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MMD > Archives > March 1997 > 1997.03.17 > 15Prev  Next

Berry-Wood A.O.W.
By Matthew Caulfield

The recent interest in the Berry-Wood model A.O.W. now in the De Bence collection leads me to mention that, when I was in my early 20's, this very machine (it is a one-of-a-kind) was brought to Seabreeze Park (then Dreamland Park) in Rochester, N.Y., as a side acquisition by the park's owner, George W. Long, as part of his purchase (from somewhere; if I ever knew where, I quickly forgot) of a large pressure-operated band organ, perhaps an Artizan or a BAB conversion.

The Berry-Wood came with only the one 10-tune roll that was wound on its roll frame. Nobody seemed all that interested in trying to get any music out of the machine. The drums were missing as was the motor and round leather belting to drive the rotary pumps. But the piano, the violin and flute ranks, the wood and the metal xylophones, pumps and reservoir were all intact.

With a minimum of work, consisting of laboriously cleaning the bodies of dead honey bees and the like out of the primary valves, lightly buffing the surfaces of the solid rubber valve units, having a piano technician bring the piano back into tune (or as close to the mark as he thought the strings would tolerate), replacing essential missing or deteriorated components, I got the A.O.W. to render acceptable music when a nickel was dropped into its coin chute.

For the next couple of years the instrument raked in a respectable volume of nickels from the curious public, although park personnel quickly tired of hearing the same 10 tunes played hour after hour. Today I remember only that tune 10 on the roll was a cute rendition of "Barney Google."

At the end of its two-year sojourn in Rochester, the A.O.W. was sold to Jake De Bence. I never saw the instrument in Franklin, Pa., and I don't know whether any more rolls than the one was ever found for the A.O.W..

Knowing now how rare the instrument is, I only regret that, while in the park the A.O.W. case was butchered to the extent of cutting a hole in the door covering the tracker bar in order to make a window there so the public could see the machine operate. The things we do when we don't know any better.

Matthew Caulfield

(Message sent Mon 17 Mar 1997, 19:00:14 GMT, from time zone GMT-0500.)

Key Words in Subject:  A.O.W, Berry-Wood

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