I wish I knew the whole story about why we have an antique folding organ in our family room, but I don’t. What I know is this, someone in the family, most likely my father’s youngest sister, Corrine, used to play this organ on Sundays in church. She had it at her house for years, then gave it to my dad. It took up room in their house so my mom asked me if I wanted it. Of course I did. I don’t know anyone else with a World Famous Folding Organ in their family room, do you?
As you can see from the photos, the organ looks more like the keyboard of a piano in a plywood box than an organ. That’s the point, I guess. This organ can fold up into approximately a 3′ x 2′ x 1′ box with a handle.
To play the organ you need to move your feet up and down on pedals. If you’re like me and cannot walk and chew gum at the same time, this presents a problem.
I think you also need to do something with the two metal doodads that fold out and go on either side of your knees. Maybe they are like the “stops” on regular reed organs — maybe the pitch goes up and down. Can you tell I know nothing about organs or music, for that matter?
I accepted the organ on the pretext that Clare wanted to learn how to play it. My dad used to ask me if Clare was learning how to play the organ every time we spoke. I don’t think he really cared that we took the organ, but he seemed really curious about it. She never did learn, but once a couple of her friends who could play pianos used it and it sounded really good! I however, did not sound so good when I tried it out. Here I am playing the only song I know how to play, Mary Had a Little Lamb, just to show you how the organ works.
There’s a little information online about the Bilhorn Brothers and their World Famous Folding Organs. I liked this advertisement for it. The poem is a little creepy, on a couple of levels.
What Patrons say of our ….. Telescope Organ
They call our organ "Baby" But say it's not too small For gentleman or lady The sinners lost to call. They also call it "Beauty" Because it folds so nice. It's ready quick for duty You need not fold it twice. Then others say, "It's handy," The handiest in the land, And sometimes call it "Dandy," Since carried by one hand. One said, "It's tough as leather, And surely it's the best: When tried in outdoor weather It always stands the test." The tone is also sweeter Than others of its kind; Besides the organ's neater Than any you can find. One writes, "It's worth your knowing, The organ's very fine, No matter where you're going You'll take it every time. Evangelists and teachers, Believe us, it is true, Including local preachers, It's just the thing for you. To those who would one purchase We say, don't count the cost, They're four times worth their value, There's nothing to be lost. Then send your order and today We'll ship it C. O. D. The organ you will find O. K. And be well pleased, you see. --Johnny