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Don Stinson's Band Organ Notes
Stinson Band Organ notes are authored by band organ architect and builder Mr. Donald Stinson. Stories includes experiences, past and present, encountered during design and repair of mechanical band organs, along with Don's unique experiences during his early days with the New York Central Railroad.

While in Mexico on service trips I have found things quite differentthan here in the good old U.S.A. On my first trip to Mexico City to set up and conduct acourse on the maintenance and operation of a large model 187 Stinson band organ, I wasgiven a room in a hotel which would be considered third rate here at home.

The room was reserved for three days, and I had the key in my pocket.When I left to go to the organ location the next day I took my suitcase and my tool kitalong with me. It was a long day, and I was taken back to the hotel around midnight.

When I opened the door I found my room was occupied, and the hotelclerk could give me no satisfaction—I was told there were no other rooms in that partof Mexico City. It is a strange feeling to be alone in a city where you cannot speak thelanguage and have no place to go. I could not call the circus where I had come from (now,no smart remarks!), as they were closed down for the night.

I was trying to find a lounge chair to spend the night in when my luckturned slightly better. One of the members of the circus who could speak English walked inwith a Russian ice skater he was dating, and I told him my problem. If you can call itgood luck, I was placed on a roll-out bed in a room with two other people working for thecircus. One of them snored all night, and the other, shall we say, experienced the effectsof eating hot Mexican food, although he slept through it all.

The next morning the circus owner put me in a different hotel, which isanother story to be told later. This was my introduction to Mexico.


Back at the New York Central railroad, things were different. I wasstill an apprentice boy when the electrical supervisor called me out to go with him andchange some light bulbs. Now the electrical supervisor was a very nice old man, butusually he got what he wanted from his men until he chose me for his little job.

When we arrived at the site he told me I was going to replace thefloodlight bulbs in the hundred foot tall tower overlooking the downtown tracks. The towerdid not look one hundred feet tall to me—it looked about a thousand feet tall as Ihad never climbed in anything much higher than the wing of a B-29 bomber when I was in theAir Force.

He told me to put a coil of rope around my shoulder and drop it overthe side when I arrived at the top. It was his intention to tie his end to a bucket withlight bulbs and I was to pull them up and install them. Not wanting to appear like I wasuneasy about climbing, I went up to the top and opened up the first large floodlightcover. As I opened the door, the airwas filled with wasps which had found a small hole togo through and established the light fixture as their home. They were all around me and Ithrew the rope over the side and went down much faster than the trip up.

When I arrived at ground level, Grover proceeded to read me the riotact until I told him why I made the fast trip down. He looked up and we could both see thewasps swarming around the fixture, and he turned to me and said, "Sonny, them thingswon’t hurt you, and I expect you will go right back up there and finish the job youstarted!"

Knowing my job might be on the line, I thought about it for a fewseconds and then refused his order. Even at his age Grover was known to be an excellentclimber, and he also did not go up the tower.

Two days later we had a very cold morning, and he sent another man upto replace the bulbs. He later laughed at the situation and told me the wasps were notmoving much during the cold spell.

It was a real pleasure to be employed at this time in our country, whenthe supervisors were real men who had worked the same jobs before they were promoted tomanagement positions. They knew how to handle men and as I recall, not even one of themwas asked if he had a college degree when he was offered his job.

And so it was in the old round house.

 
Next Band Organ Note No. 9, July/August 1999
Previous Band Organ Note No. 7, May 1999

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