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MMD > Archives > August 2010 > 2010.08.24 > 02Prev  Next

Lake Compounce and Idlewild Park Band Organs
By T. J. Fisher

Kent Zacherl wrote about the condition of the band organ at
Kennywood Park.  I'm disappointed but unsurprised.  I have not yet
been to Kennywood, but I have been to two other parks acquired by
Parques Reunidos.

The band organ at Lake Compounce was not in the best of shape when
I was there last season.  It wasn't completely in tune to begin with.
There were also some strange musical blips.  I couldn't tell if there
were intermittent tracking issues, dropped notes, or what, but it was
The carousel at Idlewild Park has two organs, a Caliola and a Wurlitzer
behind a much larger Artizan facade.  The Caliola was playing alright,
although I had to ask more than once for it to be turned back on after
a shift change left a teenager in charge.  As soon as he came he shut
it off and turned on a Top 40 radio station instead, and the Caliola
was turned back on only after I offered to stop by Guest Relations for
him to make sure his superiors approved of the radio.

The other organ is in much worse shape when I visited.  The National
Carousel Association lists it as a Wurlitzer 103, but it doesn't sound
like the 103 at the Martha's Vineyard Flying Horses or any 103 I've
heard on YouTube.  You can bet your bippy that none of the employees
were able to tell me a thing about it.

Whatever the instrument is, I think it's possible that it might be the
very worst mechanical instrument I've ever heard, and I've heard quite
a few.  I'm really not sure exactly what the problem was it was so
terrible.  It was nowhere near in tune.  There were more dropped notes
than ants at a picnic.  The pipes were voiced so softly that the drums
utterly overpowered them.

The second or third time through the roll I started recognizing little
snippets that sounded like songs I was familiar with sandwiched between
what could have been anything.  I honestly wondered if the roll was
put on the spool upside down or something like that or was of the wrong
scale.  I'd like to think that the organ received some kind of care
over the winter, but I'm not hopeful.

I can't speak to Kennywood, Castle Park, or Story Land, but my
experiences with Lake Compounce and Idlewild don't tell me good things
about how Parques Reunidos treats its band organs.  I did not visit
either of those parks before they were acquired by Parques Reunidos
so I don't know firsthand how these organs were before, but Matthew
Caulfield writes, "Those former owners and Tony would never tolerate
the situation Kent Zacherl describes [at Kennywood]", and I imagine
it was once much the same at Idlewild.

When I heard that these parks had been acquired by Parques Reunidos,
I was worried.  Companies and managers with their roots planted firmly
near their properties, having owned the same parks for years, seem to
have trouble enough keeping assets like band organs in good shape.
I certainly didn't expect that a foreign firm would take any kind of
interest in caring for band organs, and it seems that Parques Reunidos
has not exceed my expectations in this regard.

I say this not out of xenophobia or anything in that vein,
although I do not deny that, viscerally, something about a foreign
conglomerate acquiring parks with 50-, 100-, and even 150-year
histories of ownership by American families does not sit right with me.
I think it's fair to say that I'm no more torqued that a Spanish firm
acquired parks with American history than a Spanish person might be
if an American firm acquired parks with Spanish history.  I realize
MMDigest is an international community, and I mean no offense to
anybody.  I merely think that there is bound to be a disconnect of real
caring over 4,000 miles.

I believe that Parques Reunidos probably sees their American holdings
much less as "real" places than as euros in a spreadsheet.  I believe
that they probably regard expenses like fixing ailing band organs as
unnecessary because doing so will not directly earn them more money.
I admit that some American companies have this same mindset, but there
are some that do not.  I am more inclined to patronize those parks,
such as Knoebels and Seabreeze, which have been owned and operated
by the same families for years.  These families care deeply about
everything at their parks, including (I would even say, in those two
cases, especially) the band organs.  I would be absolutely shocked if
I ever visited either of those two places and found their organs in
anything but good shape.

TJ Fisher
Washington, DC, USA

 [ More about Kennywood at  and
 [ -- Robbie

(Message sent Tue 24 Aug 2010, 09:24:36 GMT, from time zone GMT-0700.)

Key Words in Subject:  Band, Compounce, Idlewild, Lake, Organs, Park

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