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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.

Today our story is for organ repairmen who have no doubt had the same problems as I amabout to relate.

We are in the act of restoring a basket case Wurlitzer 146 and have had more than thenormal problems. We found both bellows had been rebuilt by Ralph Tussing in 1960 and thework was very good, as usual. The rest of the organ, however, was not so good.

After doing the bellows over with new leather, we started the wind chest and found itcracked down the center and the glue had broken loose. Now, this is a common probem withWurlitzer organs, but this one had about a hundred small nails driven through the top tohold it in place. This problem was solved with a new chest top.

The bottom pipes which are usually glued in place with leather gaskets had been removedand glued wood to wood to the bottom and they were in very bad condition. The pipes wereremoved with some unavoidable damage, revoiced, refinished and replaced the proper way.Some of the trumpets had the wrong reeds in the wrong pipes and the reeds bent out ofshape. This is only the beginning of the story—we won’t take up space to finishthe gory details.

My shop foreman and I do not know who did this job, but we both agree he might havebeen wearing a white apron and was an expert with a meat cleaver, as most butchers are.I’m just wondering if any other organ men had one which could top this one, since itis the worst for this shop since 1965.

When I picked up a long metal yardstick to measure some leather, I was once againreminded of my friend coming to the shop and giving me a lesson on measaurements. He wouldtake out his tape measure and pull it out to 70 inches and remind me it represented anaverage man s life. At that point he would put his finger on the inch mark indicating hisage and say, "Look how much I have used up and how long I have left." Idon’t think as highly of tape measures as I did back in those days.

Back at the old New York Central, it was early winter and I was assigned to work withmy agitator friend, Jim, when I reported about two hours late for work. The foreman wouldthen ask why you were late, take out your time card, and mark the time you reported andstamp his signature to the card. When asked for an explanation for being late, I relatedthe following true story:

Just before leaving for work, which was second shift, the operator of the county homeknocked at my door and asked if I could do him a great favor.

The county home had a small pond, and it was covered by a thin skin of ice. Many of theolder women were sitting inside watching as the pet ducks were struggling to walk on theice. They were out in the center and every time they tried to walk they would fall down,causing great concern for the elderly ladies. This is why the manager of the county homewas at my door, asking if I could get my boat out of storage and rescue the ducks so hecould get the little old ladies off his back and get things back to normal. Being civicminded, I brought the boat down and we broke the ice out to the center and picked up theducks. At that time he offered them to me for roast duck dinners, but I refused. He wasnot very happy about the situation and the ducks were not seen on the ice again and thingswere once again quiet at the county home.

Now Jim had walked up as I was telling this story to the foreman, and upon completionof the story, the foreman simply turned around, spit out a huge wad of chewing tobacco andlooked at me for several seconds, which seemed more like minutes. He took out my timecard, looked at it, and again at me, and then said, "Anyone who could think up a(expletive deleted) lie like that deserves a full day’s pay, and if you do not changeyour ways, you will end up just like Jim when you grow up!"

I was late a few times after that, but never again did he ask why.

And so it was at the old round house.

Next Band Organ Note No. 13, January/February 2000
Previous Band Organ Note No. 11, October 1999

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