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Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Wurlitzer 153 Then and Now

When comparing these two images, it is easy to see that the Wurlitzer 153 Band Organ on display in the window of the Lou Holtz Upper Ohio Valley Hall of Fame in East Liverpool, Ohio, today, is the exact model shown at left in 1970 still playing in the center of the Carousel Pavilion in Rock Springs Park. Identical models, yes, but are they the exact same machine?

I reported in my book and on this blog that the band organs pictured are indeed one in the same. On June 22, 2011, I wrote, “Rock Springs Park’s Carousel Band Organ was sold at auction in 1974. It was purchased by Dr. James Smith of Connecticut. Dr. Smith, an East Liverpool High School alum, collected amusement park machines, especially games of chance, and displayed them in his suburban Connecticut barn.” But upon studying the two images above I noticed that the scenes painted on their facades were not the same.

So what might account for this difference? Well, in the September/October 1983 issue of Americana magazine an article on Smith's collection reported that "Unlike some other collectors, devotees of coin-operated machines usually approve of restoration, refinishing, and rebuilding them." Smith, a plastic surgeon by trade, used his skills to restore many of his own machines, but he also "hired a local artist to decorate them," according to the article.

While the two scenes are different, their themes are roughly the same. Each shows a rural setting with trees, waterways, and North American animals. The decorative screens in front of the louvers and bar-bells depict a nighttime scene of a small village, stone bridge and steeple on the Lou Holtz model, but this same area on the Rock Springs Park model is hidden by one of Bill Dentzel’s military horses in the photo above, so we don’t know what it depicts. I’ve yet to find an image of Rock Spring’s organ in which this scene is clearly visible. In all the images I’ve come across it is either blocked from view or too faded to make out. Perhaps this is why the restoration artist chose a similar theme but did not paint an exact duplicate. It might have been so faded that exact replication was not possible.

In all the articles I’ve read about Dr. Smith’s collection, they mention how he began his love for coin-operated machines during the Depression when as a youth he traveled to West Virginia’s Rock Springs Park. We are fortunate that he did, because if it was not for his love of the park and its myriad of machines we would not have the opportunity to hear the band organ play again back home.

Some other related facts:

In a photo caption from the East Liverpool Review dated Saturday, July 4, 1992, titled, “Sounds of Yesterday, Alumni of Tomorrow,” and showing two sisters admiring a Wurlitzer 153, photographer, Fred Fischer, notes “Cara Goodman (left) and her sister Stephanie admire a 153 Wurlitzer band organ on Fourth Street with their cousin Mike Hill Friday. The band organ was originally used in the merry-go-round at Rock Springs Park. All the children are East Liverpool residents.”

Wurlitzer Style #153 Duplex Orchestral Organ. This type was used on three-abreast carousel's, in open dance pavilions, skating rinks, and other amusement areas.
The machine was made by the Wurlitzer Company of North Tonawanda, New York. It has 54 Keys and plays from paper rolls of music.

Height, with front, 7' 1"; without front, 5' 2".
Width, with front, 8' 8"; without front, 4' 2 1/2".
Depth, with front, 3' 8"; without front, 2' 7 1/2".
Weight, packed for shipment, 1,300 lbs. Requires 1/2 H.P. Motor to operate.
Basses:- 3 Wooden Trombones; three 8-foot Stopped Diapason; three 4-foot Open Diapason; Three 2 foot Stopped Diapason.
Accompaniment:-9 Stopped Flute Pipes; 18 Violin Pipes.
Melody:- 16 Stopped Flute; 16 Octave Violin; 15 Wooden Trumpets; 15 Cello Pipes; 32 Violin; 16 Open Flute; 15 Stopped Pipes; 16 Bell-Bars
Traps:- Bass Drum, Snare Drum, and Cymbal.
Automatic Stops: 1 for Octave Violin; 1 for Open Flute; 1 for Cello Pipes; 1 for Stopped Pipes; 1 for Bell-Bars; 1 for Swell Shutters.

Friday, March 23, 2012

"Big Eli" Ferris Wheel Debuts

On this date, Friday, March 23, 1900, the first “Big Eli®” Ferris wheel debuted in Jacksonville, Illinois’ own Central Park. The new amusement ride was a great success.

In 1906, William E. Sullivan incorporated the Eli Bridge Company by taking on capital investors to mass-produce his wheels. Rock Springs Park would later purchase and erect a 12-seat Big Eli, adding a sign board which boasted that from the top one could “See 3 States.”

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Setting the Record Straight, Part II

I must apologize, Dear Reader, for taking five months to get back to the second installment of the story of Fred Shone. Like Rock Springs Park, it seems I closed down for the winter. I am back, however, and ready to add weekly, if not daily updates to this blog. Stay tuned for a new feature entitled, "This Day in Rock Springs Park History," in which I tell of events that occurred in the over 100-year history of the park based on the calendar date. But today, I must conclude the tragic story of the death of Fred Shone at Rock Springs Park and his great-nephew’s search for him which I began to recount last fall. If you review my blog post of Tuesday, October 18, 2011, you will be reminded of its content. I wrote for the second time of a drowning in Rock Springs Park in June of 1913. Fred Shone, aged 20, drown in the Crystal Pool. Fred’s great-nephew, Sayre W. Graham, Jr., read an earlier account of this accident on my blog and wrote me.

“I saw the mention of the drowning of Fred Schoen in 1913. Schoen was a misspelling; his name was actually Fred Shone (Alfred J) whom, had he lived, would have been my Mother's uncle.”

Graham went on to say that after reading my blog about Fred he stumbled across some papers in his father’s study about the accidental drowning.

“Whoa!” Graham reflected, “I started thinking that Great Uncle Fred wants me to set the record straight.”

It was my purpose last October to help Graham help Shone “set the record straight” by reflecting on the loss as more than just a historic footnote. Graham’s discovery and follow up research shows Fred’s death as a double-edged tragedy, for both the bereaved and the victim.

“I had no intention of bringing this up,” Graham wrote, “because I figured it wasn't all that interesting to anyone outside the family. But then, on the very same day that I read about Fred in your blog, I had to stop by Dad's house to pick up some papers that my sister had left for me. I opened the drawer where the papers were supposed to be and found them, along with a shoe box. Being the nosy type, I had to see what was in the box, and I opened it to discover it was full of old letters and such from my Mother's side of the family. One of the items in the box was a weekly calendar kind of thing from 1913 that my maternal Grandfather, William H. Thompson, had used as a sort of daily journal. This was four years before he married my Grandmother, Flora Shone, Fred's sister. I was flipping through, just sort of scanning it when an entry caught my eye. It was the entry for June 18, 1913. It was an account of Fred's drowning.”

In his brief journal entry, Thompson paints a very real picture of the sadness associated with the sudden, accidental, unexpected and traumatic death of a loved one.

Touched by this account, Graham and his wife, Debbie, set out to “find” Uncle Fred.

“My wife and I spent an hour or so most evenings for the next two or three weeks tramping around in three different cemeteries just randomly looking for him. I finally stumbled across him at Riverview. I then contacted Ruth Stenger, the superintendant at Riverview, and told her what I was up to. She dug up (pun intended) the cemetery records for Fred and a week later she sent me a copy of his obit!” (Read a portion below, right.)

The article goes on to explain that one of Fred's friends, Alfred Patterson, found him and "dove to the bottom of the pool and brought the body to the surface." It was only then that all realized what had happened.

Dr. J.L. Pyle, the park physician was immediately summoned, "all to no purpose as Shone had been dead fully 20 minutes before his arrival." Dr. Pyle and Dr. Hobbs, who arrived later, tried every means of resuscitation known at the time.

"G.C. Severs of Chester, who was seated on the hillside opposite the swimming pool, was the only eye witness to the fatal plunge. He said that the young man dropped headlong into the water, as if diving, and on that account he naturally thought nothing more about the incident until notified of the drowning.”

The obituary concludes with mostly standard details and tells of Fred’s employment as a decorator at a local pottery.

Graham explained, “I had everything I needed except for a picture.”

This he found in an online yearbook.

“I found a 1911 East Liverpool yearbook (Keramos) online and located Fred's picture. Problem was, it was a preview of a reprint of the yearbook that is for sale at Amazon for $80, and his pic was too small to use. I contacted the East Liverpool Historical Society and they scanned his image from a real 1911 Keramos and emailed it to me. I just got it the other day.”

The quote Fred or perhaps his classmates chose for his yearbook photo is taken from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. It is a remark made by a citizen of Rome following Marc Antony's famous funeral oration "Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears.”

Antony concludes, "The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones."

For Fred, let be said, that we remember his goodness nearly 100 years after his death. He is and was well thought of by family and friends by all accounts. He was a local artisan who, like thousands of other workers of the time, was given a day off to relax and picnic at the park across the river. Unfortunately, a fun frolic in the icy spring waters of Crystal Pool ended as all tragedies must.

"But here I am to speak what I do know. You all did love him once, not without cause: What cause withholds you then, to mourn for him? O judgment! Thou art fled to brutish beasts, and men have lost their reason. Bear with me; my heart is in the coffin there with (him), and I must pause till it come back to me."

Additional research notes and images from Graham:

“Alfred (Alf) Shone at Rock Springs - Fred and Flora's father, my Great Grand Father. His name is written on the back of the picture, in pencil, and there are two lines of writing below the name that I can't make out. I think I can see 1888, but I can't be sure. I wonder if the catch basin and wooden planking were there at that time.”

Alf’s obituary.

Alfred (Fred) J. Shone’s Riverview Cemetery Record.

(All images except Image 1 are courtesy of Sayre W. Graham, Jr.)

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Almost Heaven Lincoln Highway

The Almost Heaven Lincoln Highway book I mentioned back on October 7 is now for sale at Blurb Bookstore. The cover of the book uses what appears to be a foggy early morning black and white photograph of the Almost Heaven sign in the front yard of the Rustic Log Home which originally sat at the southern end of the midway in Rock Springs Park. In fact, there is no title font on the book's cover; the sign in the photograph says it all.

A hardcover ImageWrap copy of the book is $75.95 and the softcover is $56.95.

The website describes the book as "an odyssey along the Lincoln Highway with Kass and Eric Mencher as they search for the people and places that shape a complex country in unexpected ways. The Menchers focus on both the mundane and the unordinary, piecing together a nuanced and textured portrait of life along the nation's first cross-country road."

Monday, March 19, 2012

Piece of Rock Springs' History to Be Restored

(The C.A. Smith House in 1910, prior to an addition which was added in the 1930s.)

The Fox Family, owners of the retirement community The Orchards at Foxcrest, purchased the C.A. Smith House last month. The house belonged to one-time Rock Springs Park Owner, Charles A. Smith. It is one of the first homes people see as they enter Chester, WV, from East Liverpool, OH, via the Jennings Randolph Bridge. It is also shown in a number of vintage postcard pictures on the terraced hillside above the lower entrance gate and trolley loop (see above).

In an article which appeared in the East Liverpool Review on February 12, 2012, Jim Fox is quoted as saying, “Driving past this house every day on your way to work, we've seen the hard times that it underwent and we just felt that it was really important for Chester for this home to be restored back to its rightful place. Our main goal right now is just to restore it and to get it back to the point where it's not going to fall down." Fox does not say what might become of the property after the restoration but adds, “We have a lot of different ideas about what it could be used for. After we get in here and start working, we'll have a better idea of what potential there is for what it could be. It's a gorgeous, old home with a lot of history."

I agree and have a few ideas of my own, like perhaps a Rock Springs Park History Museum.

Read the full article here.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Rock Springs Park Now Available on iTunes

Rock Springs Park by Joseph A. Comm is now available for download on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch with iBooks and on your computer with iTunes for $12.99. Book must be read on an iOS device.