration to take up writing for himself. “Up until that point, I thought of myself as a singer,” he said in a  previous interview. “In college, everybody that was singing also wrote. I realized that that was what I wanted to do. I felt short-changed  that I had to speak someone else’s words. I felt that, if I became a singer-songwriter, I could sing my own words.”

 He spent his twenties performing in bars, gradually increasing the number of original songs in his repertoire. By the time that Noel Paul  Stookey of Peter, Paul and Mary moved to Maine and opened a recording studio, Mallett was performing only originals. “That was back  in the days when a recording studio was sort of like Oz,” he said. “It was a foreign land. I wanted to see his studio, so, I called him up  and said, ‘can I come visit?’” A half a year later Stookey and Mallett began work on the first of three records they would produce  together. Mallett’s new mentor was influential in bringing his hit “The Garden Song” to the attention of the likes of Pete Seeger and  John Denver, the latter recording the song and taking it to the top 10 in the adult contemporary charts in the late 70s.

 Mallett has spent the past four decades writing, recording and performing around the country. His choice venues are smaller and more personal – restaurants, bars, cafes as well as performance halls in the middle of the woods.

It was in one such venue that CSAer Ruth Reeve first saw him perform in his hometown of Sebec, Maine. They bonded right off the bat, and she has followed his career since then, attending concerts as often as she can. His classic folk style and young mind were perfect for any generation – and perfect for the CSA – so when the Dutton Concert came around again, Reeve’s first thought was Mallett. She wasted no time in convincing Jim Dutton to invite Mallett down for this Saturday's event.