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MMD > Archives > December 2010 > 2010.12.20 > 02Prev  Next

Restore America's Carousel Organs
By T. J. Fisher

I've written here about this issue before, and it is one I feel
strongly about.  I agree that the proliferation of non-playing and
poorly-playing organs on carousels is a major problem.  I don't know
what the lay of the land is at Griffith Park or Corona Park, but I am
afraid that organs have very little chance at many amusement parks.

The primary reason is the attitude of the large companies which
own many amusement parks.  Six Flags, Cedar Fair, and Parques Reunidos
exist for the sole purpose of making money.  I'm sure that nothing
in these companies' business plans addresses history, art, or anything
else like that, so there is no desire to restore band organs from the
perspective of historical preservation, appreciation of art, or
anything along those lines.

Even the common-sense notion that a band organ working correctly
would provide benefits, albeit unquantifiable ones, to customers is
insufficient to persuade these companies.  They seem to be obsessed
with the bottom line.  Since they see no potential direct fiscal
benefits to repairing band organs, they won't be fixed any time soon.

Suppose that someone high up at one park did decide that that park's
organ should be fixed.  Then imagine how many people would have to
justify that expense to the next-highest executive in these national
or multi-national corporations, and it is easy to see why, even if
there was interest in repairing a band organ, it would be a long shot.

Of course, there are some amusement parks which maintain properly
operating band organs.  Canobie Lake Park in New Hampshire, Seabreeze
in New York, and Hersheypark and Knoebels in Pennsylvania come to mind
based on my experience.

What is the difference between these four amusement parks and, say,
Kings Dominion or Six Flags New England?  It is difficult to say
without making generalizations.  There seems to be two attributes
shared by all these parks.  The first is that they are all owned and
operated locally by companies which own no other amusement parks.  The
second is that they all have a dedicated individual to take care of the
organ (at least the last three do: I'm not sure about Canobie Lake).

Band organs have been running into trouble at amusement parks for years
and years.  Glen Echo Park went through a few changes in management and
ownership during the 1950s and ended up being owned by Rekab, Inc.,
which had several other business interests and was not a local company.
They did not maintain the park's Wurlitzer 165 organ well, and it was
in sad shape when the park, carousel, and organ were acquired by the
National Park Service.

I mention Glen Echo to make the point that the ailing band organs
that have been mentioned are not irredeemable.  The Glen Echo 165 was
expertly restored in 1978 and is now, in my admittedly biased opinion,
one of the finest band organs operating in the United States, if not
the very finest.

How, then, can today's large corporations be persuaded to restore
their band organs, and how can appreciation be shown to the amusement
parks which go to the trouble of maintaining their band organs?

I believe that most companies do track the comments and questions of
their customers.  Therefore I try to be sure to make my voice heard
when I go to an amusement park.  I call or email beforehand asking
whether the band organ will be running, even if I know what the answer
is.  It's another communication that shows interest in the organ and
will be logged.

On the way out of the park I stop at the Guest Relations desk and
mention either that my party enjoyed the organ very much or that we
hope the organ will be repaired in the future.  Sure, these are just
two, maybe four communications from me to a park each year.  If we all
did this, maybe one of these corporations would get wind of the fact
that there is interest in the organs.  Maybe not, but it's worth a

TJ Fisher
Washington, D.C., USA

 [ When he's not busy with his high school studies T. J. enjoys
 [ visiting and working at amusement parks such as Glen Echo Park.
 [ -- Editor (Robbie)

(Message sent Mon 20 Dec 2010, 20:04:15 GMT, from time zone GMT-0800.)

Key Words in Subject:  America's, Carousel, Organs, Restore

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