It’s a fun thought to consider that in 1902 the building of the charming Chippewa Hotel was not only a host for overnight guests, but a host for a love connection or two…
Pictured: The St. Cloud Place
Hi! I’m Kortney Lane, guest blogger and granddaughter to Mackinac Island native, Margaret Alice Couls, also known as Googie. Googie was the Island’s very own Shirley Temple. Born in 1922, she grew up on Main Street where her parents owned and operated St. Cloud Place, another charming hotel set upon beautifully terraced grounds overlooking the harbor and Straits of Mackinac. Known for its Operatic Singers and Famous String Band, the St. Cloud Place was once complete and modern in all its appointments and furnished in the Queen-Anne style. Nowadays, this building houses many employees of both the Chippewa Hotel and Pink Pony.
Grab some fudge (or a famous Pink Pony Rum Runner) and pull up a chair! I’ll tell you a few fun stories my darling grandma Googie shared over the years and all the many reasons our family loves to stay at the Chippewa Hotel summer after summer!
The stories my grandma told about her life here remind me of Pollyanna. Their family had maids, fancy and formal meals, and distinguished house guests. She had her own pony to ride on the front lawn, she played hide and seek in their 16 bedrooms, and had countless adventures by just being a kid on Mackinac Island. Can you imagine?
Googie’s dad (my great-great granddad) was Ralph Couls. Ralph served as mayor for two terms and was better known as “Speed”, owner of Speed’s Sport Shop located right downtown Mackinac.
Photographed: Margaret Couls / Ralph Couls
You may recognize this photo below from inside Island Slice Pizzeria. This is Ralph’s father (my great-great-great granddad) mowing the St. Cloud Place lawn in his three-piece suit.
Here’s another connection: Back in those days, Googie’s Aunt Mildred was the pianist for the Pink Pony. Her shift started right after playing piano during mass at St. Anne’s on Sundays. All I can say when I heard that is… well… Cheers!
As a young girl, Ralph would sit Googie up on the piano and she would sing those catchy tunes you might now only hear in a classic black and white film. Years went on and the requests were often “Put on Googie!” She would entertain the Pony crowd singing Barney Google’s “Goo-Goo-Gooley Eyes” and that is how she was coined with the nickname Googie.
Fast-forward to the days Googie worked as a hostess at the Pink Pony. The Chippewa and Pink Pony are always buzzing with unyielding excitement. They provide atmospheres that keep you coming back for more. The sailboat races seem to offer some of the most unforgettable moments. Grandma Googie once witnessed a drunken yachtsmen put a horse in the iconic (and quite tiny) Chippewa elevator and send it up to run wild on the second floor! My theory is it had to be a small pony, but as legend tells it …it was indeed a horse!
Another unforgettable Pink Pony moment? When Googie met and fell in love with my grandpa, Henry Cote, who was the Pink Pony head bartender at the time. He courted her like a gentleman and they were married soon after. In fact, they were best friends with then Chippewa owners Nate and Dorothy Shane. The Shanes were even Best Man/MOH and joined my grandparents on their honeymoon to Scottsdale, Arizona.
The love connections didn’t stop there! My great uncle, Rodger Cote, was a percussionist on the South American (Great Lakes cruise-liner) and one of its ports of call was Mackinac. It only took one introduction to the Pink Pony’s head waitress, Lillian Cornell, before yet another courtship led to marriage. Their wedding was a grand event celebrated all throughout Main Street.
I am certain you feel something magical when visiting the island. My family’s history here helps make it a little extra special. These and many more memories live on.
During our annual Mackinac trip, aunts, uncles and cousins gather at the Chipppewa. Our family tries to book as much of the top floor waterfront of the hotel as possible! This weekend we’re heading to the Chip with 20+ people. None of us would be here if Hank and Googie didn’t meet and fall in love at the historical Chippewa all those years ago. We treasure this nostalgia and will keep returning!
Do you have any connections to the hotel? We’d love to hear about it! If you have yet to visit, I encourage you to pop in the Pink Pony next time you’re on the island. The food is fantastic, entertainment is classic and there are memories (perhaps even a love connection) sure to be made.
Article and photos courtesy of Kortney Lane.
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