Goodbye to an old friend



An unexpected turn of events lands a new home for a beloved keepsake. ©THINKSTOCK

After two decades of fun at the keyboard of my Hammond organ, it began to give up on me. The external Leslie speaker began to smell like burning insulation so I shut it down.  And then, months later, the lower keyboard volume faded to a bare whisper. The bass pedals sounded scratchy with static and only gave out with a lifelessly dull “boom, boom.” I played it less and less, soon shifting all my attention to my grand piano.

As time went by, whenever I turned the instrument on I felt guilty about neglecting the Hammond. The upper register worked fine, but that was all. Now this wonderful instrument was nearly useless and taking up valuable space in our small living room. It was time for it to go. But who wanted an organ these days, especially one with limited capabilities? Loaded with a multitude of circuit boards, cleaning the contacts would, perhaps, salvage the organ. I could do it, but had little motivation to tear into the organ’s innards. It was time to say “bye-bye.”

My wife called a donation site and was told organs were passé in the music industry. Nobody wanted an antiquated music maker. Repairs would cost more than the organ was worth and I had given it up in favor of the piano, which I now enjoyed playing more. Gratefully, the Salvation Army said they would take it at the driver’s discretion; otherwise it would go to the city landfill. I hated that thought. I could visualize the beautiful instrument ignominiously tumbling, end-over-end, down a mountain of trash. The Salvation Army driver arrived. With my fingers crossed, he made his judgment and then brought in his helper with a dolly. They would take it! With relief, I watched them load it on their truck.

Our next-door neighbors are students at a nearby university. One happened to come out and excitedly asked, “What are you doing with that organ?” I quickly explained our reasons for abandoning the instrument. “I want it!” he exclaimed. He was excited and asked the driver if he could buy it. “Ask the owner,” was the driver’s reply, “maybe he will sell it to you.”

Someone else might value our older treasures. So we shouldn’t hold onto our things too tightly or worry about passing them along.

I was in a quandary. Having given the organ to the Salvation Army, I didn’t know if they would let it go. With the driver standing by impatiently awaiting my decision and the young student begging me to let him buy it, I reluctantly agreed. What if the student decided, later, he didn’t want it? Would the Salvation Army truck come back?

Seeing the excitement on the student’s face, I said he could have it. The driver, bless his heart, unloaded the heavy organ, external speaker cabinet and bench and put it in the student’s driveway. I had explained quite clearly that only the upper register functioned properly. It was my gift to him.

The student, it turned out, was a music major at the university and wanted the organ for his band. We opened the top of the organ to get at the twenty or so circuit boards, and I instructed him in the cleaning of contacts. We removed one board and reinstalled it. He was delighted.

Two hours later he asked me to show him how the various tabs and settings worked. He had moved the organ down a flight of stairs to his room. Beaming, he ran his fingers over the keys – they all worked perfectly! Both registers! And the bass pedals also! Adjusting the drawbars, he produced beautiful jazz tones.  I was amazed. How did this happen? Did the single circuit board I removed and replaced clear up the problems? Was it the result of manhandling the organ down the stairs? Was the organ so happy to have escaped the horrors of the landfill trip that it mended its own illness?
It was as though I had given away my pet kitten to a loving family rather than putting her away. I was overjoyed. The student plays piano and organ beautifully.  It was odd but fortuitous the student stepped out of his front door as the truck was being loaded. Had he delayed a few minutes, this event would not have happened.

We can become burdened by our possessions. Someone else might value our older treasures. So we shouldn’t hold onto our things too tightly or worry about passing them along.

ARTHUR R. LEE is a freelance writer from California.


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