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Roller Gardens Rink - 3/11 Wurlitzer
Federal Way, Washington
Organ installation timeframe: 1955 - 1965
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Roller Gardens console, c.1962
The Roller Gardens Wurlitzer was originally installed in Portland's United Artists Theatre. It was opus #1936, a 2/8 Style 190 Special installed in 1928.
When Balcom & Vaughan installed the instrument in the rink in 1955, they added a third manual, two Morton strings and a Post Horn making it a pretty well rounded 3/11. The three unit chests were configured as follows:
1) Vox, Tuba, Tibia
2) Solo String, Celeste, Post Horn
3) Flute, VDO, Diapason, VDO Celeste, Clarinet
The rink, owned by Winn Hackmann, closed on July 24th, 1965. Over the next few weeks, the organ was removed by Don French with help from Dick Schrum, Tom Hobbs, Rance Taylor, Ron Kittler, Leo Bauscher, Ray Whelpley and Art Olsen.
The instrument was later sold to Harold Musolf Jr. of Seattle.
The rink sat empty and unused for some time until it was re-opened by a Mr. & Mrs. Syble who renamed it "Federal Way Family Skating Center." An electronic organ and recorded music was used for skating accompaniment.
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Don French with the console, c.1962


Skating Rink Organ Removed by Puget Sound ATOE Members; Will be Stored Until Relocated Again
Excerpt from The Console magazine, September 1965 (pp10):
Federal Way, Wash. --Roller Gardens closed for the last time Saturday, July 24th and then the big removal started of some 800 pairs of rental skates, fountain equipment, office machines--everything but the 3m/11r Wurlitzer. Owner Winn Hackmann had planned to sell the organ due to the cost of removal and storage until his rink organist for the past 10 years, Donald W. French promised to recruit volunteers from Puget Sound Chapter ATOE--he is also a member--to remove the instrument at no expense to him.
As a result, according to French, the work was done as promised and another organ has been saved from being broken up or leaving the area altogether, and Organist French may well have his job again of playing the same organ in another rink location. In the meantime he is continuing his teaching work.
With the help of Dick Schrum, Tom Hobbs, Rance Taylor, Ron Knittler, French started the removal on a Thursday morning at 10:30. That day they removed all the pipes, conductors, trems and anything that was not connected by cable. These items came out of the chamber area which was nine feet in the air over the lobby. The 11 sest of pipes were laid out carefully around the edge of the skating rink floor ready for wrapping and crating.
On Friday morning, French, Don Knittler, Leo Bauscher and Rance Taylor returned to start the great de-soldering process. The console came first, as it appeared to be more involved. Located in an elevated room six steps high, it was across the floor from the pipe chamber. A special cable and junction board had been made to take care of the 100-foot distance between the chamber and key desk--the cable was extremely heavy. This was kept intact and connected to the console and will facilitate re-assembly later on. Next, the chests were disconnected from the relay and the second relay was divorced from the main one. The organ originally was a 2m/8r installed in the United Artists Theatre, Portland (1928) and Sandy Balcom added a third manual, a second relay and switch stack, three sets of pipes (two Morton strings and an English horn) when it was moved.
That afternoon Ray Whelpley and Art Olsen arrived after work to help bring the heavy items down from the chambers. Hackmann had built a ramp so that everything slid down to the floor level of the building. He also hired two strong young men to move the entire lot. They had mainly to load and unload the truck. By 9 p.m. the next Thursday the entire organ, including the blower and crated pipes were stacked in the Hackmann garage.
French, who is the present chairman of Puget Sound Chapter, is in the process of installing a 3m/10r Wurlitzer in his basement. "My big ambition is to hear it this year," he said.he recently visited the Los Angeles area and was invited to play an "opening" concert (if an organist is on hand when the organ maintenance group gets ready to close up before the theatre opens for the day, they usually 'con' him into playing for the early patrons until the first film is screened--Ed) on the Kimball.
Regarding his Wurlitzer, French noted that he has checked his chests and releathered where necessary. He plans to remodel his console; it was a 2m/8r remodeled by Balcom & Vaughan to a 3m/8r. He has acquired another relay, a Morton oboe horn and clarinet (the original was replaced with a krumet) and a Wurlitzer marimba. He recently purchased a Kimball pressure piano action in Portland and plans to use it in the installation. He said he will have some work to do, but still plans to hear the organ play before midnight, December 31st.

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