Corner Stories,  The Locals

Organ Donor on the Corner

If you were near the corner Sunday around 11 am, you may have seen an unusual sight cruising down Second Street.


Walking an organ down the street

No need to adjust your screen. You are seeing things right. Some people walk their dogs, others walk… their organs.

Organ Donor on the Corner in Winslow Arizona

It’s not every day an 1890s Windsor/Chicago cottage pump organ lands at the famous statue, so of course, tourists wanted their photo with the elegant piece.

Tourists taking their photo with the organ on the corner in winslow arizona

One woman even shook hands with the organ walkers and thanked them for the photo op.

So how did an antique organ end up on the corner?

The Organ Donation

A while back, while visiting the Motor Palace, friend Kari Ortiz commented that her grandmother Katie’s old pump organ would look perfect in our building.

“I can still picture this organ in her Nebraska living room and hear her “jazzing up” church hymns.” 

Kari Ortiz

Kari has had the organ for almost forty-years and moved it several times. With no room in the house for it now, the treasure got neatly tucked into a blanket and nestled into the garage. She hated that it wasn’t in a place where it could be appreciated.

Organ in the motor palace

Sunday morning, after a lovely Turquoise Room breakfast–and after we put Kari and Ed to work rearranging the Motor Palace–the topic of the organ came up again, so we headed to their house to take a peek and of course, fell in love.

Pump organ keys

But how to get it home?

The organ was too tall for our van and too heavy to lift into a truck without a ramp. That’s when Kari had the brilliant suggestion of simply walking the organ to the Motor Palace. Friend John loaned us a furniture dolly and away we went.

Of course, I couldn’t let the moment pass without taking a photo or two of Kari, Brian, and Ed hamming it up on the Route 66 shield.

At the Motor Palace

Kari was right. The organ looks completely at home inside the Motor Palace.

Pump Organ in the Motor Palace in WInslow Arizona

But it did need some work. At some point, Kari’s grandfather Bill Frye had modified the organ with a motor to replace the broken bellows. When we plugged the organ in, the motor came to life but when we pressed the keys, no sounds filled the room. So Brian took the back off to investigate.

Along with a bunch of dust and a flyswatter, we found a penny worn so smooth you could barely see the 1907 (or 17) date.

Inside, Brian also discovered the brilliance of Kari’s grandfather.

“Grandpa always was tinkering with something in his garage where he also went to “sneak” a cigarette 😂  and Grandma would pretend not to know.”

Kari Ortiz

Like some chopper guy, Bill had taken a Montgomery Ward canister vacuum cleaner and cut sections out to make it fit in the box he’d built of plywood, MDF, and some kind of dense sound-deadening material. According to my once audiophile of a husband, using dissimilar materials help eliminate a variety of different noises. Amazing how the sound of the loud vacuum cleaner disappears when all buttoned up.

Vacuum cleaner to run pump organ

Brian gave everything a good cleaning, fixed an air leak and a pinched connection, and discovered the reason we had no music.

Inside of pump organ

The combination of light bulbs inside act as voltage regulators, controlling the speed. One light bulb wasn’t working. By replacing the bulb, the organ came back to life. Like Brian said. Brilliant design.

Thanks Organ Donor Kari!

Many thanks to Kari for putting this beautiful organ on loan to Winslow’s Motor Palace. We expect you to come and play for us anytime you want! And thanks for being a good sport as we posed the organ on the corner.

Oh… the things you see while Standin’ on a Corner in Winslow Arizona!

Organ donor Kari on the corner in Winslow Arizona
Organ Donor Kari Ortiz

We’ll close with my fine musical talents, shot from the back of the organ because Brian thinks the function is pretty cool.

Until next time…

Take it Easy!


Never want to miss a post? Subscribe for free!

[jetpack_subscription_form show_only_email_and_button=”true” custom_background_button_color=”undefined” custom_text_button_color=”undefined” submit_button_text=”Subscribe” submit_button_classes=”undefined” show_subscribers_total=”false” ]

One Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *