Perhaps I had ambitions to be an MP - or an undertaker!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

[thanks to - - ]

No, your eyes are not deceiving you!

This is a fence decorated with women’s bras.

It all started at Christmas 1999 when four bras were found on the wire fence at Cardrona in Central Otago, New Zealand. Within a few days more were added and soon the idea had caught on; by October of 2000 there were around 200 bras hanging on the fence.

In 2006 the number was estimated to be 800 and the local authorities, declaring the display to be a traffic hazard, had the fence removed.



Elsewhere in this blog I’ve made many references to my keen interest in all kinds of music, and of the great enjoyment I had performing semi-professionally.

When I was a boy my favourite radio programmes were dance bands and cinema organists. It was quite a thrill for me when I was given the opportunity of practising on the church organ and I thought how wonderful it would be to play in a cinema.

Some time later I decided to find out about cinema organ lessons. It surprises me now to think that I was brave enough to go in to the Odeon in Glasgow and ask to see the organist, Lyndon Laird. He came to the vestibule and explained that, because of wartime restrictions on the use of electricity, the times when the organ could be used were severely limited. However he took me in to a seat in the back stalls, gave me a cigarette and left me to enjoy a free show. I visited him there a number of times and we would sit at the back of the cinema discussing music in whispers.

There was just the one occasion when I had a "go" on a cinema organ. I had contacted Frank Olsen (about lessons) who played the Gaumont cinemas in Glasgow and he arranged to meet me in the New Savoy one Saturday morning.

The instrument, a 2 manual Christie, which probably dated from early in the century, had been in the Tivoli, Glasgow before coming to the New Savoy in 1935. I was surprised to find the keys yellow and worn with age, and disappointed to see that the console was fixed and didn’t come up from the depths!

The New Savoy organ console

What did I play? I can remember two of the pieces. The Giant Fugue by Bach (nicknamed Giant not because of its difficulty or its length, but just because the pedal part was said to resemble the wide strides of a giant) and a popular tune “Memories of You.”

In 1958 the New Savoy closed down and, as usually happened to unwanted organs, the instrument was broken up. I’ve no doubt parts went to augment organs in churches all over the country.

A few weeks after my meeting with Frank Olsen I got my calling up papers for National Service, and I didn’t pursue the idea any further.

However, more than 40 years later, after I retired from office work, I was given the opportunity to play the kind of music the cinema organists used to play. I found that all the local care homes for older folk had electronic organs, and I volunteered to visit them every week and entertain the residents. I played Sousa marches, Strauss waltzes, light classical pieces, songs from the shows, always finishing with a sing-along medley. I was in my element!!!


This is a video of John Bowdler on the famous Wurlitzer at the Tower Ballroom, Blackpool. He plays “Pure Imagination” one of the songs from “Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” The video uploaded by “RitaSueBob”


Finally, some memories of entertaining old people.

I remember my first visit to a care home. When I sat down at the organ and smiled down to the audience, one VERY old lady pointed to me and announced to her neighbours "He was in my class at school."

At another home one of the residents had been a sax player in a dance band. Sometimes I noticed him wiping away tears, as I played an old sentimental number.

Often I would play requests. One old lady asked for the same song every week "I'll SeeYou in my Dreams," and eventually I always concluded my programme with it.

The residents knew when I was due to appear and they would all be seated in the lounge waiting. At one home however, a certain lady would get up as soon as I arrived, walk out the room and return only when I had finished. Someone suggested that she was a music lover!!!


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David said...

If you like Cinema organs, then have a look at
You will find everything that you possible could want to know about these fabulous instruments.

David Reed

John said...

Thanks, David.

I hadn't come across that site before, and was astonished at the mass of information there.