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MMD > Archives > December 1998 > 1998.12.03 > 10Prev  Next

Strange Lightweight Pianos in Transportation
By Dean Randall

Mike Kinsler asks:

> Did the following pianos exist or are they mis-remembered details
> of news articles and/or fictional?

Probably yes... and then again, perhaps yes.

> The S.S. United States, which was built in around 1952, was designed
> to be exceptionally fireproof.  It was said that the only wood in the
> ship was the chopping blocks in the kitchen and the sounding board in
> the piano.  It seems to me that this piano was something special in
> this regard.  Does anyone know anything about it?

Could it possibly have been a Story & Clark, the model with the sheet-
metal case attractively veneered in Hide of Nauga?  (They're rapidly
becoming extinct, you know.)  Seems to me there was another
manufacturer (Wurlitzer perhaps) who made something similar about that
time.  Most of the action parts would have to have been made of wood as
well.  Perhaps a bit of hyperbole in the description?

> the Hindenburg or Graf Zeppelin -- might have had an aluminum piano
> in it.  True, false, or what?

An aluminum Bechstein.  According to a BBC short-wave program a year
or so ago, the piano still exists and is in the Zeppelin museum in
Friedrichshafen.  It was apparently removed from the Hindenburg
sometime prior to the unpleasant incident in Lakehurst, NJ.  BBC played
a few seconds of a recording of the instrument.  Sounds like a piano.

As a sidelight, the company, Zeppelin, continues to be aluminum fabri-
cators (their original product) and are working on re-introducing
lighter-than-air vessels for special purpose use.

> ... an airliner in which an electronic organ had been installed for
> the entertainment of the passengers.  The instrument was bolted to
> the floor in the front of the cabin, and I suppose you had to sit
> there and listen to Vaya Con Dios, My Darling whether you wanted to
> or not.

Sheesh!  That, coupled with the airline food, is enough to make
one take the train.  But at least it wasn't an accordion playing
"Lady of Spain".

> Now, somewhere in my increasingly fuzzy memory is an image of a
> piano in that passenger lounge that was installed in the first of
> the Boeing 747 jet airliners.  You might recall that there was a
> spiral staircase in the cabin that went up to the lounge.

I believe you're thinking of the Boeing Stratocruiser, a bit earlier
than the 747.  I believe also that none survive.  I recall that the
lounge was _below_ the passenger compartment, forward of the baggage
area, and yes, with a spiral staircase.  As I understood it, the piano
was something on the order of a Wurlitzer Butterfly Grand.

I _think_ (dangerous to rely on a memory such as mine) that some-
place there existed a special ViewMaster reel set (not uncommon for
Boeing and other major companies) detailing the splendors of the
Stratocruiser, and with a view of the piano.  Sorry, I don't have the
reel(s), only the one issued for the 747 in the 1960s.  (No lounge,
no piano.)

Sorry also not to be of more useful assistance, but hey! I tried...

Dean Randall - in soggy Tacoma, 20 miles from Boeing Field.

(Message sent Thu 3 Dec 1998, 07:40:57 GMT, from time zone GMT-0800.)

Key Words in Subject:  Lightweight, Pianos, Strange, Transportation

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