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MMD > Archives > January 2001 > 2001.01.14 > 05Prev  Next

Mechanical Music at Theme Parks
By Glenn Thomas

Tim Trager's posting was one of the most insightful writings I have
seen on this subject and struck a nostalgic musical chord with me.

As a youngster growing up in Southern California during the 1960's,
I enjoyed Disneyland and Knott's Berry Farm not only for their rides and
attractions, but for the themes of yesterday.  It was the coin-operated
pianos in both parks that started and stimulated my interest in
mechanical musical instruments.

I knew where every piano was.  Most were in special areas (penny
arcade, Fandango Hall), but many were scattered about the parks, often
in obscure locations.  All of the pianos Tim mentioned, plus many
others I remember and probably played hundreds of times.  My pet peeve
was in Fandango Hall at Knott's where 10 to 15 pianos resided and guests
were constantly putting a coin in a piano even when the one next to it
was playing.  Often, several were playing at once making it difficult
to hear the music.  It seemed most visitors were interested in the
mechanics rather than the music.

Disneyland's King Arthur Carousel Wurlitzer 157 band organ played okay,
but the real band organ treat was Knott's where two carousels featuring
four band organs including a Gavioli, Wurlitzer 157 and Wurlitzer 153

One attraction Tim didn't mention was Wonderland Music Co. on Main
Street in Disneyland.  From Disneyland's opening through the 1960's,
Wonderland had a functioning player piano with numerous QRS current
rolls and actually some older rolls available for sale and playing by
the visitors.

Besides Disneyland and Knott's, my interest was also increased by Ross
Davis' Griffith Park and Lincoln Park Carousels.  The two parks had two
Wurlitzer 165 band organs, a North Tonawanda organ playing Wurlitzer
153 music, and an Artizan duplex organ playing both B.A.B and Wurlitzer
153 music.  These organs sported a collection of over 300 original
rolls!  I got part-time jobs at the parks just so I could play the
organs and change the rolls.

Since Tim awakened by nostalgic cells, during the same era, I should
also mention the Wurlitzer 165 at Playland at the Beach in San Francisco
and the Cliff House Collection of mechanical pianos.  What a treat and
feast for the eyes and ears.  I became friends with Bill Smit, who
worked for the Whitney's in SF Playland, and Bill took me into their
store room to see the collection of rolls.  I lost count at over 100
original band organ rolls and 100 coin piano rolls, all original!

As Tim said, I feel very sad that others don't have the opportunity
today to see these exhibits, as most are now in private collections.
Yes, all of the above is why I am in this hobby, and what has given
me a lifetime of enjoyment!

Glenn Thomas

(Message sent Sun 14 Jan 2001, 03:19:02 GMT, from time zone GMT-0500.)

Key Words in Subject:  Mechanical, Music, Parks, Theme

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