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MMD > Archives > March 2007 > 2007.03.17 > 06Prev  Next

Gasoline Engine for Band Organ
By Art Reblitz

When I worked at Svoboda's Nickelodeon Tavern in the 1960s, we ran
a Wurlitzer 105 band organ on a trailer in many parades in towns
surrounding Chicago Heights.  On one occasion, Al decided to use one
of his hit-and-miss engines to power the organ.  I don't remember
the horsepower rating of the engine, but it wasn't very big.  Even so,
either the organ didn't put enough load on the engine, or the throttle
or governor weren't adjusted right, because the engine would fire once
and then miss for several revolutions, almost as if it had no load at
all.  With the drive pulley on the organ constantly speeding up and
slowing down, the music was pretty bad.  I believe Al only tried this

I think I've seen photos of a similar engine driving a carousel, with
a separate pulley and belt for a small band organ.  If this is true,
perhaps the inertia of the carousel put enough load on the engine to
keep the speed more constant while the organ was playing.

Al Svoboda's usual way of powering the Wurlitzer 105 or another small
organ on a parade float was with the type of gasoline engine found on
a lawn mower.  This engine ran hot and was almost as loud as the organ,
but at least the music speed was uniform.  Once he decided to amplify
the organ by inserting a small microphone in front of the pipes,
running the signal through a P.A. amplifier and into bull horns mounted
inside the front fenders of the big Cadillac that he used for pulling
the trailer.  That didn't work either, because the system amplified the
little gas engine as well as it did the organ!

In search of a louder musical parade unit, Al finally bought a Tangley
air calliope mounted in a little parade wagon "pulled" by two big
carousel horses, all mounted on a flat trailer under a big red and white
striped canopy.  I have fond memories of hand-playing that Tangley in
parades all over the far south suburbs of Chicago.  The Wurlitzer 105
is currently in the Tim Trager collection.

Incidentally, Al ran a whole lineup of parade units in many parades:
a bright red EMF with brass radiator (eventually purchased by Retonio
Breitenmoser and moved to Switzerland), an Overland convertible, a
Ford Model T with a squirt nozzle mounted on the radiator cap so the
driver could weave down the parade route spraying the crowds, three
bicycle-powered rickshaws, a bright yellow 1940s Plymouth with two
front ends welded together back-to-back (which also looped around,
down the parade route), and the band organ unit.

This procession was guaranteed to attract people back to Svoboda's
Nickelodeon Tavern after each parade, like the Pied Piper.

Art Reblitz

(Message sent Sat 17 Mar 2007, 13:54:52 GMT, from time zone GMT-0600.)

Key Words in Subject:  Band, Engine, Gasoline, Organ

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