Author Topic: Intercom and Interphone systems on Theatre Organ consoles  (Read 3878 times)

Offline Bartonpipes

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Intercom and Interphone systems on Theatre Organ consoles
« on: November 04, 2014, 05:25:23 PM »
Hello all,
 I have an interest in theatre organs which were installed in 1920's movie theatres, and many of them had phones mounted on them or interphone systems like these installed on them originally. This particular system dates to 1927 at the latest, and is original to this 4/36 Wurlitzer theatre organ in the Detroit Fox theatre.

The first picture dates from either the opening or some time in the 30's. The second picture is what is left mounted on the console today.

Does anyone know if this was a "brand name" system or is it just a custom made job?

-Andrew
« Last Edit: November 05, 2014, 06:54:25 PM by Bartonpipes »
-Andrew

Offline Phonesrfun

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Re: Anyone know who made this system?
« Reply #1 on: November 04, 2014, 06:07:53 PM »
I certainly don't know, but if I were to guess, I would say that given the relative simplicity of an intercom, Wurlitzer definitely had the capabilities of making the intercom panel themselves.  It would be a walk in the park compared to the rest of the organ console.  They could have bought the components, such as a handset or other transmitter/receiver off the shelf from a known manufacturer of intercoms or telephone components.  Just my guess.
-Bill G

Offline AE_Collector

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Re: Anyone know who made this system?
« Reply #2 on: November 04, 2014, 07:10:39 PM »
It could be as simple as a common talk path with buzzers and buttons to get the attention of the other station. Looks like the usual WECo/NECo headset of the era.

Since a buzzer may not work as desired at the organ itself, that might be the reason for the light on the panel though I guess that all panels might have a similar light to show that the system is "on" (powered up).

That Phillips screw has to go! Are they restoring things there? I have several of those headsets around here though I suspect that mine all have the newer vinyl cords on them.

Terry
« Last Edit: November 04, 2014, 07:15:18 PM by AE_Collector »

Offline Bartonpipes

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Re: Anyone know who made this system?
« Reply #3 on: November 04, 2014, 07:26:11 PM »
Thanks, I figured it might be a custom made job, but I wasn't sure. I doubt that Wurlitzer themselves made it, because all of their organs were usually shipped by rail to their destination and installed by local sub contractors, so something this specialized and custom to the building itself must have been installed afterwards.

Although I've never actually been to the fox to see it in person, this panel must take up a small space internally and the switches and what not couldn't extend back very far because about three inches back from that front cover there is large rails with lead tubing and pneumatics mounted on them.

Oh, the entire organ, including the console is currently undergoing a restoration to it's original state, so if I could pass this information on to the appropriate parties, there just might be another vintage handset mounted there again.

-Andrew
« Last Edit: November 04, 2014, 07:30:50 PM by Bartonpipes »
-Andrew

Offline Phonesrfun

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Re: Anyone know who made this system?
« Reply #4 on: November 04, 2014, 08:23:05 PM »
I have seen organs like that Wurlitzer in action.  In Portland, OR there was a pizza parlor in the 1970's that got ahold of one that I remember was like the one you show.  It originally came from an ornate theater in Portland.  Unfortunately, the pizza place went broke, and who knows where the organ went.  They were awesome.  Also, in Portland, the Oaks Park skating rink had a Wurlitzer, that was smaller and not as ornate.  The pipes were mounted in a couple enclosures around the rink, and all the other sound effects gizmos; drums, xylophone, bells cymbals, etc were mounted on a platform that was overhead in the center of the rink.
 
Those things were awesome.  They probably took some very talented people to keep them running.
-Bill G

Offline Bartonpipes

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Re: Anyone know who made this system?
« Reply #5 on: November 04, 2014, 08:48:33 PM »
Well I didn't want to get too far off topic, but here is a video of this organ in action.

You can see the interphone panel, does that count as on topic?  ;)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ids_efvCsOI

-Andrew
-Andrew

unbeldi

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Re: Anyone know who made this system?
« Reply #6 on: November 04, 2014, 09:02:46 PM »
Btw, the Fox also has another organ just for the lobby !

It's a magnificent place.

Offline Bartonpipes

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Re: Intercom and Interphone systems on Theatre Organ consoles
« Reply #7 on: November 09, 2014, 01:04:08 PM »
Well, I got in touch with some of the people working on the restoration project and I have good news and bad news.

The good news is that when the organ consoles (There is also an auxillary one) are taken out of the theatre for the first time in 86 years, they will be undergoing a professional restoration which will return everything to it's original 1928 appearance and function.

They know what type of handset to get, the straight type with the spit cup transmitter cap and the flat receiver cap, with a cloth cord.

The bad news is, as far as is known, this is the last remaining station from the original system, and since the restoration contract only includes all parts of the organ specifically, the restored interphone panel will only be for show.

-Andrew
-Andrew

unbeldi

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Re: Intercom and Interphone systems on Theatre Organ consoles
« Reply #8 on: November 09, 2014, 01:22:22 PM »
That's not such bad news.  In fact, not having the complementing intercom systems, is to be expected. I wonder whether some of that stuff was removed when the theatre was renovated in the 1980s.

unbeldi

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Re: Intercom and Interphone systems on Theatre Organ consoles
« Reply #9 on: November 09, 2014, 01:25:31 PM »
There was another Wurlitzer 4/36 in Detroit, at the Fisher Theatre, I believe, and it was kept by the Organ Society (not sure of exact name). I wonder whether that system had an intercom too.

Offline Bartonpipes

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Re: Intercom and Interphone systems on Theatre Organ consoles
« Reply #10 on: November 09, 2014, 01:54:29 PM »
Ah yes, The "Mayan Goddess".

The Fisher Wurlitzer is alive and well, it has been installed in the Senate Theatre in Detroit for about 40 years now, and is maintained by the Detroit Theatre Organ Club. Although it's never been completely restored it's about 95% original and is still playing.

As far as an intercom system , I initially thought there wasn't one, but look very closely in the bottom left hand corner of the first picture taken while it was in the Fisher Theatre.

-Andrew
-Andrew

Offline Babybearjs

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Re: Intercom and Interphone systems on Theatre Organ consoles
« Reply #11 on: December 17, 2014, 09:38:51 PM »
absolutely awesome article! I remember going through the San Jose Fox Theater when they were raising funds to restore it. never did see an organ, it had already been removed. to know they has a ICM on the organ is interesting, I'm wondering is the panel also was used to operate the curtain system... the organist would signal the projectionist and then push a button to lower the organ, and another button to open the curtains.... oh, yes and to lower the lights too!   
John

Offline Bartonpipes

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Re: Intercom and Interphone systems on Theatre Organ consoles
« Reply #12 on: January 20, 2015, 01:50:53 PM »
Found another example! This time hanging off of the big 5/28 Wurlitzer that was installed in the Michigan Theatre in Detroit.

Just an aside- the theatre still stands, but has been gutted and made into a parking garage. The organ was removed completely and is in about 90% original condition. I think there was actually a CBS sunday morning piece done about the installation.

Anyway back to the subject, does anyone recognize the type of handset?
-Andrew

Offline JonasClark

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Re: Intercom and Interphone systems on Theatre Organ consoles
« Reply #13 on: August 31, 2016, 12:41:31 AM »
Bartonpipes, thanks for providing the best color photo I've seen of Wurlitzer's one-off French/Mayan console. That thing is spectacular! As far as I know, at least one example of every custom console style Wurlitzer made, including the unique ones (Roman, Greciean, Streamline, Art Moderne, Chinese, Chinese Deco, Spanish, Moorish, etc.) still exists.

The Michigan Theatre's organ, the first and largest of their 5-manuals, is in a person's home.

I've never seen a factory photo of a Wurlitzer console with an intercom attached, and that includes a folio I bought with about 15 large factory photos of finished consoles. I think they were all after-market additions, especially since most I've seen in photos were different. The other 5/36 Wurlitzers (San Francisco Fox/El Capitan, St. Louis Fox, Brooklyn Fox, Manhattan Paramount) did not, as far as old photos show, have an intercom of that type and in that spot.

Here's a color photo of a "Fox Special" similar to the top photo in the thread; only the ornamentation on the case is different. This is the former SF Fox organ, now in the El Capitan in Hollywood. Note the terrified-looking Stitch on the big red button, which I was told is the 'elevator down' control. A really daunting-looking array of controls-- hey, at least they're clearly-marked and color-coded! In old photos of this when it was at the Fox, I don't see an intercom handset.
[i mg]http://i.imgur.com/Hdmr4yE.jpg[/img]
« Last Edit: August 31, 2016, 07:26:17 AM by TelePlay »