“The Happiest Music on Earth” rang out through the streets of Roscoe Village. Strolling down the street, it seemed a carnival like atmosphere but the instruments used were exquisite. The Mid-American Chapter of the Musical Box Society brought about thirty varied automatic and mechanical instruments for the enjoyment of everyone who visited. Some were small hand-cranked music boxes, while others were large trailer size.
A larger music box called “Ruth Organ” was open on both sides, as were many, so you could see the inner workings as well. This was a German made calliope, owned by an enthusiast from Indiana, with carousel horses peeking out at the sides. There was an interesting sign on the open back side, which said Achtung (Attention in German). Below was a humorous verse using a German like twist and it ended like this: “Relaxen and listenin to die gekneekicken und fusstampen musik.”
One of my favorites was a small monkey organ, or hurdy gurdy, hand turned by a happy lady in a flowered hat. Music was fed through the monkey organ on a paper-feed much like the old player pianos, but on a smaller scale. She kindly gave me a chance to try my hand at being a monkey organ grinder by turning the handle at just the right speed for that particular song, Walkin’ Happy. Still makes me smile!
Many of the participants here at Roscoe Village were planning to attend many more Musical Box Festivals throughout the summer. Next stop for some was New York or the Monkey Organ Rally in Indiana, and many of them had plans for the the 62nd Annual Meeting in Washington D C this year in August.
Visiting Roscoe Village was Myron Duffield, “The Calliope King of the World.” Myron performed to a crowd standing in the street from his red circus wagon organ that he built himself. His plan is to play at every surviving calliope event in the world. This is like a trip back to childhood for him as he grew up hearing the calliopes on the Mississippi riverboats.
Catching my eye at one end of the street, “Rolling Thunder” was one of the larger calliopes there. It was built in Antwerp, Belgium and across the front it said: “Not Your Father’s Organ”. In the center there were three accordians, where the bellows moved as well as the keys playing the lively carousel sounds. All of them seemed to have drums as part of their inner workings.
Apparently the music was enjoyed as several people were dancing in the street. Well, that is except for one lady, who told me upon arrival, “Get your aspirin handy.” Music was loud but entertaining, and definitely “Fusstampin.”