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It takes a village to save an old pump organ

Organ keyboard

Word went up last Thursday morning in the Everything Free JP Facebook page: There was a "100ish year old pump organ" just sitting by the curb on trash day on Weld Hill Street in Forest Hills.

People began to talk: Why would somebody throw out something like that? And how can we save it?

It was no toy keyboard, after all. It was "Golden Toned" organ, made by the Beethoven Organ Co., of Washington, NJ, which advertised its wares in the late 1800s in a variety of magazines, including one aimed at poultry farmers.

Curb photo by Ken Hjulstrom (see it larger):

Organ by the curb

Shortly after noon, Pam Jaques of Jamaica Plain, herself a pump-organ (and viola) player, went over to take a look. It looked like it was in good shape. Not long after, Ken Hjulstrom of Roslindale had the same idea and drove over. Together, Jacques and Hjulstrom first moved the organ away from the trash, so the trash guys wouldn't try to take it. It was kind of heavy, but the thing sat on casters, so they were able to move it a few feet.

The two determined to try to find a new home for the beautiful wooden-framed instrument. They asked every single person who walked by on the side street off Hyde Park Avenue if they'd like a pump organ. Not a lot of people go down the street, so Jacques had a chance to pump the foot pedals and see if the organ would play - it did:

Video by Ken Hjulstrom:

But no takers.

Around 2, though, a woman came by. Like Jaques, she also plays the pump organ (and like Jaques, the viola), and she'd love to take it home - and she lived just a few doors down.

But how to move the thing? Getting it a few feet away from the curb on its casters was one thing, but seven or eight doors down?

Just then, a guy came walking by with his dog and a skateboard in one hand. Jaques asked if he could help. He sad sure, but first went to bring his dog home - then returned with an even larger skateboard. Jaques, Hjulstrom, the new owner and the dog walker got the organ up on the skateboard and they slowly, wobbily, moved it down the street:

Video by Pam Jaques:

And then they got it up seven or eight steps and into its new home:

Organ in new home

Five minutes later, the trash guys came by, but all that was left was the usual trash.

What led somebody to throw it out? Hjulstrom says the previous owners were moving. In a discussion on the Roslindale Message Board, Cher Devitt wrote she helped her friends move the organ to the curb:

After lots of time on Facebook marketplace and EBay, there were no takers. ... It was indeed offered for free to to a jazz pianist/music professor and then listed but no one bit over the last couple of months.

She added: "Glad it has found a new home!"

Ad for a similar model from an 1892 edition of Short Stories: A Magazine of Select Fiction:

Organ ad
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Comments

I actually lived in JP, Rozzie etc neighborhood where neighbors do actual neighborly things... as opposed to a neighborhood of virtual anonymity

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I've found the less dense the housing, the more likely it is that people will be neighborly.

The fear of losing a sense community when large buildings replace 1-2 family homes is not unfounded.

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A castle for every king, each ruled with an iron fist.

We left the city and now live almost 10 miles away in a moderately dense suburb with nice sidewalks and parks and a lake.

And NOBODY talks to each other. I tried when we moved in but people are isolated and detached and it all felt very Stepford-esque. And since having no kids we may as well have Leprosy.

We miss our old home. A little single family squeezed between apartment buildings and 24/7 construction but we didn't mind. At least it felt alive.

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My grandmother had something very like this in her VT farmhouse. They had cows, but chickens, too. As a kid, it never occurred to me to ask how it happened to be there, and then she was gone. It worked, but so far as I knew, nobody played. Neither of my grandparents, and none of their many kids. No idea where it wound up.

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I LOVE JP so much, even if it gets on my nerves now and then.

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I saw that posting the other day. Sadly I have neither skills nor space for it but it saddened me to think it would be trash. Nice to have some good news.

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Not the kind of old pump organ I need to save.

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Posts like this make my day! It’s why I never miss reading Universal Hub.

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Glad this found a home. My wife was trying to give away a basic upright piano a few years back. If you can name a place that might take one for free, she called them. It eventually went to the dump. Such a waste.

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Just in time for Halloween! I would have gone full Captain Nemo with that bad boy. Toccata and Fugue in D Minor in a Dracula costume, the possibilities are endless!

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If there's damage to the soundboard, multiple hammers, etc., it can cost a lot more than an entry-level piano to fix it, and then you'd have to pay to get it hauled away and disposed of. People don't usually want to accept a donated piano unless someone can vouch that it's been recently seen by a piano technician and is in good order.

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Don't get me going on pianos. After our upstairs neighbor passed away, the estate contracted with a local real estate office to clean out the condo and sell it. The real estate agent didn't even try to offer the piano to anyone, nor did he haul it out to the curb. Instead, he hired a cleanout person to cut the piano into pieces, while it was still in the unit -- and while we had to listen to the whole process going on right above our ceiling.

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Hearing that something is about 100 years old doesn't seem that old to me.

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Find three buddies and go over to the new home of the pump organ and play the Dvorak bagatelles for two violins, cello and harmonium, as the pump organ is more mellifluously known. It’s really beautiful music and you would be very glad you had the experience of playing it with the instrument for which it was intended!

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... if they manage to do a performance. ;-)

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I often wonder what happened to my Grandmother's piano at 1 Dayton Avenue when the city took her brownstone by eminent domain and the Goodwill Distribution Center was built on the land. They also took the old Gray Lines maintenance depot as well as 3 other brownstones and a one Family house.

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for free to to a jazz pianist/music professor

Seems kind of specific. At a certain point if I owned a beautiful antique and the only option was to throw it in the trash, I'd give it to a nonmusical person who just wants a cool old thing in their house. I know several people so enamored of their creaky victorian houses they're restoring them bit by bit and a beautiful period organ in the dining room would be a hot ticket item.

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