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MMD > Archives > December 2010 > 2010.12.21 > 04Prev  Next

Restore America's Carousel Organs
By Bryan Cather

Regarding T.J. Fisher's assertion that "Six Flags, Cedar Fair,
and Parques Reunidos exist for the sole purpose of making money" --
as far as that goes, he's absolutely right.  But the same could be
said, a century ago, for Wurlitzer, Artizan, and Herschell-Spillman,
not to mention the Standard Pneumatic Action Company, Pathe Freres,
Sopwith, Studebaker...

Today, a dedicated and enthusiastic core group of people have both
a profound appreciation for and almost unrealistic attachment to the
products of these firms, and hundreds of others like them.  But, to be
frankly honest, each of these companies designed, built, and sold their
products with the sole intention of making money.

To do so, they had to make a product that was of sufficient quality
and reliability to compete with the other similar products on the
market, and to be able to sell it at a price that would be affordable
to their customers, while turning sufficient profit.  When demand for
a product dropped sufficiently, the product either changed to meet the
changing demand, or the product was discontinued.  "Artistic merit" has
more to do with advertising hyperbole than business decisions.

To get back for a moment to the amusement parks -- in many cases,
the amusement park industry in the USA is not doing terribly well.
Couple the increasing cost of new rides (as roller coasters and other
attractions grow exponentially larger and more complex) with the costs
of insurance (even with every safety feature possible, if something
disastrous DOES happen, it may shut an attraction, if not an entire
park, down for months), plus salaries, taxes, etc, and the end result
is a surprisingly tight profit margin -- if there even _is_ a profit.

There was a time in this country, when amusement parks _were_ money
makers.  The original Six Flags park was intended simply to generate
quick cash needed to finance an industrial park on adjacent property.
But with the advent of multi-million dollar rides, increasing insurance
costs, and an economy where people balk at spending upwards of $20
apiece for admission tickets, the days of quick and easy income
generated by amusement parks has become a thing of the past.

Does this mean I am content to sit by idly while the carousel organs
in these parks deteriorate and fall into disuse?  Absolutely not.
Rather than place the blame squarely on the shoulders of the park
owners, who, rightfully, have to look at every single object in their
park in terms of dollars and cents -- be it a trash can, a popcorn
machine or a carousel organ -- I think it's time to raise a call for
a dedicated corps of enthusiasts who are willing to "adopt", care for,
and maintain these treasures, in their "natural habitat", to negotiate
with park owners and management to make this proposition to their
economic advantage.

Rather than unfairly throw the burden of investing loving care and
attention to something that's purely an economic variable, outraged
enthusiasts should be shouldering the burden themselves, and do the
loving, caring work needed to insure that these wonderful machines
continue to perform as they were intended, in the environment intended
for them, even after the strict economic viability of doing so has

Bryan Cather
St. Louis, Missouri

(Message sent Tue 21 Dec 2010, 16:15:32 GMT, from time zone GMT-0800.)

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

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