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MMD > Archives > December 2002 > 2002.12.29 > 02Prev  Next

Mammoth Organ & Joyland Louie at Joyland Park
By Gordon Ramsey

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Joyland Park in Wichita, Kansas, is normally open from one or two weeks
before Easter to the end of September.  During the weeks that public
school is in session, they are open on Friday evening and Saturday and
Sunday from 2 PM to 10 PM.  They book a lot of private parties on other
days.  During summer break they are typically open every day except
Monday, opening at 2 PM and closing at about 10 PM.  The biggest
attraction is the wooden roller coaster.

The organ is played any time the park is open, so it gets a good
workout.  Knowledgeable and sharp-eyed visitors will notice that some
features of the organ may not be functional at all times.  The brass
trumpets and some of the other reeds are very temperamental and may
only be used on Fourth of July weekend. Other devices may be off-line
or removed for repair, which is ongoing all year.  Luckily, the organ
is big enough to make plenty of good music even if it is not running
at 100%.

Joyland Louie, the clown figure "playing" the organ, was purchased
in Chicago at a trade show in about 1950.  He was attached to a fake
calliope that played taped music for an Allan Herschell merry-go-round.
This may have been a regular production item, and I have heard rumors
that Louie has twin brothers scattered here and there.  I tried to
track one down in Tulsa, OK, but never did see it.

The Wurlitzer Mammoth organ (actually a DeKleist) came from South
Coffeyville, Kansas, right on the Oklahoma state line, from a health
resort called the Natatorium.  It played in the skating rink.  Before
the great Depression, the rich and famous came to restore their health
in the healing waters, said to contain uranium.  There was a system
of canals behind the building for canoes.  Nothing remains of the
Natatorium today, but the mansion of the Brown family (Natatorium
owners) in Coffeyville is open for tours and contains pictures and
other info about the Natatorium.

In about 1948, Mr. Jess Gibbs, of Parsons, KS, purchased the sorry
remains of the organ and moved it to a building in Wichita for
restoration.  He then sold the organ to the Ottaway brothers, who
were the creators of Joyland Park.  The organ has been in the same
spot for over 50 years, and it only missed one season in 2001.  How
many big organs can make that claim?

The life story of Mr. Gibbs and the story of Joyland would make two
very good books if anyone could accomplish the task.  Just the story of
the organ itself is long and complicated, but I will not attempt to get
into that now.  I'll wait until we get a blizzard or something to get
more written about it.

Gordon Ramsey
Wichita KS

 [ Thanks for the nice history, Gordon.
 [ Joyland Amusement Park
 [ 2801 S. Hillside
 [ Wichita, KS, 67216
 [ tel.: 316-684-0179
 [ fax: 316-684-1478
 [ The URL isn't working just now but maybe it will be fixed soon.
 [ An article about Herb Ottaway and Ottaway Amusement Co.
 [ appears at
 [ A nice photo of "Louie at the Wurlitzer" is at Bill Black's
 [ Photo Album at
 [ -- Robbie

(Message sent Sun 29 Dec 2002, 05:20:23 GMT, from time zone GMT-0500.)

Key Words in Subject:  Joyland, Louie, Mammoth, Organ, Park

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