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June 6th: Carousels and Awards

• CATEGORIES: Features • TAGS: .
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My presentation of the Wurlitzer Plaque to the North Tonawanda History Museum Trustees.

I’d like to share with you all the wonderful things I did on my birthday — of parties, food, and lavish gifts — but the present I truly longed for was sleep. So, that’s pretty much all we did. We slept. A lot.

By June 6th we were ready for a busy day. Our first stop was at my great uncle Farny Wurlitzer’s former house in North Tonawanda, NY. It was a beautiful place that was recently purchased by new owners. I won’t bore you with the pictures, but it was fun for us.

After the house visit, as official representatives of the Rudolph Wurlitzer family (I’m his great great grandson), Ann and I were invited on guided tour of the Herschel Carousel Museum in North Tonawanda.

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The front of the Herschel Museum (on a very wet day).

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Doug, Jeff and I are examining a Wurlitzer Carousel Organ that plays while the carousel spins.

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Who doesn’t feel like a kid riding a carousel??

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Of course, we even found a jeep at the museum!

A little known fact was that most of the carousels built in the United States came from North Tonawanda (we were told 99%), constructed by four different manufacturers. One of the music suppliers for the Carousels was Wurlitzer, which created automated ‘military bands’ using punched paper to play different songs. It’s best described as very long punch card. Here is Doug showing Jeff Weiler (Wurlitzer Theatre Organ restoration specialist) and I a master roll.

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We are examining a master roll that contains multiple songs. Player rolls are made from this master. The master is HAND STAMPED!

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A closeup of the player roll and its punched holes.

The Herschel museum has two of the original machines used to create the paper rolls and has spent years re-learning the art of turning a master roll (which might contain several songs) into the paper rolls played by the machines.

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Here’s the master roll dictating how the white paper rolls should be stamped.

Some folks from Ohio wandered into the museum to escape the rain. When they found out I was a Wurlitzer descendant, they wanted to have a picture taken with me. The small woman at the very front is from Taiwan and had no clue what the big fuss was about (I’m not sure what the big fuss was about).

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I’m sure this will appear on facebook somewhere . . .

After the Herschel Museum, we attended a presentation by Jeff Weiler on the history of Wurlitzer Theatre Organs. Just prior to that presentation, I formally donated the Wurlitzer Plaque saved by Nick Arbusio to the North Tonawada History Museum. In turn, both the Mayor of North Tonawanda and a Niagra County Councilman thanked me with proclamations. Unfortunately, neither keys to the city nor a Disney trip accompanied the proclamations.

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The Mayor and I . . . it must have been a slow political day.

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A local newspaper reporter covered the breaking news of our plaque donations . . . It must have been a slow news day.

 

5 Comments on “June 6th: Carousels and Awards

  1. SE Pennsylvania Steve

    It must have felt good donating that plaque. Now it will be treasured by the museum and seen by many visitors for years to come.

  2. mom

    Having heard the mighty Wurlitzer in a theater and in a popular pizza house years ago, I can attest that they were very memorable. May the music never die.

  3. John

    Wow Dave,
    I never knew you were a scion of the great Wurlitzer family.
    I’m a big fan of old theater organs. We have one in our local, renovated, movie theater. They play it on Friday and Saturday nights.
    I’m a Band Organ fan as well so all these old music makers interest me.
    Your comments play down the significance of your heritage, I hope all in jest. You are a descendant of a great part of the USA’s musical history. Bask in the glory, small and fleeting though it may be.

  4. John Hartman

    I bought a 1957 FC150 last fall, and in my research I found your site. I live in the suburbs of Milwaukee. I wouldn’t have a clue about Wurlitzer except for juke boxes in my bar time in beer city. A few years ago at a thresheree there was this 80 year old guy that had a band organ that he built himself. And I’ve seen it several times since. His used the paper punctured rolls but used electrical contactors to activate the air part. After seeing what he built I did some research on it and realized what Wurlitzer did back in the old days. You need to post link to a video to show a band organ, 99% of any people have not a clue of your heritage. I have traveled all over this country and have seen little of it. Your vacation posts and personal experiences are as entertaining as the jeep stuff. Thank you so much.

  5. mmdeilers Post author

    John: Yes, I do appreciate the historical significance. Yet, I try not to take it too seriously. If you can get to the Carousel Museum, talk with Doug. He knows a great deal about those instruments. We’ll be visiting the restoration shop of a theatre organ restorer in Chicago on our way back. It should be an interesting stop.

    John H:I’ve posted links to those in the June 8th post. Good idea.

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