Well Water Thoughts

By Tom Clapp August 8, 2019

The recent experience with the CSA water system bacteria contamination has generated a number of questions about private wells on and around the Assembly. As a concerned private well owner, I have done some research on the subject and thought it might be of interest to others.

I started with a stop at the Benzie-Leelanau District Health Department on M-115. ( They were very helpful and provided sample bottles and instructions for collection and delivery to SOS Analytical ( in Traverse City.

Doing a little more digging I found we had used Great Lakes Water Quality Laboratory, Inc. ( in 2014 and still had some sample bottles from them. I called them to see which, if either, set I could use. The representative suggested I use the new ones from BLDHD and sent me an email with instructions. The email also contained some informative links on who should test, how often, and what to test for. The email is repeated below.

My questions have been answered and I now have the tools I need to make sure our cottage water is safe. I hope this helps answer any water well questions still out there.

GLWQL email:
“Thank you for reaching out to our laboratory for drinking water testing information. I have attached our request for water analysis form and instructions for collection. I also included some links to helpful information from the CDC, EPA and EGLE.



EGLE (MDEQ),9429,7-135-3313_3675---,00.html

Laboratory Supervisor
Great Lakes Water Quality Laboratory
6461 Sunset Dr / PO Box 131
Lake Ann, MI 49650
(231) 275-7382”

Words From The Woods

By Ginanne Brownell Mitic, August 2019

The late great Nobel-winning author V.S. Naipaul stated—and I paraphrase—that as a writer, every word you write should be painful. While I think this is a bit overly dramatic and extreme, I take his point that word choice can be a heavy and intense exercise.

I have just completed my first book, a non-fiction narrative account of a youth orchestra in the Korogocho slum in Nairobi, which is currently being touted around by my agent to publishers. As I was in the three-year process of writing my book Sir Naipaul’s words haunted me. I struggled how to best describe the deep blue of the vast Kenyan sky (Azure? Sapphire?) and I went back and forth as to whether “pungent” or “fetid” was the most expressive word to describe the stench of the Dandora dumpsite, which is on the edge of Korogocho where my orchestra members live and play their music.

Finishing the book—at least the writing part—has come now as a relief and it’s been interesting this summer talking with my mom, Eleanor (who is working on her second book) and my two brothers (Joe who is as well working on his second book on independence movements in post-colonial southern Africa, while Reb’s book is mentioned below) about the writing process. It’s also been fascinating to find out more about other authors within our CSA community and I suspect Sir Naipaul’s words have struck a chord at some point for all of us writers as the tapping of our keyboards echoes through the northern woods. As the Authors and Artisans fair is almost upon us, August 7th, here is a roundup of some books and plays that CSAers have completed in the last few years:

"I Spy... A Pig in A Plane” by Kristy Pollina Kurjan (children’s lit & lifestyle magazine)KristyK

Kristy grew up spending her summers at the CSA and her first job was a lifeguard at the CSA beach. She now lives in Traverse City with her husband and three children. She is currently the editor of “Traverse City BayLife Magazine”. She told me via email that, “I have three baby board books published by my company, KPO Creative LLC: “Nap-a-Roo”, “Dream Sweet Dreams” and “The Many Ways To Say I Love you.” My fourth board book in the series is titled and coming out this fall.” The books can be purchased at stores throughout the country and locally they can be found downtown at The Bookstore in Frankfort. They are easily found on Amazon at:

“Inside the Front Page” by Russell Freeburg (non-fiction memoir)


 I never intended to write a memoir…An old friend, Gertrude Terry, is responsible. She asked me to join a writing group in her home once a week. She had this caveat: I had to work on a memoir or I couldn’t come. Her stipulation seemed a fair exchange to enjoy her company along with the company of other writers. “Inside the Front Page” is about my time in the newspaper business working for the Chicago Tribune in Chicago and Washington, DC. I actively covered four presidents and met others as governors.

Previous books by me are “Oil and War” published in 1987 by William Morrow and Company and “There Ought to be a Place” published by the Congregational Summer Assembly. “Oil and War” tells about the role oil played in victory or defeat in WWII. “There Ought to be a Place” is a history of the first 100 years of the CSA.” Russ’s memoir is available on Amazon or stop by the cottage and buy an autographed copy to benefit the CSA Education Fund. Follow his blog at

“Birthday Candles” by Noah Haidle (play with previews beginning in New York City April 3, 2020 and produced by Roundabout Theatre Company)

The play will be at the American Airlines Theatre on 42nd Street and Debra Messing (from “Will and Grace” fame) plays Ernestine Ashworth, who spends her 17th birthday agonizing over her insignificance in the universe. Soon enough, it’s her 18th birthday. Even sooner, her 41st. Her 70th. Her 101st. According to the Roundabout’s site the play is of, “Five generations, dozens of goldfish, an infinity of dreams, one cake baked over a century. What makes a lifetime…into a life?”

Noah wrote in an email that the CSA children’s operettas were his first exposure to theatre of any kind. “I played a bee in 'Sky Happy,' a squire in 'A Dragon's Tale,' and all I remember from 'Tom Sawyer' was sitting on the edge of the stage pretending to fish. I was probably the worst actor to ever grace the Assembly's stage. Which is maybe why I became a playwright. From a bee to Broadway. An unlikely journey." Tickets for the play are available at

“The U.S. Senate and the Commonwealth: Kentucky Lawmakers and the Evolution of Legislative Leadership” by Reb Brownell and Senator Mitch RebBMcConnell (non-fiction/history)

My brother Reb, the former deputy chief of staff for the Senate majority leader, co-authored this book that details the history and evolution of U.S. Senate leadership institutions (including the vice presidency, the Office of President Pro Tempore, and the Office of Majority Leader) through the lives and careers of prominent Kentucky senators (like Henry Clay). No matter what side of the aisle you are on, for those interested in politics, it’s a well-researched and important read. Richard A. Baker, US Senate Historian Emeritus, has stated that the book “is prize worthy” and sets forth a compelling case for Kentucky’s unique contribution to the U.S. Senate. The book is available on

“What She Ate” by Laura Shapiro (non-fiction/biography)

Journalist and food writer Laura Shapiro spent a number of years researching the six women she chronicles in her 2017 book. According to LindsSher website: “Everyone eats, and food touches on every aspect of our lives—social and cultural, personal and political. Yet most biographers pay little attention to people’s attitudes toward food, as if the great and notable never bothered to think about what was on the plate in front of them. Once we ask how somebody relates to food, we find a whole world of different and provocative ways to understand her. Food stories can be as intimate and revealing as stories of love, work, or coming-of-age. Each of the six women in this entertaining group portrait was famous in her time, and most are still famous in ours; but until now, nobody has told their lives from the point of view of the kitchen and the table.” An engaging summer read for those interested in how food has shaped the lives of some of history’s most intriguing women. Also on

“One Woman’s Journey: Childhood 1923-1938” by E.C. (Kay) Fischer (autobiography)

Born in Greenfield, Ohio in 1923, the sweeping autobiography of Kay’s first 15 years is an insight not only into her personal history but an important account of an American childhood in the early part of the 20th century. Her self-published book (the first of what she says is likely to be nine or 10 volumes) takes readers from Missouri to Virginia, Oklahoma, Texas and Washington State. Kay is currently busily working on volume two, which will be focused on her courtship and early marriage (and will also cover World War II including her time working on the Manhattan Project at the University of Chicago), so stay tuned. To obtain a copy, email

“Vendetta’ by Robert WangardBobW

Published posthumously after Robert’s untimely passing last April, the book is the eighth in the Pete Thorsen mystery series and set in rural northern Michigan. In this thriller, a visitor appears at Pete’s lakeside home, bringing along personal baggage that upends the lawyer’s world. Pete needs the help of his detective friend to clear his name against accusations that could end his career. The murky world of sleazy sex clubs and mob bosses feature as intriguing backdrops in his page-turning “Vendetta”. You can order it at and find it at The Bookstore in Frankfort.

"The Catherine"

By Max Buzzell, June 2019

The air is cold and the leaves of the previous autumn crunch underfoot as I fumble up the steps of my family’s cottage, bucket of cleaning supplies and vacuum in hand. For 10 years now I’ve helped with this spring cleaning. There’s something exciting about taking that first step across the threshold each new season; it’s as though I’m walking into a place devoid of time, its thin boards bound together both by its history and its future.

Lovingly dubbed “The Catherine” in memory of its previous inhabitant, Catherine Stebbins, our little cottage has a past I’m still discovering. With each spring I stumble upon boxes of Catherine’s writings, stacks of old business cards, or envelopes of photos. We have our own family history here now, too. The staircase my dad and grandpa built, a box of notes I wrote back and forth with my grandma, our favorite VHS tapes stacked high.

Over the course of the time that I’ve been helping with this spring cleaning task, my reason for doing so has shifted. Initially, it was one of my ways to spend time with my grandma, Luanne. We’d wipe and we’d scrub and we’d polish; I’d pretend to be little orphan Annie, she’d try her very best to play the mean Miss Hannigan…. Once the place was clean and she and my grandpa had made the move from their house in town out to the Assembly for the summer, I spent time with her on walks to the Assembly building or by attending a church service. After my grandma passed away, I kept cleaning the cottage as a way to stay connected to those memories of her, and to make sure my grandpa had a good place to stay for the summer. Sitting on the screen porch with a good book or making a pot of coffee with my grandpa have become my new memories in this place. We discuss business (which yards we’ll mow that day), or listen to NPR and as we keep the fire burning.

Nowadays, I do some of this spring cleaning for my own stays at The Catherine. I’ve prepped the place for aunts and uncles, cousins close and distant. Recently the most exciting part of this job has been cleaning for the arrival of my oldest cousins and their kids. Watching the youngest of my family experience the Assembly for all its tennis and swimming lessons, Monday Night Dances, and chances to meet lifelong summer friends, I have observed how the Assembly has shaped and will shape many generations.

Though the Assembly has yet to stir from her winter slumber, there’s an air of anticipation as I mop the floor and wipe down the bookshelves. In just a few weeks the silent neighborhood will be busy with the sound of our summer neighbors: the accidental slamming of an old cottage screen door, the excited sound of games in the ballfield drifting over to Standish, and the sound of a bike chain backpedaling. Soon our cottage will be teeming with people too, generations of Buzzells remembering our past, enjoying our present, and knowing that the Congregational Summer Assembly will be a part of our future.

The Path to Choir Learning Part 2: The Modern Choir

By Sam Rosenblatt - August 17, 2018

After Tom Williams retired as Music Director in 1986, the Music Director Search Committee report from 1987 stated, “As we all know, we cannot find another Tom.” However, shortly after that, they auditioned Ken Cox, and as Russ Freeburg explained in “There Ought to be a Place”, “Nowhere is the continuity of the Assembly KenandTommore exemplified than in the relationship between the two men [Tom and Ken].” Tom was a mentor for Ken, who said in 2003 “I am, in many ways, walking in the footsteps of Tom Williams”. Like Tom, Ken also is a great musical educator and artist (twice turning down an offer to perform at the prominent Salzburg festival in order to come to the CSA).Kenopera1994 See picture to the right of an opera Ken was in. So after the Search Committee found that Ken fulfilled virtually every characteristic they desired (including diplomacy, patience, flexibility, cool headedness, vision, and the ability to explain and inspire), the committee unanimously recommended that Ken Cox be appointed Music Director.

Ken Cox began this position in 1988, and like Tom, he continued in that capacity even after he was appointed Managing Director in the fall of 2000. Ken immediately fit right into his role, saying in the Assembly News in 1989 that “My first summer as director was rewarded with a generous amount of encouragement and support from the choir.” The search committee seems to have been right to foresee his vision for the choir. Since Ken started, the choir has increased in attendance, expanded the number of songs per service, and experimented with a few new pieces every summer. As Steve Elrick said, “We kept on singing the songs we were singing, but Ken expanded the choir.” The committee also was right about Ken’s ability to explain and inspire, a quality that cannot be truly understood without seeing it in action, so that is just what we will do.

Wednesday, July 18th, 7:25pm, Choir Practice:


Friends drift in in twos and threes, chatting and laughing. New friends and lifelong friends, mothers and daughters, some of these people have known each other for more than half their lives, while others only feel that way. As they settle into their familiar spots according to their vocal range, conversations and laughter continue for a few more minutes across the rows with bodies cocked halfway around.

After everyone settles in, a hush swiftly falls over the crowd as Ken waves his hands for silence. There is neither need for any words to bring about this calm nor any lingering conversation—the level of mutual respect and camaraderie in the room is palpable.

The first order of business is addressing the young man in the room with the violin. Charlie Reisner is there to practice a possible prelude. While he plays, Ken listens intently. He is not afraid to push the norms of the choir, but will do so only carefully, only if this music will move the congregation. After listening and an applause, Ken moves the choir right along to rehearsal. The first song is a cold read which no one has sung before. Despite this, to my untrained ear it sounds great right off the bat. But my ear is untrained and Ken and the choir can hear they have a bit of work to do. In an interview later, Carol Gunkler will tell me that one of the things that she has improved most since joining is her ability to listen and discern whether music is being sung correctly.

AltosatPracticeDespite needing some improvement, the mood is jovial, humorous even, as they take it from the top again and Ken weaves little suggestions and encouragements seamlessly into the music in tandem with the choreographed motion of his arms. The laughs are far more abundant than the commentary and yet neither sidetracks the team from its goal. Everyone is there to learn and improve. That is what they came for, and I am told later that the success of getting a song just right after working hard on it is one of the best parts of the choir.

The next time through, Ken peppers in little “Thank you’s” at improvements in the same seamless way he peppered in his notes on runs previous. After a few runs of each song they move on to the next. When they flip to a particularly familiar song, someone comments "20 years ago this song was sung here, by THIS choir" and several of the older members eye's glaze over for a second in a daydream memory as they begin to sing the old song. Later on Steve Elrick will tell me that “Some of the sheet music was bought originally for 12 cents, but today it would cost several dollars!”

Like many things in the CSA, looking back fondly on the past does not mean we cannot stay current, and after whatBasses seems like an instant it is time for a break, and current announcements are shared by all the members of the choir who have them. Later, in an interview, Carol Gunkler said “[involvement with the choir] has strengthened my relationship with the CSA a lot. I am expanding my activities here and the nice thing is that every Wednesday night [at practice] people make announcements about things that are going on, and then since I am here every week, I hear everything that is of major importance that is going on at the CSA, and so I have been participating more in the activities.”

At the end of the practice, friends help each other up when they are experiencing trouble rising to their feet. Carol says “Some people are not able to do the things that they have traditionally done so we help them. And it is a very, its, ya know, cohesive. We take care of each other.” Once everyone is on their feet with a song in their hearts, they say farewell and leave as friends, ready to meet on Sunday.

TenorsBut for many of them, they will see each other well before Sunday. Liz Gottlieb said, “I have a gazillion friends because of choir. I meet so many people in choir. Some of them are people I might have met anyway, but I know so many people because of choir that no one else in my family knows and that I would never have run into. And even people I do not have a chance to hang out with I look forward to seeing in the choir. I care about them, if I learn something about their health it matters to me, they care about me.” Carol Gunkler also said that joining the choir this year has strengthened and expanded her relationships “Its better than joining a fraternity. This is a special niche of people with whom you have much in common. There are some people in the choir who encouraged me to try out for the operetta, which I did. I’ve met some new people and realized they are relatives of people I had known earlier. There is one person in the choir with whom I have had lunch on a couple of occasions as a result of being in the choir and sitting next to each other.” Liz Gottlieb puts it another way, “It's so much fun. Some time ago I realized ‘just face it, these are your peeps’. We are a huge variety bunch, we believe everything different possible. But we all join together and work on something, and its fun.”

Not only friendships, but also family bonds can be strengthened through the choir. With multi-generational, spanning families participating, like theSopranosatpractice Coopers, Gottliebs, Winters, Dennisons, Royles, and the Shaws, the choir provides a rare activity that families can enjoy together regardless of age. As Liz Gottlieb says “This is THE CSA difference. All the ages are available. You can be in choir when you’re 13. You can be in choir when you’re 94. We aren’t there because of anything that has to do with age. It transcends that. I like that about the CSA and the choir is a really great example. It is a meeting of many generations. It’s so cool.”


Another bond that can be strengthened through the choir is the bond of your spirit. Ken has quoted St. Augustine several times, saying, “He who sings prays twice”, but members of the choir feel this connection between the music and their spirit goes beyond that. As Carol Gunkler says, the choir “deepens my appreciation for the people that could create this kind of music and sound and have the genius to put this together. And it simply underscores my belief that this (gestures at the world) is not an accident. This is an intentional world. The creation of music is, in a microcosm, the creation of the world. You see, if you can do something like that, then you can do other things that beautiful.” Similarly, Liz Gottlieb finds that while “I feel in touch with the divine when I listen to or make music. When we sing ‘How Lovely is Thy Dwelling Place’, which I think most of the choir would realize is their favorite if they thought about it, if somebody, in a careful, fabulous manner has brought those words to life with the most glorious music and you are singing it with groups of people…it’s a very powerful spiritual moment.”

If ever there was a song sung in church that makes you feel like that, then come next season and join and sing it, with friends.

The Path to Choir Learning Part 1: How the CSA Choir has Changed Over Time

By Sam Rosenblatt - August 10, 2018


There are so many activities to do at the CSA that one might assume have always been part of our culture. Most, however, did not come to be until as recently as a generation or two ago. There were no swimming lessons until 1931, Monday night dancing did not begin until 1954, and the first Cottage Treasures sale was not until 1976. There is one activity though older than any other, older than any building on the grounds, which has been here since the CSA moved to Frankfort: The Assembly Choir.


Beginning in 1904, the choir is older even than all three versions of the auditorium it now sings in, first performing in a large tent with a “Good sized pipe organ” but which “rain poured in upon at every vulnerable point”, then in the auditorium donated by Dr. R. J. Bennett in 1912. After the collapse of that one in 1959 they performed for “…nine Sunday outdoor services in a beautiful setting without a drop of rain” while “churchgoers donated huge sums” to build a new roof over their heads. When the auditorium again collapsed in 1962, they kept right on singing.

From the beginning, assembly members and visitors have remarked at how exceptionally talented the choir is. In 1906 after a benefit recital, the Rev. Nichols wrote “There is more talent in these woods than one dreams of.”, and in the 1921 Assembly News the program committee remarked that “No one thing, perhaps, has contributed more to our enjoyment and inspiration [than music].” Who is to say why this has always been the case? It could be due to the “ringy” acoustics beloved by choir member Liz Gottlieb, the “unusually high proportion of professional musicians” or the great directors lauded by long time admirer, first year choir member Carol Gunkler. Regardless, the choir seems to be sticking to its tried and true formula.

Throughout the past 70 years the adult choir has undergone very few major changes. While new members join every year and sometimes the practice schedule changes, in “There Ought to be a Place”, Russ Freeburg writes that “It is probable that the Assembly Choir has turned over completely only once in its history” and “The choir is steeped in tradition. The first time members join the choir each summer, they stand to introduce themselves. They tell where they are from and relate news about their activities over the previous winter.” And in the past 72 years we have only had 2 different permanent choir directors (although there were 11 before that).


Perhaps the longest lasting change that the choir has undergone was the creation and slow dissolution of Children’s Choir. Founded in 1911 by then music director Margaret L. Weber, the Children’s Choir, sometimes called the “Children’s Vocal Training Club” or the “Junior Choir” functioned both as a youth activity, singing kid’s songs just for fun like “Happy Lil’ Sal” and going on beach picnics, and also as a precursor to the adult choir, occasionally performing hymns during Sunday service. This children’s choir was immediately a success and had high participation.


It was a regular feature of the program when Mary P. Niemann became music director in 1928. Mrs. Niemann was a constant force at the Assembly for a long time, serving as the third longest running Music Director from 1928 to 1941 until wartime had other priorities for her as it did for many in the CSA. A force she was though, backed by one of the longest running assembly presidents and another spitfire, Katherine Macy Noyes, Niemann solidified stunt night and added the children’s operetta to the list of programs in 1931 for good. Not long after, the children’s choir and operetta were linked, with many of the children who were in one also ending up in the other.

Today, even without an influx of youth, the choir is still in great shape. Despite the age imbalance, choir attendance remains as strong as ever, as you can see in the visualization below. Compared to the 70’s and 80’s, average and peak attendance are up and even the least attended Sundays have more members going now than then—a statistic that is even more impressive considering the fact that families tend to spend shorter visits here then they used to. These ChoirAttendancestatistics were made possible due to the methodical, record-keeping of long-time choir director Tom Williams, who took attendance at choir every Sunday without fail and started that tradition of name-signing that continues today. In 2001, archivist Tammy Royle wrote to Ken Cox that “Of course Tom had a reason for taking attendance each Sunday. He was an athlete so he kept ‘stats’!” 

This kind of methodical, by the book, attitude was characteristic of Tom Williams and extended beyond the attendance ledger. Known for his morning sweeping routine and his systematic daily naps, Tom Williams was said to be a “technician” when it came to music. According to Carol Gunkler, “Tom was a builder. He did it piece by piece. Current Music Director Ken Cox is much more focused on what goes out. He is more focused on developing this wonderful sound and getting it out to the congregation. I don’t want to say Tom was more mechanical, it was just an entirely different approach.”

Beginning his era as Music Director in 1946 after his friend Carter Davidson signed him up to direct the music and waterfront of the CSA (allegedly against Tom’sTomEmilieChoir wishes) and continuing until 1986, Tom Williams is the longest running director to date. When he began as choir director Tom was already deeply familiar with choral music. As a child his father had directed two choirs with no formal training, and Tom sang in one of them. At 17 Tom came in second in a state-wide singing competition and was asked to join the famous Lima Elks Male Chorus. In college he sang in two church choirs and as a young adult he performed in countless shows and re-founded the Galesburg Community Chorus (and was the deciding vote in favor of inviting African-Americans to be a part of it). By the time he became music director of the CSA he was already the Chairman of the Music Department at Knox College, oversaw both the men’s and women’s glee clubs there, and even had a side job as assistant director of the choir at historic St. David’s Episcopal Church. In his words “The music I could handle, but swimming lessons-even at swimming-I was a novice.”

Although by all accounts he did a tremendous job running the waterfront, based on his musical background it made sense that when he was tapped to step in and become Managing Director in the middle of the season of 1957, he chose to give up the waterfront job but keep the position of Music Director. He led the choir for another 30 years before retiring. At that point, in an effort to find a new music director the board tried out several promising candidates for a few weeks each in the summer of 1987 including Tede Holt, Daniel Brill, and Ken Cox.

Hang on for Part II next week for a look at the choir in the modern age.

Who cares about the Itch?

By Alan Marble - July 19, 2018

Who cares about the Itch? Everyone who loves our beautiful Crystal Lake!

CrystalswimSwimmer’s itch has dominated discussion around the CSA for several years. A natural phenomenon, it is an allergic rash reaction being mistaken for a host species by a nearly invisible parasite (cercaria), which has gone through its life cycle and is searching for yet a new host. One of the links in its life cycle in Crystal Lake is the common merganser, a fish-eating duck that thrives in the lake’s clear, cool water where its brood of ducklings find ample minnows and fry to sustain them.

Enough about the “itch.” What is being done about it? The Crystal Lake & Watershed Association (CLWA) has dedicated hundreds of volunteer hours and thousands of dollars it has raised to research and combat the insidious “itch.” Employing a private sector company, Swimmer’s Itch Solutions, the CLWA has worked with public input to locate, trap and relocate broods of merganser ducklings under a permit from the Michigan Department Of Natural Resources (MI DNR). While the adult hens may very well find their way back to Crystal Lake in the subsequent spring, their ducklings “imprint” on their new location and should return there in following years to breed. Relocation settings are approved by the MI DNR, and are waters near enough to be practicable, but far enough to deter a duckling’s return. These settings lack one or more elements of the complicated lifestyle chain that perpetuates the “itch.” The trap-and-relocate program is in its second year through the CLWA. Click this link to report a common merganser nest or brood on Crystal Lake.

Some simple numbers…

In 2017, 14 broods of mergansers were captured and relocated. A total of 116 ducklings were relocated along with 10 hens. To date in 2018, 16 broods have been captured and relocated, totalling at least 105 ducklings and 7 hens (three broods relocated late this week included an unknown number of birds as of this writing). 

Scientific analysis of snail samples (a key element in the life cycle of the parasite that causes swimmer’s itch), in 2016 showed a ratio of infection in the snails of 1/100 sampled. The sample in 2018 showed a significant reduction, in which only 1 of every 350 snails sampled were infected.

The CSA has worked closely with the CLWA by recording statistics on the waterfront that reflect the number of swimmers each day (broken down by morning and afternoon); the incidence of rashes reported (similarly broken down); the wind direction and velocity, and water temperature. Leslie Ritter, CSA Waterfront Director, and her staff have done a remarkable job in documenting these factors on a daily basis for a period of 6 years.

Trying to compare apples to apples, some numbers from two years - 2016 pre-program and 2018 the second year of program.

  • 2016: 1,557 persons reported swimming 109 reported cases of rash/itch
  • 2018: 3,016 persons reported swimming 25 reported cases of rash/itch (from start of season through July 18)kidsCrystal

While this information is perhap a bit anecdotal, taken as a whole it shows that the efforts of the CLWA are working towards reducing the natural phenomenon of swimmer’s itch to an acceptable level. Leslie Ritter told me she was holding her breath when the 4th of July week began, and she was thrilled that the incidence of “itch” remained so low. Parents are letting their kids swim again, and today was a classic reminder of what a unique jewel we are in temporary custody of - Crystal Lake.

The CLWA is hard at work to preserve this resource for generations to come on many levels: the “itch,” the spread of invasive species, working with local units of government to protect sensitive habitats and limit non-point pollution, and so on. If you are not already a member, please join the CLWA to insure the lake’s qualities for generations to come. Come to the CLWA annual meeting this Saturday, July 21st, at the CSA Assembly Building beginning at 9:30 am. You will see many familiar faces, and you will help insure our mutual future.

Unsung Hero - Doug Fuller

By Beth Wolszon - July 7, 2018

Do you regularly interact with the CSA community on our Facebook page? Maybe you’re excited to see a cool CSA picture on Instagram. Or perhaps the calendar and white board photo on the CSA website, or the weekly “what’s happening” emails, help you plan your time at the lake. All of us who enjoy being able to engage digitally with our CSA community year-round owe a big thanks to Doug Fuller.

It’s been almost 15 summer seasons since Doug took leadership of what was initially the CSA Website Committee. Would you believe there was some controversy over the CSA even having a website in the 21st century? Doug provided balanced and thoughtful leadership to demonstrate that having a digital CSA presence would not diminish the traditions and enjoyment of being physically present at the CSA.

DougFullerDoug not only provided leadership for the committee, he did much of the technical work to create the initial site, with valuable assistance from Peter Buzzell. Doug did research to find the right platform to allow everyday users to create and manage a high-quality website without the experience of being a web developer. He toiled for countless months to give us a nice initial site, with very little investment.

Once the site was up, initial traffic was light due to the CSA’s requirement for a password to protect our privacy. But Doug was able to help CSA leaders get comfortable with fully opening the site, which put us on the path to where we are today, and where we can be tomorrow.

Doug worked diligently with our committees to get content onto the website and keep it current and up to date. It wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t perfect, because he was asking for more time from dedicated CSA volunteers with very busy lives. So, what to do?

He found a different path. He told the Board of Trustees we should focus our effort on the CSA Facebook page. He was right once again. Through Facebook, Doug was able to offer a forum for CSAers to interact year round. And the statistics he provided to the Board built confidence that the addition of digital media was good for our community. By then we were using YouTube and Twitter, with Instagram to come.

Just a few years ago, Doug recommended to the Board that we change our technical web platform from Word Press to Joomla, to give us more and better capabilities. Who did the bulk of the work to make the change? No surprise, it was Doug.

He demonstrated that he was a visionary leader when he recommended that the “Website” Committee be changed to the Communications Committee to better represent its evolved role. Doug understood that we needed to fit into the communication options being used every day by our community—both while here at Crystal Lake as well as wherever we are in the world.

With more parents working and busy families, fewer people can be here all summer. But they still want to feel a part of the community. They still want to engage with the community. And they want transparent communication about what is going on within our community and our governance.

Doug resigned from the Communications Committee when his wife, Sharon Elliott Fuller, was diagnosed with a serious illness. But he supported the successful trial of a communications intern in the summer of 2016. Holly Freeburg succeeded him as chair of the Communications Committee that summer. She was able to prove the value of the communications intern and expanded it in 2017 and 2018.

We lost both Doug and his wife Sharon in 2017, much too young and much too soon. It was a very difficult loss for their daughters Crissie and Kelsey, and their son Elliott. It was also a very real loss for our community. We honor his unsung service to help us maintain an energetic and engaged community far into the future.

There are any number of words to describe who Doug was: dedicated, hardworking, effective change leader, someone who thinks outside the box, friend, nature lover, nice guy. But he was also very much an unsung hero around the CSA and we could not think of a better person to kick off our new unsung heroes series than Doug, who will be missed terribly not only taking the stage during the operetta, but as someone who always had a kind word and advice.

If you would like to read more about Doug and his life, click on this link to his obituary.

And if you would like to write a piece about other unsung heroes at the CSA—both past and present—we would love to hear from you. Submit your story to the Communications Committee at . (It will be edited for content, spelling and grammar.)

CSA Traditions

By Julia Davis - August 19, 2016

As Tevye passionately states in the beloved musical, Fiddler on the Roof, “without our traditions, our lives would be as shaky as…as a fiddler on the roof.” Here at the CSA, this is something we live by. As times change, our traditions come and go. Let’s take a look back at some CSA traditions of the past.

The Monday night children’s dances have seemingly gone on since anyone here at the CSA can remember. But when Jane Cooper was young, there would be social dances for thehigh school and college students after the children had cleared out on Monday nights. Music was played from a record player, and there were chaperones that would sit around the edges of the community room in the Assembly Building. Jane was there during some of the earliest days of rock and roll, so the music was still relatively traditional, and they would dance to songs like “Blue Moon” and “Stardust”. Square dancing on Wednesdays was another hugely popular tradition during that time. “Everybody knew how to square dance,” Jane recalled. “And you wouldn’t have thought of not going.” Just like in the film “Dirty Dancing” dancing was a major part of the social life at the Assembly in the 1950s, but faded out around the 1960s when it became less popular.

However, the teen dances had a resurgence in popularity in the 1970s through to the early 1990s.  In the 1970s when Holly Freeburg was a teenager, the dances were huge. She remembers hearing “Smoke on the Water” and everyone stomping on the floor so hard that it felt like the floor might open up and swallow all the revelers. Up through the early 1990s the teen dances continued to be an Assembly staple. Ginanne Brownell Mitic recalls a DJ out of Traverse City –who went by the moniker Moby Disk – playing all the 1980s hits, including “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” by The Police and “You Spin Me” by Dead or Alive. Teens from the CSA and the surrounding community would come to these dances, so it was a great time to make new friends and spend time with old ones.

Another tradition Ginanne remembers from growing up in the 1980s was the “Come as You Are” pajama parties, where the youth activity leaders and volunteers would surprise kids early in the morning, dragging them out of bed to go for breakfast at one of the beaches or in the Assembly building. The youth leaders would call the parents the night before to make sure their kid wore something appropriate to bed, but Ginanne recalls one time when one boy’s parents either forgot to tell their son or couldn’t convince him to wear pajamas to bed, which caused major embarrassment when all the kids showed up to pick him up the next morning and he wasn’t wearing anything. “They were fun because of the element of surprise…that you knew it might happen in the summer but were never sure which day,” Ginanne recalled. Another traditional youth activity from further back in time was going hiking on “The Crater”, a large, sandy, bowl-shaped area on the top of a dune overlooking Crystal Lake. Kids would pack a meal and then trek out to the Crater to eat and play games like Capture the Flag. There also used to be overnight hikes for middle school to high school students, led by the youth leaders. They would hike near Point Betsie, or even go as far as South Manitou Island to camp. Jane remembers bringing an army-style blanket roll for these overnight trips instead of a sleeping bag.

On the ball field, the bachelors vs. married men softball game that we’re used to having as part of the Fourth of July festivities used to be a weekly event. Another ball field event Doug Fuller recalls was the annual Mallory vs. Clemens family football game. There were many additional rules to the game, aside from the basic set. The most important rule was that the game had to end in a tie. Doug remembers seeing one team dancing with each other on the field while they were in the lead in order to let the other team score a touchdown and thereby even out the score.

The typical day-to-day CSA uniform are comfy shorts, a t-shirt, and very sandy flip-flops, but back in the day church wasn’t the only thing people dressed up for. The Women’s Association used to host traditional bridge games, for which formal attire was a must. The women had to wear white gloves and dresses, and they would have proper tea served on a silver tea service. And on Sundays, nobody used to swim after church. Instead, people remained in their formal church attire and would usually go to Sunday dinner at the Dining Hall (now known as the Assembly Building). 

Our traditions are what keep us coming back to the CSA year after year. It’s comforting knowing that next summer, people will be sitting at the beach in the same spot they always sit, that there will be potluck dinners, operettas, and old friends.

The Women's Association: Past and Present

By Julia Davis - July 21, 2016


The Women’s Association has been a staple of the CSA for over a century and has been running the art fair since its inception 38 summers ago. But times have changed with many women (all CSA female members are automatically members of the Women’s Association) no longer able to be at the Assembly for the entire summer nor able to commit to taking a board position within the group. Recent bylaw changes have transformed the organization into one that solely funds events rather than hosts them. I talked to Susan Baker and Sandra O’Neal, the current co-chairs of the Women’s Association, about the challenges the Women’s Association faces, how they fill leadership positions and their favorite anecdote from their time serving the Women’s Association board.


What is the history of the women’s association and why was it founded?

Sandra O’Neal (SO): I do not know why it was founded, but at that time it was very common for women in church groups to gather together for the purpose of both social activities and volunteering.


All women who are members of the CSA are automatically members yet it seems like many women do not know this and are surprised when they are told this is the case.

Susan Baker (SB): It doesn’t matter how many times you say something; it doesn’t necessarily sink in until you’re ready to hear it. It started as a social group, a service group, a way for women to get to know each other. As women’s lives have changed and families’ lives have changed, that has also changed. A few years ago, there was a bylaw change for the Women’s Association. Now there are a few things that the Women’s Association specifically does and the art fair is the biggest one and essentially our reason for being. The wonderful traditional things the Women’s Association has done for decades, like Lemonade Sundays, art workshops, and programs for children are now done on an ad hoc basis. If you’re interested in having something done, you approach the Women’s Association by filling out an application on the website, asking for funding, coming up with your idea of how this could happen.


So it’s primarily an organization for ad hoc funding.

SB: Yes and that also opens the door for new and wonderful ideas to come forth such as the Ecology Fun program.


I know you give a lot to Ecology Fun, but where else does the raised money go?

SO: We fund four specific categories: donations to charities in the community, scholarships, one- time projects like the butterfly garden, the defibrillators and pickle ball equipment, and on an annual basis programs including potluck dinners. See the full list here.


How important is the art fair and Cottage tresaures to the Women’s Association?

SB: It’s one of the biggest community events the CSA does. I love the fact that so many of us have things in our cottages that came from probably 10 other families in the CSA because of Cottage Treasures. And the fact that if you have somebody come over for dinner, there’s a fair chance that when you put that serving bowl on the table, somebody’s going to say, “You know, that’s my aunt Molly’s!”


How do you foresee the Association’s future?

SO: We are at a point where we need to ask questions about the ongoing viability of the Women’s Association. Not the ongoing viability of the Arts and Crafts fair, which can keep going on run by a committee of the Trustees. But the Women’s Association for the last decade has had more and more difficulty getting women to commit to serving on the board and considerable difficulty getting leadership positions filled. This is Susan and my last year as chairs of the association and we have spoken to at least 60 women about taking on these roles and have been unsuccessful in finding anyone to do so. That alone is not a reason for the association to dissolve but over time there’s simply been less and less interest. Our leadership team asked Beth Wolszon and Jennifer Daly, the past president and vice president of the Board of Trustees, to consult with us this year on the future of the Women’s Association.


Any fun Art fair anecdotes while you were co-chairs?

SO: I had to adjudicate a conflict at Cottage Treasures in which two men had bought the same canoe at separate cashier stations. They both went to pick up the canoe, and one picked up the stern and one picked up the bow and they both looked at each other and I was asked to sort this out. I said to the two men, “would a coin toss satisfy you?” And one of them produced a coin and flipped it and walked away with the canoe and we gave the other one their money back, but it was a great illustration of the fact that we have terrific values at the fair.

Ken Cox on Raccoons, Buoys and "South Pacific"


By Julia Davis - June 16, 2016

If the CSA has any living legends, then Ken Cox is certainly one of them. Even before becoming director 15 years ago, Ken was known around the CSA not only because he was the athletic director for over two decades but also because of his numerous roles in the operettas and directing the choir. A lifelong CSAer (he used to work as a college student at the now defunct gas station behind the Crystal View) on the off season Ken was a professional opera singer for 20 years. He now chairs the voice department and is the director of the opera theatre program at Colorado’s University of Denver. CSA communications intern Julia Davis spoke with him about getting the CSA ready for summer, chasing raccoons out of cottages at 2am and his most memorable operetta. Excerpts:

How do you get the CSA summer ready?

In February, I call the chairs or directors of the programs and we discuss employees for the summer. Contracts usually go out in early March to about 40 people. I’ll probably get the choir music together this weekend, and next week I’ll have a clean up party at the meeting house. I’ll probably have about a dozen people come out and help. Every summer it seems like people show up who don’t know somebody else and so they’ll start talking and figure out how their families go way back [and] it’s fun just listening to the conversations.

What do you think is the most difficult thing to do in the preseason?

In terms of hours and labor, getting all the buoys out for the sailboats and the motorboats, and getting the lifeline out. This year I’ve got a brand new volunteer - Jason Burt, one of our youngest trustees, and his dad, Jay. That’s a big job, working in the cold water out there, but they’re just going at it. The more people I can get involved helping at the assembly, the greater sense of community we have.

Is being the managing director a 24-hour job?

It is, but not working all the time. You have to be on call. Some summers ago, I got a call around 2am about a raccoon in a cottage. So, I went over there with my long-handled-fishing net. They had a dog that was barking and there was this poor little raccoon all curled up in the corner like, “please don’t eat me, dog.” I dimmed the lights and the raccoon started to relax and I tried to feed it a little bread. But it was pretty traumatized, so I very carefully helped it into the fishing net, opened one of the windows, put it out on the ground and it happily walked off into the woods.

How has the CSA changed over the years?

Some traditions we don’t do quite the same way anymore. For example, on the 4th of July we would have games on the ball field, which we still do, but then afterwards half of the field would be taken up with people sitting on their blankets and eating picnic lunches and just visiting with each other. Some of the activities have changed, some have disappeared, and we’ve got some new activities. I once [overheard] one young dad saying to another, “You know, there aren’t places like this anymore.” And I thought, “That’s exactly right.” The Assembly really is a place that time has forgotten.

Tell me a bit about your career as a singer.

I went to Wheaton College and was a voice major, but I was determined to not sing opera. I couldn’t believe that people wanted to be involved in opera because it was so archaic. I ended up winning the National Association of Teachers of Singing central regional auditions as a junior singer. People came up to me afterwards and they told me what a great operatic career I had in front of me, and I was like, “Oh no, opera.” But my voice teacher took me to an opera in Chicago, and I was mesmerized by the voice of the dramatic soprano. So when I did my Masters at Indiana University, I did a lot of opera. I went from the smaller regional U.S. companies to the larger houses in this country, and then to singing in Europe. I sang and travelled for 20 years. Cindy and I got to see the world.

Do any highlights from traveling the world come to mind?

Oh yeah, a lot of them. I sang in Sydney, Australia [in] a wonderful production of “The Return of Ulysses” by Claudio Monteverdi. It was right around New Years, and I remember being invited by the mayor to be his guest on the patio of the Sydney Opera House. There was the most amazing fireworks display I have ever seen.

Which operetta sticks out most to you?

I’d have to say the first time we did “South Pacific” in the early 1980s. Molly Sturges, a 15-year old at the time, showed up for the tryouts. She sang the song “I’m Gonna Wash That Gray Right Out of My Hair” because it was a commercial for Clairol hair coloring. We gave her the part because she was so good. I was directing the music and singing the lead. I used all of my friendships [to get people involved], so we had a great chorus. We had guys you would never normally see up on stage. We did two performances and every seat inside was taken; people were crammed in the pews, sitting on the windowsills and it was about five deep all the way around the outside with people looking in. That’s the one out of all the others that stands out for me.