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Meet the Pipe Organ Team

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Members of the Northwest Vintage Car & Motorcycle Museum who are on the Pipe Organ Team include “Telephone Tom” Popelka, (left) and Connie and Stephen Miller. Tom is the electrician for the pipe organ’s electrical functions. Stephen is the in-house organist and project director. Connie is the assistant troubleshooter.

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A Smith Unit Pipe Organ is now residing at the Northwest Vintage Car & Motorcycle Museum at Powerland Heritage Park in Brooks, Oregon. This two-manual, five-rank system was manufactured in the 1920s and it was shipped from the factory in Chicago to the Coliseum Theater in Tillamook, Oregon in 1926.

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Project Manager Stephen Miller and troubleshooter Tony Kraxberger unpack the pipe organ components.

Shortly after this organ was installed, a movie was released in 1927 and it was titled “The Jazz Singer.” This movie made silent films with organ music in the background obsolete. Movie theaters were taking out the silent film projectors and organs and replacing them with new projectors with sound systems.

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Stephen Miller connects the snare drum and other percussion instruments.

This organ was removed from the Coliseum Theater and sold to Ron Johnson who had the pipes and console playing in his home in Portland by 1976. In 1997, Tony Kraxberger and his wife Judy, bought the organ from Ron Johnson. Tony crated it up and stored it until he could find a place and time to put it back together.

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“Telephone Tom” Popelka had to reconnect a thousand tiny wires to make it work again.

Twenty-two years after the components of the organ were crated up, Tony contacted the Museum and musician Stephen Miller. The organ was moved to the Museum in 2019. After the crates were unpacked, restoration began and the components were reconnected. We invite you to see and hear the progress.

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Home | About Us | Car Shows | Join Us | Events Calendar | 2022 Exhibits | Speedster Program | Newsletter Archives | Lifestyle Exhibits | Pipe Organ Team | Contact Us |