On Tuesday evening, 2 weeks ago, Lloyd was working the computer trying to find something to buy while I relaxed with a good T.V. show. He walked into our family room and announced that he had found a Wurlitzer Auto Phonograph cabinet for $100.00. He had never heard of an Auto Phonograph, so he called the seller up to ask for more details. When the seller described the cabinet as having red plastics, Lloyd thought perhaps it was a Wurlitzer 61 cabinet, which would not have been worth the trip, but he asked the seller to text him a photo anyway. To Lloyd’s surprise, it was a Wurlitzer 71 jukebox cabinet. He said that the machine was worth a couple thousand dollars so it was a great find.
Lloyd knew that if he didn’t go get it fast, someone else would get it. Ben was already in North Carolina doing pickups and deliveries, but the Wurlitzer was in North Tonawanda, New York. That is about seven and a half hours drive from our home. Dominic was willing to make the drive, but when Lloyd told me it was only about 20 minutes from Niagara Falls, I said, “Let’s go! I’ve never been to Niagara Falls and it’s on my list!”
Lloyd agreed that it would be fun to go on the road together for this one, so we packed for one night away and set out the next morning.
As a side note, while that machine may look rough, this is how pretty it will look when restored!
We chose a route that would take us through lots of small towns along the way. We were not going to be able to meet our seller until after 5pm , so we took our time and made a few stops at points of interest. Of course he had to stop at an antique store. He didn’t find anything there worth buying. Then he wanted to stop at an oil museum because the sign mentioned that they had a player piano and he was hoping it might be a Nickelodeon. It wasn’t, but we would have stayed to take the tour if we hadn’t been on a mission to get to New York.
We kept going until we reached North Tonawanda, New York. Lloyd had purchased many items out of the old Wurlitzer Factory there several years ago when part of it was occupied by Wurco. Among the items he bought from the factory were 2 of the 4 original neon signs from the top of the building. He wanted me to see it.
We arrived too early to meet our seller, so we stopped for a snack at Webster’s Bistro and Bar in North Tonawanda. It was lovely. We chatted with the bartender who had lived all his life in the town, and Lloyd asked him where the Wurlitzer Factory was located. He didn’t know. He told us that the town was known as the home of the mighty Wurlitzer organ that had been used in the Riviera Theatre in town. Read more about the history of the theatre and the organ here: http://www.rivieratheatre.org/history
As we drove through town on our way to find the Wurlitzer Factory, we saw this painting on the side of a building.
After a few wrong turns and dead-ends, we finally found the original Wurlitzer Factory. It is now just a multi-tenant industrial park. The neon Wurlitzer signs used to be on all four sides of the tower. They were sold. The new sign on the tower is just a light-up plastic sign.
I walked out to the street to get a better look at the sign frame, designed to look like a Wurlitzer 1015. Sadly, it now advertises bathroom fixtures.
We drove around to the back of the factory to see the DeKleist Organ Company sign.
From 1892-1908 De Kleist was building band organs for fair rides, until he became mayor of North Tonawanda and sold the business to Wurlitzer, when the business was renamed the Rudolph Wurlitzer Company of North Tonawanda. To read more about the history of De Kleist and Wurlitzer you can go to : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_Tonawanda_Barrel_Organ_Factory or http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eugene_de_Kleist
After our little tour of the factory grounds, we met our seller. Lloyd was delighted to find that the 71 was not really just an empty cabinet after all. It had coin equipment, a volume control and a junction box. The catalin plastics were not cracked. This all meant that the jukebox was an even better find than he had expected. We loaded up the 71 into the backseat of our truck and happily headed out for Niagara Falls.
I had traveled all over the world, but strangely had never been over the border into Canada. This was my first time to leave the U.S. by car. By the time we crossed the border, it was twilight. All the lights of the city were lit. I did not know what to expect, but it was much prettier than I had anticipated. We parked our truck and walked to the visitor center to get our first good look at the falls.
We learned that the falls are lit up with color at night. We decided to have a drink at the visitor center restaurant and wait for the light show. It was worth the wait.
We got checked into our hotel, and left to explore the city. Up the hill from River Rd., the town reminded me of the boardwalk at the ocean. There were haunted houses, wax museums, arcades, restaurants and all manner of entertainment for families. There is a huge casino, a large Ferris wheel, and a space needle that makes for a well-lit night-time skyline. We could see that if a family had time, there would be a lot to do. There was an aviary, a butterfly conservatory and botanical gardens. To learn more about things to do in Niagara Falls, visit this site: http://www.niagarafallslive.com/Attractions_in_Niagara_Falls.htm
The next morning, we had breakfast in our hotel, looking out over the falls. I wanted to see all there was to see about the falls before we left. There are so many places to go, I wasn’t sure if we would ever be back. So we went into the tunnels behind the falls.
And here is what it looks like from the boat, looking up at the falls. As you can see from the ponchos that everyone wears, we all get wet! It is awesome!! All I could say was, “WOW!!”
After our boat ride, we took a bus down the road and walked along the gorge to see the whitewater rapids. The water was such a beautiful color and the stories of the daredevil stunts performed here over the years are fascinating. To see the rapids, click on this video link.
After our walk along the gorge, it was time to start heading home with our purchase. We left about 2:30 and made it back home about 11:30 that night. A fast trip but well worth the effort for pleasure and business!