Sometimes it seems that the Castle calls back its own, drawing people to it who have a past connection. Gail, a Historical Tour Guide, is no exception to this. Born one of 6 daughters on a local farm, her family was intertwined with those who worked at Loeb Farms. Her grandfather worked on Loeb Farms during the construction and is listed as the electrician. Her uncle used to pick mustard for the Loeb nurse and fished for trout out of Loeb Creek. During the heydays of Castle Farms Music Theater, her father served as Marion Township Supervisor and would visit with then owner Art Reibel at the venue to discuss concerts, rules and regulations.
Gail meanwhile, grew up on her family’s farm and was sad to watch the roofs on the Castle buildings and towers cave in over the years. She went on earn a degree in Medical Technology and worked in health care for many years. She taught Chemistry and Biology to nursing students and taught career preparatory activities in the local school district. She also worked at the Community Reformed Church with the kids, and it was there that now General Manager, Anora O’Connor, found her. Anora was a wedding coordinator during the era when Gail’s son and his wife had their reception at Castle Farms, near when it opened to the public under Linda Mueller’s ownership. She asked if Gail would be interested in working as a Historical Tour Guide at the Castle, leading groups of people through the buildings and telling the fascinating history.
Gail joined the Castle team in the spring of 2013. Knowing a thing or two about farms and hearing bits and pieces of history from her family, Gail wasn’t a stranger to some of the stories of the farm complex. However, being a lifelong student, she dove into research by reading books, researching online, and talking to her dad about some of his memories. She also learned from the other guides, listening to their stories and adding to her own knowledge. “There’s always more to read and learn” said Gail.
She doesn’t restrict that learning to research- every day, every tour, Gail learns something from the people she guides. One gentleman spoke with her about working with loose hay in a loft, something that Loeb Farms had in common with his farm. While the Loeb Farms system used hay rakes and a track system, with horses, pulleys, and large wooden “rakes” to gather loose hay and carry it to a loft, the system he described, a complicated system for large barns, included a blower to move the hay and a central cylinder to deliver it to the horses. While the farm he mentioned likely existed a bit later in the 1900’s than Loeb Farms, it still excites Gail to learn from guests. “People like to tell you their stories, too” she says, drawing the parallel of her telling the story of the Castle to guests. This two-ways street of knowledge enriches everyone.
Gail and her husband Eric have been married 41 years. Their son and his wife live in Petoskey and their daughter and her husband recently moved back to the area, so Gail and Eric get to spend lots of time with their family. An adorable grandson completes the package. She loves to hike and read, though she admits to not doing either as much as she’d like. She recently returned from an Alaskan cruise with her 5 sisters and mom- an experience she’ll treasure always. Other travel destinations include Paris, Israel, and Morocco.
Gail’s favorite part of work is to share the diverse history of the farm with people who are truly interested and genuinely excited to hear the stories. Maybe she’ll get to hear a good story, too.