Three Generations from the Grand Hotel Orchestra to the Grand Stables
By Guest Blogger Kody Harris, Grand Hotel Stables Assistant
The story begins with the 1st generation my grandpa, Eugene Harris, who is one of the finest musicians I’ve ever known. He was born in 1929 and grew up in Flint, MI. He can remember his mother and sisters playing the piano and singing when he was very young. Music was part of his life at a very young age. In grade school he was introduced to many different instruments. He knew exactly which instrument was meant for him, the trumpet. As did every other kid in his class! Because of this, the band leader gave him a French Horn. He played it for a little while and hated it! It wasn’t until the next school year that he heard a student play a saxophone. And so it began…..over the next summer he learned to play one by ear. He became good, very good. He’s played all over the U.S. with countless bands. He served in the Korean War with islander, Robert Gillespie – who is still around, if you’d like to talk to him, you’ll find him up at carriage tours barn from 8:00am-9:00am on most days. On the boat home from Korea, he entertained the officers and fellow soldiers with his world class music. How he acquired a saxophone on the boat? Don’t ask me. Maybe Mr. Gillespie knows… He’s played at Grand Hotel with big bands from Grand Rapids, MI, as well as others. One of the more well known groups he appeared with at the Grand was Jimmy Dorsey and his big band from Chicago. At some point in his career he got to know the Grand Hotel’s Orchestra leader, Bob Snyder, and in the summer of 1994 he played in the Grand Hotel Orchestra. He was asked to come back for a special 18 day engagement in the fall of that year and played for Dan Musser, III’s wedding day.
My father, Gene Harris, is one of the greatest men I have ever known. He was born in 1961. The Harris family moved from Flint to Big Rapids, MI 4 years later. He grew up working on farms in the country side. He loved animals, horses especially. He first came to Mackinac island when he was in high school in 1979 and spent it driving for the Mackinac Island Carriage Tour Co. “Somewhere in Time” was filmed at Grand Hotel that summer and one night my dad went down to the Mission Point Theatre to watch the movie “Superman”. During the showing, the sound went out. A man stood up and started narrating the movie and It was none other than Christopher Reeves himself! He narrated the rest of the movie that night. He went to horseshoeing school in Oklahoma at age 19 and met my mom, Sherry. He became good at his trade. He started shoeing for Carriage Tours in 1989. He was asked to shoe the Grand Hotel’s horses by Pete Lapin. They decided to give Mr. Musser a real treat by giving the Hackney’s some custom “golden” horseshoes ( actually brass coated ). In 1990, Jerod, my parents 3rd child, was born on the island. Pete gave my mom and baby Jerod a ride in the wicker Vis a Vis, pulled by the Hackney team, as a birthday gift to her. She recalls it to be a beautiful sunny day. My dad has many fond memories of the hotel and spending summers on Mackinac island.
p.s. My dad is also a fine and talented musician.
And then there’s me, Kody, the 3rd generation of the Harris family working on Mackinac Island today in the Grand Stables. I was born in St. Paul MN, September 28th, 1996. I was born 6 weeks early and my dad says I could fit in his pocket. The day after I was born he saw an ad on a bulletin board for a saxophone. He bought it and I’ve been playing since the age of 12. No, I’m not a great musician like my grandfather or father, but I secretly hope to one day play with the band at Grand Hotel. Anyway, that’s besides the point. How did I end up here? Well, to put it simply: My last name is Harris. I went to horseshoeing school in Missouri and graduated in the fall of 2016. Prior to that I had relatively little horse experience. I needed to gain knowledge and practical skills in the area of horsemanship, and my dad encouraged me to pursue a job at the Grand Hotel Stables. I sent Mr. Mosley a rather unimpressive resume and asked if he was in need of any help for the 2017 season. I’m not the great horseman my father was and is, so whether I would get the job or not was in question ( at least for me). Mr. Mosley worked with my dad here on the island in the late 80’s and early 90’s and respected my dad for his skill, morals, and work ethic. I suppose, for that reason, I was hired. I couldn’t tell you the first thing about driving horses, harnesses, or any of the like when I first got here. I’ve made plenty of mistakes, but I try to do a good job. Mr. Mosley is an excellent horseman and a great teacher. I’m quite sure there’s no one more qualified for the management position over the Grand’s Stables. I’ve very much enjoyed my time here. I have a great deal of respect for Mr. Mosley. When November rolls around and I’ve worked my last day, I will no longer be able to refer to him as my boss, but I’ll always be able to call him my friend. So, you see, it’s not by my own accomplishments that I am here. There was a legacy given to me. An inheritance, I guess is better word. Proverbs 13:22 says “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children,”Some kids get money, others land. My inheritance? A good name… Harris.
P.S. All my co-workers at the Stables are worth writing about. Shelbie, Mike, Blake, and Jeff are all hard workers and by far much better horseman than I. They all have shown me great kindness and patience. They themselves are good teachers and often give me encouragement. They’re so good at what they do, I have trouble keeping up with the pace they set. Most of them have worked here for years. Also, our interns, Tilly and Zach, are a huge help and make life a lot easier for the rest of the workers. They play a big roll in keeping the place in tip top shape.