Wednesday, August 24, 2011


Al Connable and party guests at the Connable cottage, Gull Lake, Michigan, 1964.
Large snapshot, upper left hand corner:
Front row, left to right:  Alice, Roma Connable (Al's daughter-in-law), H.P. Connable
(Al's brother) and his wife Geno, C.H. in his signature teeth and glasses.
Back row, left to right:  Ann Cain, Al Connable (The Admiral), Bob Cain, Roslyn Frantz
Millar (wife of Kalamazoo Symphony Music Director Gregory Millar).
On tuba:  Fred Ashby.
             For a slide show of all images, click on a photograph to get to a new page.

Alfred B. Connable, Kalamazoo Symphony board member, benefactor, and Kalamazoo's
most enthusiastic booster, played host to many friends at the family cottage on the
north end of Gull Lake.  It was a simple yet elegant white house set under spreading
oak and maple trees with an expanse of lawn going right down to the water's edge.

In the early-1960s, Al acquired a pontoon boat, which was christened the "S.S. A.B.C.".
As soon as it found its home on the waters of Gull Lake, Al became the self-proclaimed
"Admiral".  He dubbed chosen friends "Honorary Captain".

               S.S. A.B.C. Official Document designed by "Commodore" Fred Ashby,
               a talented graphic artist who was married to Al's niece.

The Barge became a floating party platform, the center of Connable capers of all kinds.
Hats were de rigeur, and zaniness ruled the waves...

The S.S. A.B.C. had annual "ports of call" at a number of cottages on Gull Lake, whose
inhabitants  would come out to greet the Barge and its merry crew, sometimes in
costume.  Dori and Bill Lawrence served them tea and crumpets on their dock!   Harold
Jacobson welcomed them in Hawaiian attire, banging a tin drum.  "We made him the
official harbor master, awarding him a certificate.  Hell, just about everybody had a
certificate or ranking..."

"Strange things happened when people were caught up in the 'Spirit of the Barge'.  To be
a barger, one had to be partially nuts.  Nobody knows how it all started.  It just did.
There was no formal process.  We played it by ear."

                                -Al Connable, as told to Tom Thinnes in A MICHIGAN MAN:  
                                 The Life & Times of Kalamazoo's Al Connable, Priscilla Press,
                                 Allegan Forest, Michigan, 1998, p. 302.

Here are photos from two memorable events aboard the S.S. A.B.C. ~
The Mermaid Party, and a Barge Launch & Barbeque.


The mermaids arrive on dry land after hearing the clarion call of the Barge tuba.
A seaworthy Chris-Craft transports the maidens and Neptune himself to the moorings
at the Connable cottage... just in time for cocktails!


      These Barge Barbeques were an annual event.  Pictured in this montage clockwise:
      Ned Woolley, C.H., Joe Brogger, standing on dry land; Gregory Millar with Fauvette,
      Al's standard poodle;  The Admiral (with cigar), H.P. Connable (in striped jacket),
      Ned Woolley (in beret).

Joe was an avid sailor who also had a cottage on Gull Lake.  He credits Al Connable
with saving his life one Sunday morning when a storm blew up.  Joe was in his sailboat
which was badly damaged and taking on water.  The Admiral happened to be cruising
in the vicinity and heard Joe's S.O.S.  With a couple of strong lines attached to the
damaged vessel, the S.S. A.B.C. towed it safely to shore.

"Joe still remembers that I saved his life.  At least, he said I did.  At any rate, I awarded
myself The Connable Cross."   -Al Connable, A MICHIGAN MAN, p. 300. 



                              Barge Badge worn by Honorary Captain Mullen


Al and family moved away from Gull Lake in the 1970s, but fond memories remain
with the people who attended his parties aboard the S.S. A.B.C.  Al sent copies of
snapshots from those years to friends long after he had established summer quarters
elsewhere.  What became of the Barge itself?  It was returned to Pine Lake-- a gift
to a veterans' rehab center located there.

               Al Connable on the S.S. A.B.C. with Gregory Millar (seated), 1965.

                           "Present mirth hath present laughter..."          -Shakespeare

Wonderful stories abound in Al's book, A MICHIGAN MAN:  The Life & Times
of Kalamazoo's Al Connable, as told to Tom Thinnes, Priscilla Press, Allegan
Forest, Michigan, 1998, 338 pages, with over 100 photos, and an extensive index.

Read about Al Connable in the main blog, ALICE'S ARCHIVES:  50 Years of
Kalamazoo Symphony Memorabilia.  Just click on the link to find three articles:

~ Gilmore and the Gruen Plan  (Title Tab)
   Scroll down for:
~ Boulevardiers and Benefactors:  Al Connable and Irving Gilmore "On the Mall"
~ Michigan Man:  Al Connable, Kalamazoo's boulevardier par excellence.  


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