May 2002

Repairs to a Carnival Carousel Band Organ

Recently, Mrs. Stinson and I were reflecting on some early on hard times dating back to starting up the Stinson Organ Company. This situation came to mind that took place while working hard to develop an income to support our new business, and young family. An amusement road show (traveling carnival) contacted us to ask if they could drop off their vintage carousel band organ for repair, asking if we would deliver it back to them after repairs were completed. Being extremely happy for the business, we readily agreed. The traveling show requested that we deliver the band organ to a large city north of Chicago, on a specified opening date.

When almost finished with the repairs, a friend called the shop to ask if we were working on a band organ for a certain show, and when acknowledged, the caller proceeded to offer advise before we took to the road, band organ in tow, for Illinois. The caller claimed he had accepted a check from this show, which was ultimately discovered to have been without funds to back it up. The caller went on to claim that the show had so many outstanding bad checks in circulation that their show office could be wallpapered!

Upon completing repairs to the show's band organ, we rented a small trailer, and drove all night to arrive at daybreak where the show was set up at the City's waterfront. No one appeared to be awake at this early hour, so we parked by the carousel and waited for somebody to show up. While waiting, we heard a person walking, and cussing. Looking about, we saw a woman walking from the waterfront, soaking wet. Thinking she might be in trouble, we asked if she was in need of help, and received an unexpected response. The lady claimed to have been involved in some sort of entertainment on a boat, and when the entertainment concluded she was tossed into the lake? The lady must have been a darn good swimmer to have successfully reached the shore, especially since she might have been inebriated.

Shortly after this puzzling incidence, a few show folks started appearing bringing life to the show grounds. We proceeded to assist the operator to locate the repaired band organ within the carousel's center. The jinny operator was a very polite black man who shared with us that his homeland was Haiti. The operator appeared to be extremely happy that the band organ had been returned in good operating condition, expressing his opinion that a carousel was not complete without live music that only a band organ could deliver.

After finishing up, Mrs. Stinson and I went to the office trailer, and were invited in. We were directed to sit at a card table that was stacked high with cash. The show manager advised that the show would issue a check for payment. I took this opportunity to express I would be happy to sign a receipt to be paid in cash, but was told that the show paid only by check. After several minutes of my telling a sad story about our needing cash to make a purchase on the way home, that is recalled to have been a concoction, the show manager reluctantly paid us in cash. I promptly signed a receipt, and we departed the show office as quickly as we could scoot.

A few years later, the same show delivered and unloaded the same band organ at our shop with a request for additional work and repairs. We were asked if we would deliver the band organ to a southern city when completed, which we again agreed to do. Upon arriving there, the same very polite Haitian man came forward to assist us to locate the band organ inside the carousel's center. He turned it on to let it play without drums as we had not yet unloaded and installed them. When we got to unloading the drum cabinets from the trailer, he picked up two sticks, walked over to the snare drum, and played the drum exactly as would be heard if on the roll. I was very impressed with the drummer's ability, The show manager then walked up, and said the following to me, "When you are finished setting up the band organ, please come to my office to sign a receipt, and pick up your cash payment!"

It seems, that we had established a lasting respect with each other, and the manager appeared to be extremely satisfied with repairs made to the show's prized band organ, and extra support offered by our new company. As for Mrs. Stinson and myself, this recollection is but one of the wonderful memories of the past 35 years that often come to light from within our aging memory banks. We wish it were possible today to remember the carousel operator's name to ask if he might still be in the business, or someplace where we could contact him. It would be rewarding to renew a valued friendship with one of the special show people we came into contact with during our many years in business.

And, so it was in the old band organ workshop.

Next: Band Organ Note No. 37, June 2002
Previous: Band Organ Note No. 35, April 2002

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