USA from the Southeast to the Northeast
By Hauke Marxsen
|Dear members of the "Automatic-Music-List",|
My wife and I, we have done a 4 weeks-trip to the USA in May this year. We travelled from the southeast to the northeast of the country. We did a lot of sightseeing. 50 percent was under the aspect of automatic music.
Beatrice Robertson (active member of this list and the MBSI) - most of you know her - wrote us following message:
> I'm glad to hear that you arrived home safely. Are you going to write
> something about your trip in the Digest? I'm sure your observations
> would be of interest to the group. We get used to our American views of
> our country and our collections, and your point of view would be very
> interesting to us. I will look forward to seeing something.
That reminds me a little bit on my school-time (more than 35 years ago). After some holidays the teacher has told us: "Folks, write what you have done or what have you seen in your holidays". So we always had some work to do. I started this letter a few weeks ago and added some ideas, whenever I had time. You must know, it's not easy for me, because English is not my mother-tongue.
There is something, I must explain, that we love musicboxes. I'm not a collector in the sense of old, antique machines. I came across the music boxes in 1982, when we met Marion & Harvey Roehl (Vestal-Press) in New Zealand. They told us about their collection and some museums in Germany. A few years later, I started to restore old wooden boxes and put in movements from small (18 teeth) up to medium (72 teeth) size. In all the years I did quite a lot (hobby), my wife, a porcellane-painter, has painted tiles to decorate most boxes, according to the music or special wishes.
Back to the journey:
There were a lot of "Automatic-Music-Highlights" in this trip. Let me start with the prework for the tour. Via Internet we got a lot of informations about museums and collectors in Florida and the northeast of the USA from members of the "Automatic-Music-List". Many thanks to all of you, who sent me e-mails.
In the morning of the 2-nd of May we started from the Airport Frankfurt. Via Newark (near NY-City) we flew down to Tampa (FL). With a rented car we arrived in Sarasota late in the evening. It was only a lowprice car but we where surpriced about aircondition and automatic gears in it. In Germany you won't find those equipements in small cars very often. For us the traffic on your roads or highways was a dream. May be it depends on the speedlimit (55 or 65 miles per hour); at home the fast driving can be a horror sometimes.
Our first activity in "Automatic-Music" was visiting the museum "Cars and Music of Yesterday" in Sarasota. That museum belongs to a Mister Bellm. He was not in his museum. There was only one big room with different machines. We have heard, there have been 3 rooms before. The building needs a little bit colour here and there, but the smaller collection is still immense. It seems to me, that the museum has seen better times. In the museum-shop I bought a 4.5" Thorens disc for the Reuge discplayer I have at home; it will remind me on Sarasota, because it is a black disc; the discs I have are from Reuge and nickel-coated.
A few days later we drove down to Beatrice Robertson. Via Internet we got in contact. It was a drive between 2 or 3 hours. We have seen many wild birds and animals, such as an armadillo on the way to her. Near a petrol-station not far away from her home we stoped and phoned her. She was so nice and picked us up there. She has a wonderful collection of music-boxes. I got some informations about the MBSI and she gave me damperwires for a cyl. musicbox and suggest me to buy some special books about music-boxes. At home I had bought a bigger 100 years old cyl. music box, which needs repair. She gave me lots of advices, while she showed me her workshop and tools to repair movements. It was an unforgetable day.
Through Beatrice Robertson I got in contact with Bill Zuk in Sarasota. He had smaller boxes and some movements to exchange. I phoned him and he and his wife came to our appartment, we had rented on Siesta Key. I had some Thorens movements to exchange and as gifts with me. We exchanged a few movements, but most of his movements where not those I was looking for. The Zuk's invited us to their home. Two days before we left Florida we went to their place. A nice house at the waterside not far away from the center of Sarasota. We gossipped about musicboxes and had muffins and tea. I got a second 4.5" Thorens disc as a gift and some informations about the MBSI, when we left them.
We have send 3 parcels from USA to Germany. The first parcel we have sent from Sarasota arrived a few days ago. We are still awaiting some "goodies". That's always a bit like christmas. We have put in something like the movements from Bill Zuk, cedar-boxes, Jeans and books; because of the weightlimit of 20 kg maximum luggage in the plane.
Time in Florida flew by and we took a plane to Newark (NJ). With a Shuttle we went from the airport to the Alamo-Station to take over our car, prebooked in Germany. Via Gardenstate-Highway we drove to our friends in the north of NJ.
From there we did a tour to Norwalk to the Mansionhouse. It was raining the whole day. Via Internet we heard before, to go to that place only on a sunday; because on sundays members of the MBSI would be there and explain the different musicboxes. We had only time in the week for that museum. Yes, it is better to go on a sunday. The guide has told us a lot about the house but not much about musicboxes nor much about backgrounds. She was also a little bit afraid to damage the boxes, so she played only a few. Out of my view it is a smaller collection but very good presented in a right surrouding. Beside the musicbox-section the Mansionhouse is worth to look at.
A highlight beside "Automatic Music" was the 2 and a half day tour to the Amish-country (1 hour by car west of Philladelphia). Americans call it the "Dutch-Country". But not many American know, that the word "Dutch" (normally Netherland) comes from the word "Deutsch" (our word for German), because the pronounciation is very similar. The Amish-People are not from the Netherlands, they come from Southern Germany, North Switzerland and Alsace (France). They still speak their "Pennsylvania Dutch", which is a sort of Southern German dialect, which my wife could understand partly. We were told, that children still learn High-German, to be able, to read the German Bible.
They are against electricity, cars, tractors, radios and TV-Sets. To see how they work with up to 7 horses in the fields; you feel, to have stepped back more then 100 years. When Amish-people recogniced, that we were from Germany, they were very interested, to hear something about that country. In Intercourse (an overcrowded tourist-place named Kitchen-Cattle-Village) in the Amish-Country we found a very well assorted music-box-shop. The shopowner was so nice and gave me the phonenumber and address of Nancy Fratti. After studying the map, we had to give up the idea to visit her in Whitehall; unfortunately it was to far away from our route; meanwhile she has send us a lot of information about her school for repairing movements.
The last 4 days of our US-trip we were very happy to be guests of Marion and Harvey Roehl in Vestal (NY). Their collection and knowledge is outstanding. They are the founders of VESTAL-Press (books about automatic music). They told us a lot about what is on in the scene and they showed us their published books, CDs and MCs. In the evenings I went through some books and MBSI-journals they have. We bought a few books about music-boxes and got some CD's they have published, as presents. Slowly the idea grew to join the MBSI. Meanwhile I have send the formular for new membership to the MBSI-Reg. office. Beside musicboxes, we hiked, shopped, dined together. We did birdwatching, which my wife loves and went to Corning to the great museum of American Art. Marion and Harvey were explaining a lot to the "KRAUTS" about the American Way of Life.
Bob and Cheri Conant (Endicott, NY) are friends of the Roehl's. They are the Internet-medium between us and them. Before and after our trip a lot of messages went from us via Bob to the Roehl's and back to us. Bob showed us his Bruder Carousel Organ; which is in a very good condition. Bob let it run. If I compare it with other carussel organs I have seen; it lays on a very good quality level. We got homework from him. A christmas stand he owns, has one melody he didn't know. We went home with a cassette with that melody and we have asked some friends. A daughter of an lutherian priest found out what it is.
Altogether we had super vacations, mostly sunshine, fantastic impressions. We met very nice people, incl. our friends in River Vale and Andover and saw fascinating places like NY, Boston, Amish Country etc. Now we are ready to face work and normality, but one of our dreams is furtheron the USA.
Hauke and Mechthild Marxsen / Kriftel / Germany in June 1996
[ Editor's note: Thank you very much for taking the time to write
[ us such a long report. Robbie Rhodes happenned to call me just
[ after your message arrived, asking me some questions about how to
[ transmit the special characters needed to write in German. I
[ took the liberty to send Robbie a preview of tonight's digest.
[ He's responded already (see below).
[ I'm getting ready for another trip and am running out of time, so
[ I've not made any spelling corrections above. I reformatted it
[ slightly though, earlier in the day, and I hope I haven't made
[ a mistake in doing that. Thanks again for the long article.
(Message sent Sun 23 Jun 1996, 19:08:06 GMT, from time zone GMT-0400.)