A Treasure of Knowledge………. #230A (the 90’s)


   Gary’s elderly friend, Jim White,  was on the telephone, inquiring if Gary would be interested in going to Wichita, and attend a scheduled program put on by the members of the American Theatre Organ Society,  featuring  century 2’s  famous Wurlitzer Theatre Organ.  Gary having attended programs at Century 2 in the past, but was unaware  Century 2,   designed by  John Hickman and Roy Varenhorst,  apprentices of the most distinguished American Architect of the 20th century, Frank Lloyd Wright,  was the only building in Wichita having a large enough area to provide a home for the organ.  To complicate matters, the only time the  theater organ organization can schedule a program, is on an evening when the  rest of the 200,000 square foot convention center is vacant, the vibrancy of the organ being felt and heard throughout the complex.

Gary curious,  discovering an entrepreneur named Richard Simonton, the same Richard Simonton,  who purchased a world war II, naval drafted,  rundown Mississippi riverboat, restoring the Delta Queen to a Mississippi river touring Pavilion.    Purchasing the future Wichita organ,  which was setting idle  the past two years,  in the vacant Paramount Theater in New York City,  for installation in the Los Angles Belmont Theater,  but the Belmont became unavailable.  The members of the American Theatre Organ Society in Wichita approach Simonton and obtain the organ for the new Century 2 complex.  During its storage,  a break in occurred,  vandals set fire to the console.  Not dissuaded,  the organ society, using original Wurlitzer blueprints and schematics,  under took an exact restoration of the organ.  On December 9, 1972 at the Century II, the mighty Wurlitzer,  once again enveloped the atmosphere, breathing life, proclaiming it voice in the world of music.

The scheduled night arriving, Jim’s residence conveniently located around the corner and a ½ block north on Anthony Avenue.  Opal, Jim’s wife,  taking gary aside with Jim absent from the room,  in hushed tones asking that he keep an eye on Jim’s night driving,  that normally she accompanied him,  but wasn’t feeling well and was grateful Jim had someone to accompany him.  Gary soon discovered,  the journey to Wichita would be a history lesson,  Jim enlightening Gary, as a youth, among other endeavors, he  was a theatre projectionist in the era of silent movies and theatre organs, and  how he come to be involved with the theatre organ.  A friend,  who  was a member of  American theatre organ society,  contacted him about having difficulty finding a replacement blower motor for the  organ,  knowing Jim was familiar with an organs functional operation, but more important,  his mechanical expertise in motors, their rpm, and p s i output.  

Gary curious about the organ pipes, posing a question to Jim as to their number.  Jim replying he was unsure, but the pipes were grouped in what they called ranks.  The Tibias rank, sounding the lowest notes,  measuring 16 feet in length and there were 32 pipes in a rank,  the other ranks held pipes as small as 4 inches in length.  The Wichita theatre organ,  being only the second Wurlitzer to have been manufactured to utilize 58 ranks.  and because of the pipe size and number,  Century 2 was an ideal home for the mighty Wurlitzer

The Buicks early arrival in Wichita having a purpose, Jim explaining, he and Opal always stopped for supper at the Country Buffet on West Central Avenue. Gary couldn’t help but notice the age of the clientele, and from past experience, was able to determine in all probability, the quality of the meal would be on the bland side, but he was in Wichita, not for the cuisine, but to experience a Theatre Organ. Gary discovering the inaugural journey, and introduction to the Wichita Theater Organ, was the first of several, the most memorable one, being a presentation of the 1927 silent movie, Wings, complete with the original accompanying organ score. Gary enjoying the time spent with his knowledgeable friend and mentor, amazed that he was a treasure of knowledge in every respect. Jim who was four years older than his father, in some respects, fulfilled a paternal void in his life.


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