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Oaks Park Rink - 4/13 Wood & 4/18 Wurlitzer
Portland, Oregon
Foot of S.E. Spokane St.
Organ installation timeframes:
    Wm. Wood: 1922 - 1955
    Wurlitzer: 1955 - present
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Back to the Northwest Public Theatre Organ Installations page

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Oaks Park four-manual Wurlitzer console, March 2001
The Oaks Park organ is based around a four-manual Wurlitzer from Portland's Broadway Theatre. It was moved to the rink in 1955.
According to rink organist Keith Fortune, changes from the original specification include: removal of the Dulciana, addition of an 8 Gamba, and addition of an 8 English Post Horn. The Kinura was also exchanged with another set.
Steve Bray of Portland was responsible for the most recent rebuild of the instrument.
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All pipework is mounted on a platform hanging over the skate floor and is totally unenclosed. Past organists have used the Crescendo pedal to control the volume although it is not functional today.
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See a video about Oaks Park organist Keith Fortune:
    "Pipe Dreams" (External link to YouTube)
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The Oaks Wurlitzer is definitely a "working" organ. Note the well-used foot rest on the bench!
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The organ still operates on the original air relays
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Many of the regular Oaks Park organists have their own neon signs for use while they are playing. Here, neon for Jonas Nordwall, Marc Gerlack and Jerry Gilmore is stored in the relay room.
Access to the pipes is via this ladder in the relay room. It takes you up and over the skate floor! ---->
Buss McClelland and Pete Kraushaar were two of the first Oaks Park organists.
Starting in the late 1940s,
Don Simmons was a very popular organist at the rink for many years until his death in 1985. Though in his seventies, he played daily for the skaters.
Other organists that played at the Oaks Park Rink over the years include: Chuck Hawley, Dick Bauman, Buck Nye, Cecil Teague, Helen Heppner, Lucille Houston, Loretta Muralt Holstein, Len Hoyt, Lane Lewis, Joyce Cash, Gale Enger, Jerry Gilmore, Glenn Shelley, Lorretta Muralt, Jean Bonne, Jack Coxon, Lucille Lyons, Bob Mendenhall, Gladys Perky, Marc Gerlack, Brian Ingoldsby, Jerry Jorgensen, and Jonas Nordwall.
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Keith Fortune, Gary Russell and Dean Lemire are the current regular organists. Together with the late Jerry Jorgensen, Keith produced an Acorn Recordings CD release of skating music played on the Oaks Park Wurlitzer. It is available by contacting Oaks Park.

In June 1948, the Willamette River flooded. The main skate floor was a total lost. In 1948, a new "floating" skate floor was installed.

1948 flood

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Workmen complete the new skate floor, built to float above flood stage of the nearby Willamette River. The Oaks has had two major floods since this time and the floor has been saved because it floats!

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Bill Blunk with the earlier Wm. Wood console
The Oaks rink previously had a William Wood theatre organ installed in 1922. This instrument started out as a 2/5 and was expanded over the years to be a 4/13. The instrument did not have a combination action.
The original Wood instrument including the four-manual console was purchased by Richard & Mary Pitts of Newport, Oregon. Bob Miller may have also acquired parts of the original instrument, but this cannot be confirmed.
According to Mary Pitts, the organ was removed from the rink in 1955 and went first to a roller rink at the Point Adams Army Base. It is unknown if the instrument was actually installed there or just stored. Richard Pitts bought the organ in 1963.

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Oaks Park Rink building, 2001

© 2000 Oaks Park
Visit the Oaks Park web site:

Surrounded by the same stately trees for which it was named, The Oaks, in Portland, Oregon in 1997 celebrated its ninety-second consecutive year of operation, making it one of the oldest continuously operating amusement parks in America. Built by the Oregon Water Power & Navigation Company, the park opened its gates on May 30, 1905 to Portlanders who arrived by foot and on horseback, in automobiles and by boat from the Willamette River. In keeping with the design of other "Trolley Parks" across the country, most of its visitors disembarked from trolley cars which ran along the Portland-to-Oregon City tracks forming the eastern boundary of the park.

Main gate of Oaks Amusement park
In 1925, Edward H. Bollinger purchased the operating company from the widow of Mr. Cordray who had purchased it from the Water and Power company when laws were changed prohibiting utility companies to own entities not directly related to their main business. Edward’s son Robert had helped his father purchase the land in 1943 with a "gentleman's handshake agreement." Upon remarriage, Edward did not update his Will so the park passed to his 2nd wife, Robert's step mother. Robert purchased the park from her.

Oaks Park admission ticket signed by owner Edward Bollinger, 1927
On January 1, 1985, Robert's assets (including some he hadn't planned on) were used to create a private non-profit organization to perpetuate the park for families of the Portland, Oregon and Vancouver, Washington area. The City of Portland wanted the park very much but they were not interested in keeping the rink and amusement park operational. A group called "Friends of Oaks Park" was formed to help organize various fund-raising activities supporting restoration of the park and Wurlitzer organ.
The Oaks Skating Rink is part of the amusement park and is home to three active skating clubs. All three are recognized by the USA Roller Skating Association. The floor is of wood construction with a size of 100' x 200', which is large by most standards. It is maintained meticulously and is in excellent condition. Each year in June, Oaks Park hosts the Northwestern Regional Championship comprised of skaters from Alaska, Hawaii, Washington, Idaho, Utah, Montana and Oregon. Those skaters who place in the top three of their event qualify to skate the U.S. National Roller Skating Championships.
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A collection of stickers from Oaks Park

Oaks Park, c.1909

Program for an event at Oaks Park,
date unknown

Comments from former Portland resident William Hansen to the piporg-l Internet mailing list, January 28, 1998:
Mention of the unenclosed Wurlitzer at the Portland, Oregon Oaks Park Rink always brings back many memories. There was a previous unenclosed organ there built by William Wood with Gottfried pipework. Bob Bollinger, then owner of the Oaks Park (son of the founder of that institution) purchased the 4/18 Wurlitzer from the Broadway Theatre in Portland in 1955 and rebuilt the entire works before installing it, also sans shutters, over the center of the rink. That rather limits the versatility of a theatre organ, but it is the type of sound that skaters have learned to love.
There was a competing rink, the Imperial, at S.E.Union (now MLK Blvd.) and Madison Streets. The unenclosed Woods organ there was combined with the 3/10 Wurlitzer from the Hollywood Theatre. The result was another large unenclosed organ, also loved by the skaters.
There were several other such installations in the Northwest. As far as I know, the Oaks Rink is the only one surviving, though I am not at all current with the Seattle-Tacoma area.
By the way, Alex Guenther (who with his brother Roman had operated the Guenther Organ Company in Portland for several decades) was in charge of work at the Oaks Park Wurlitzer rebuilding and installation. I was but a seventeen year old college student with some organ factory experience. The work done was proper and careful, except for one tiny detail that has haunted more recent releathering crews -- instead of using standard hot hide glue, "stronger" LaPage's cold glue was used. I pity anyone who has to clean off those pneumatics for releathering!
I had been taught to use hot glue in my factory work, and was skeptical of their use of LaPage's (is that product still made?). Every now and then I will come upon some repair that was made in an organ on the spot where that unmistakable scent of LaPage's (not an unpleasant smell) tells me what was used. When the method of wind conductor installation involved inserting the tubing into a chest hole with a winding of wicking soaked with glue, LaPage's was often used (very common in Estey and Hook & Hastings).
By the way, the Wurlitzer in the Broadway Theatre (played in its prime by Oliver Wallace with George Stoll conducting the orchestra) was not, by any means the most successful theatre organ in Portland. But, because of its reinstallation in the Oaks, it is the only large Portland theatre organ that is complete and intact (though a soft stop (Dulciana ?) was replaced by a Post Horn). I am glad I was around when all those organs were still in place, original, and (mostly) playable.
Best to all,
William A. Hansen

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