A Sampling Of History……#214 (the 90’s)

Deserted Flour Mill from another era

Jim White was pansophical, a person who’s engineering logic was respected by all whom called upon him, Gary distinguishing the 75-year-old unlike anyone he had ever encountered.   A little known communal aspect,  Jim’s induction of proficiency wasn’t limited to mechanical or integral engineering,  but also an intrinsic sphere of many interest.  Jim displaying a vivid knowledge of  history,  literature and the arts, believing its interest to be a depleting trait not found in the new generation, a new circumscribed field of study dictating their lives.   The  Retiree,  his copious years as Anthony’s City Engineer giving him insight to city governmental functioning and acquiring community respect for his many engineering accomplishments, the foremost, the design and installation of three diesel-powered generators as an auxiliary power source for the city of Anthony.

Jim White

Gary’s first experience with Jim,  other than his employment interview at the hospital was one of crisis after the failure of  the hospitals 100 ton Trane Air Conditioning unit.  Gary as Plant Service Manager calling upon Jim after a disclosure a from the Trane Company in Wichita stating they would be unable to make a service call for at least several days.  Jim’s analogy of the quandary when inspecting the boiler room located 100 ton Trane monstrosity was that it had sustained critical damage and in his opinion it was not plausible to even attempt to repair this relic from the past.  Gary immediately surmising  his options asking Jim to accompany him to relate the problem to Jay Jolly the  Hospital Administrator.  The two meeting with the hospital administrator,   the elder engineer calmly addressing the problem and without hesitation responded with an innovative plan,  revealing that his son is a refrigeration air engineers and the owner of a commercial air conditioning company in Midwest City Oklahoma, then offering to place a call to Oklahoma to inquire if his son’s  company had any serviceable used units that could alleviate the immediate problem.  Jim placing the call,  his son’s  company having two serviceable used 60 ton Carrier units,  each unit possessing a pair of 30 ton compressor.  The 75-year-old engineer emphasizing that with Jays approval he could journey and return from Oklahoma with a 60 ton Carrier unit and confident it could be coupled it into the existing system.  The following afternoon found Jim returning from Oklahoma, secured in the back of his pickup was the first of the 60 ton Carrier units

100 ton Trane Chiller

Gary receiving questions of concern from the hospital staff about the air conditioning, relating to those concerned that it would be up and running soon  and fortunately there were two areas not affected with the loss of the main system,  the kitchen and surgery suites,  both possessing roof top units.   With the inoperative 100 ton Trane still in place it was necessary to install the first 60 ton unit outside adjacent to the boiler room,  its proximity allowing access to the circulating pumps water supply line from the idle unit. The first Carrier unit was up and running  two days after arrival, Gary not schooled in welding watched as Jim and Roy Stein completed the pipe welding and wiring.  The next project entertained was the removal of the large Trane unit,  its voluminous size and weight was such, the only way for removal was to employ a cutting torch to reduce the unit into sections and hoist them out thru the boiler room door and with the project Gary experienced a hands-on use of an acetylene torch for the first time.   Expediency was not of an essence for the boiler room installed second unit,  but once completed the two units provided the hospital a cost saving cooling capability.  the two units provided power options, employing 30 to 120 ton, according to necessity, but foremost for Gary  the knowledge there was redundancy,  no longer a lone solitary unit for cooling the 48 bed acute hospital and clinic.

The Arkansas River from the bridge on highway 160 at Oxford

Oxford business district

Seated in Jim White’s Buick journeying east on highway 160,  the elderly man having extended an invitation for Gary to accompany him to Oxford,  14 miles east of Wellington,  a small farming community on the Arkansas River.   The two entering the small hamlet,  exiting north on a dirt road appropriately named Old Mill Rd, soon coming upon a structure of another era, a paddle wheel powered  mill,  Jim mentioning it had been placed on the National Historic Registry in 1983.    The grain mill  was constructed in 1874  on the newly acquired land which was ceded by a 1870 treaty with the Osage Indians, a  state-of-the-art facility for its time.  It was  built by D.N. Cook and John Hewitt,  the two having a 3 mile rill dug parallel to the Arkansas River,  providing an aquatic flow to enable the paddle wheel to power a water turbine generator,  providing the mill with electricity for its operating function.  The mill operation having a restoration program initiated  in 1989 with  an addition of a small restaurant and gift shop complementing the revitalized structure.   Gary wondering the reason for Jim to share this part of Kansas history and the electricity dispensing water turbine generator, remnant from a by-gone era.   Gary soon discovered that Jim was responsible for restoring it to an operational status, although the water flow rate was no longer available for any practical function, Jim’s achievement was still impressive.

A restored Oxford Old Mill

Before returning to Anthony, the two walked over to another grain and flour mill built in 1935 and still actively producing its flour product.  entering the mill, Jim was well received by the employees, greeted by all, the elderly celebrity motioning to Gary to join him on a wooden slat conveyor to access the top of the structure.  Gary, Hesitant at first, not wanting to show his uncertainty, mirroring Jim, grasping the cable, stepping on the moving conveyor slat, an upward journey to a platform at the top of the mill.  Following Jim’s example upon reaching the top, stepping onto a plat form. the high above giving view to the integral working of the milling process.  Upon their departure the two visitors were each presented a five pound cloth sack of flour, a product of the mill.  Gary appreciative for the invitation to experience a sampling of Kansas culture and history in the company of such a multifarious individual, a commodity of yesteryear but still appropriately complimentary today.

Wichita Century II Convention Center

Jim White was on the telephone, inquiring if Gary would be interested in going to Wichita and attend a program featuring the (WTO) Wichita Theatre Organ at Century II.   Gary interest was piqued with curiosity, aware of the history and prominence the theatre organ played in the silent movie era, without hesitation accepting the invitation.  The scheduled night arriving, Jim’s residence conveniently located around the corner and a 1/2 block north on Anthony Ave.  Gary having every intention for the two to traverse in his car, but soon discovering Jim was insistent upon driving.  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-time driving, that normally she accompanied him but wasn’t feeling well and was grateful Jim had someone to accompany him.  Seated in the Buick, Gary soon discovered the journey to Wichita would be a history lesson starting with the acquisition of the Theatre Organ and the WTO organization.  Jim as a youth, among other endeavors was a theatre projectionist growing up in the era of silent movies and theatre organs.  Jim again proceeding to enlighten Gary’s historical cognition,  Richard Simonton the founder of ATOS,  American Theatre Organ Society was born the same year as Jim, a study of music and audio engineering finding Simonton acquiring the skill to tune pipe organs and later installing sound systems in the once silent movie theatre.  In 1934 Simonton convinced the Muzak Corporation to franchise its recorded music product with immediate success supplying wired music for retail stores, restaurants, hotels and workplace environments, thus the term elevator music.  Simonton continuing his entrepreneurial endeavor as a licensed engineer,  developing systems for RCA and also being an avid historian  ventured on another  project, purchasing a rundown Mississippi Riverboat, restoring the Delta Queen to a touring Pavilion.  In 1955 Simonton organized a group of organ enthusiast forming ATOS to preserve these organ icons of the theatre.

Wichita’s “Mighty Wurlitzer” Theatre Organ

In 1968 the historic Paramount Theatre at 43rd St. and Broadway in New York City  had set vacant for two years awaiting renovation by the New York Times Publishing Company, the building to be part of the Times expanding publishing business.  Simonton aware that still remaining in the building was what was known as the greatest organ ever built, this organ given the name the Mighty Wurlitzer.  Simonton purchasing the organ for installation in the Belmont Theatre in Los Angles, but the deal fell through. The ATOS members in Wichita approaching and obtaining the organ but during its storage during a break in vandals set fire to the console.  Not dissuaded,  using original Wurlitzer blueprints and schematics,  volunteers undertook a time consuming  exact restoration of the organ.  On December 12, 1972 at Century II, the Mighty Wurlitzer once again enveloped the atmosphere, breathing life, proclaiming its voice in the world of music.

Ranks of organ pipes

The Buick’s early arrival in Wichita having a purpose, Jim explaining he and Opal always stopped for supper a the Country Buffet on W. Central Ave.  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.  Jim continuing his narrative on how he come to be involved with the WTO members.  A friend who regularly attended organ programs contacting him about having difficulty replacing a blower motor on the organ.  His friend knowing that Jim was somewhat knowledgeable about the functional operation of an organ, its stops, tracker, pneumatic relays, wind regulator, but more important his expertise in motor RPM and pump PSI output that supplied the “wind” to the organ.  Gary curious about the pipes, discovering that the original 1926 pipes were untouched by the fire, posing a question to Jim as to the number of pipes.  Jim replying he was unsure but that organ pipes were  grouped in what they called ranks.  The Tibias rank that sounded the lowest notes having pipes that measured 16 feet in length and there was 97 pipes in a rank and that other ranks held pipes as small as 4 inches in length.  The Wichita Wurlitzer being only the second Wurlitzer to have been manufactured to utilize 58 ranks and because of the pipe size and number, Century II 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 theatre organ organization can schedule a program is on an evening when the rest of the 200,000 sq. ft. Convention Center is vacant, the vibrancy of the organ being felt and heard throughout the complex.

A Classic Silent Movie

Gary discovering the inaugural journey and introduction to the Wichita Theatre Organ was the first of many, the most memorable one being a presentation of the 1927 silent movie Wings, complete with the accompanying organ score.  Gary enjoying the time spent with his knowledgeable friend and mentor, amazed at discovering Jim was a treasure of knowledge in every respect.  Gary discovering Jim who was four years older than his father in some respects fulfilled a paternal void in his life.

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