A Mommy Blog About Raising Men, Not Boys.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

The Mighty Wurlitzer

Once in a while, my husband takes my breath away with a surprise. This past week he did it again with great aplomb.

When I was little there was this great place I loved to go. It was called the Paramount Pizza Palace. It was the most fun place in the whole world to a little kid. Pizza, ice cream, and this crazy LOUD organ that had huge banks of pipes, and tons of instruments all around the walls that the organ controlled. I have a lot of really magical "everyone in the family went and had a good time" memories there. It was a place where you would hear STAR WARS followed by DANCING IN THE DARK and they both sounded cool. You stood in line for an insane amount of time to sit on picnic style benches to eat, and watch and hear the Mighty Wurlizter. The Mighty Wurlizter isn't just an organ you listen to. It's an organ that shakes your insides and your head and the glasses on your table. If an organ can ROCK, the Mighty Wurlizter could. It would play stuff your Grandma likes and stuff you liked and it made for a great evening. The Paramount Pizza Palace was around long enough that when I was a semi- grownup Mrs Repressed and I took my littlest brother and her cousin and treated them to the joy of the Mighty Wurlitzer. We cracked up when the two of them about lost their minds while we stood in line to get ice cream because the organ had started back up again. "HURRY! We're MISSING IT!" - yeah, we were missing the organ that was shaking the floor. Not likely.

But one day, when I was grown up and moved out of my parents house I drove past the place where the Paramount Music Palace was and POOF.......it was gone. We heard the organ went here, we heard it went there, we heard it went somewhere else. But it was gone, out of business. Apparently, little kids didn't like listening to STAR WARS followed by DANCING IN THE DARK anymore while eating pizza.

Shortly after I moved to Florida my mom mentioned that she had heard that the Mighty Wurlitzer from there had come to Florida somewhere. So I did a little search.

And found it.

And it was CLOSE.

The spouse and I had talked about going several times, but we were out quite far from home the other day and he mentioned that he'd like to stop off at place X to look for some shoes. Then he suggested we might grab a bite to eat. I said okay and let him pick.


I cried.

Seriously. It might sound stupid, but I totally cried. Because this crazy organ was a happy place, it was a place where you couldn't even TALK because it was so loud but everyone always had the best time anyway. And you know what? The Roaring 20s is exactly the same. I question whether the same people own it or bought the concept or WHAT but I swear.......it is IDENTICAL to the Paramount Pizza Palace except that the lights weren't dimmed as much, the organ was quieter (it was loud, but not HELLA LOUD like I remember. No dishes on the table rattled), and the ice cream parlour and the place where you order were on the opposite sides.
I took Lil' Sachmo up and told him about the Mighty Wurlitzer and explained to him what the massive banks of pipes where, I told him how the organ used to ROTATE and descend into the floor when I was little (the new place doesn't do that) and how his Grandma and Grandpa used to take me there all the time.
We ate pizza and I watched my children laugh and clap and stare in wonder. We were the only people in the place under 50, I swear. My camera ran out of batteries and this nice lady at the table next to me loaned me hers so I could take a few snaps. It was wonderful, and magical, and I'm so happy I was able to take my own children there.

I can't wait to go back.


Gidge said...

Oh, and I just watched the Video on their website. On their VIDEO the organ does ascend from the floor. Maybe the hydraulics are broken on the mechanism or something. Because the organist had to climb up and down from a ladder.

Christa said...

oh my god, that's AWESOME! i remember that the organ not only ascended, but kind spun around a little as it rose. it was incredibly dramatic.

i hadn't thought about the paramount in AGES. thank you for reviving that memory for me!

(i think it says a lot that i remember absolutely NOTHING about the pizza at paramount --for a kid, that's saying a lot. it was all about the organ, baby.)

Christa said...

aah! sorry! i probably won't be able to stop commenting on this post!

i just watched some of the video on that site, and their organ *does* do a little spin as its ascending.

jeez, the organ sounds EXACTLY THE SAME as it did in indy. how do you move an organ that big? damn.

pete said...

I remeber that day very well.

Larry said...

Ah...the Mighty Wurlitzer. I too have amazing memories from when it was in Indy. I had just come of driving age when the "Palace" opened, and I was over there, mesmerized, every chance I got. I bought the records that they made, and played 'em all the time. I moved to CA after college, and later heard that, sadly, the place had closed. When visiting the parents in Florida a few years ago, I heard of the new location, and visited it with high expectations. Sadly, I was disappointed. Unfortunately, the new place doesn't hold a candle to the Indy location in terms of acoustics. The Palace was a really huge building; it was, what, 3 or 4 stories tall in the center? All that open space made for wonderful reverb (as you said, when the organist really cut loose, it rattled the rafters) and the sound was just glorious. The place was truly built around the organ; the integration of the instrument into the structure was beautiful. So it was that the new location was a let-down; I don't know the history, but it *looks* like they found a building and just stuck the organ in there. Plus, since it's only two (?) stories tall, all that wonderful sound just doesn't have anywhere to go; to me, it sounded really thin and lifeless...kind of like comparing a home theater system to a transistor radio. Still, I'm happy that it landed SOMEwhere...but nothing is going to be as amazing as it was at Paramount Palace.

Christy Osborn said...

CAN SOMEONE PLEASE HELP ME??? I was born in Indianapolis, IN. My family moved when I turned four but went back a couple of times per year to visit all of my family. I am an aspiring writer and I'm writing a children's story about my childhood memories with my grandparent in Indiana. I've dedicated it to my grandma. One of the BIGGEST memories I have is about the old "Pizza Palace." ive run in to a brick wall. I'm trying to find pics of the inside, outside, organ... Please, if you can help email me at happyfacessunflowers@yahoo.com. THANK YOU IN ADVANCE.
Christy Osborn
Glendale, California

cheryl044 said...

Oh my!!! The old Paramount Pizza Palace, I used to BEG my parents to take me there....what a fun place for parents and children! I wish there was somewhere now for us to take our kids that was like that place. It was affordable and fun...good luck nowadays! SOOOOO... many memories!

Insomn3ak said...

I don't know why, or how Paramount Pizza Palace popped into my head but it did, and by the power of Google I found this awesome post! Yes, like everyone here I used to BEG my parents to take me when I was a kid. There was always an internal conflict with where I wanted to sit, because on the floor you might get the bubbles. But all the way on the top floor were the really loud trumpets! OMG, I swear if I EVER get alot of money to blow...I'm gonna replicate that place EXACTLY haha!

For now though, gonna check out the youtube video...

Anonymous said...

My father built and was co-owner of PMP in Indy, and I have many memories of that wonderful place. I will be traveling to FL to see the organ for the first time in almost 20 years. I'm glad to see that so many people enjoyed the organ and PMP, and I miss the place more than anyone.


S. Marsh

Anonymous said...

I forgot to leave a contact email. If anyone would like more info or pictures of the facility in Fl, after I visit it, send me an email.


Jim said...

In the mid or late 70's I was brought there by the staff from a medical device company whose main office was in Indy. My first reaction was disappointment that they would want to go out for pizza on a company tab.
What a real surprise it turned out to be. After 4 or 5 trips over the next few years to that companies training facility, The Palace is still the one place I will never forget. What was also amazing was you was never rushed once seated, but people didn't seem to linger beyond a few minutes after eating. I believe the show lasted about 20 min. and the organ would disappear into the floor and return (I think) every half our for a new set of patrons. There could never be another. What a great place it was.

Anonymous said...

It's sad the Roaring 20's Pizza and Pipes has closed as of June 6th, 2010.

Floyd said...

I remember the Paramount in the 70s. It was a wonderful place to eat pizza and hear the trumpets play William Tell/The Lone Ranger with the crowd calling Hi Yo Silver!!!

Good times...gone to Florida I guess, but at least two of my kids got to hear that amazing organ.

beens77 said...

One of the fondest memories of my childhood, living in Indy, is the Paramount Music Palace. Entertainment and food for all. What a fabulous way to foster the love of music it indeed was. I wish I was able to take my own son before it closed. I would SO open another here if I could. Nice to see others have similar, wonderful memories. May the music last forever. We will never forget!

Dr. Shoggoth said...

Oh man, I remember when i was a little kid my parents used to take me there. That organ. Oh god. One time I spilled coke from up on the balcony onto a man below accidenttally and it made a big stink. When it closed I was real sad, and ebign a small ignorant child asked my father why he didn't just buy the organ.

And that was the day I learned the concept of 1 million.

I think we still have some of the cds of the guy playing this fantastic organ they recorded. If you were interested I could see about digging them up and uploading them for you.

Anonymous said...

Where did the organ go after Roaring 20's closed? I grew up near 10th and Franklin, and have great childhood memories of Paramount Pizza Palace as well. My wife and I are going to Tampa in July, and I was looking for activities when I found out the organ was near Tampa. It's too bad this restaurant closed, I would love to see the organ again. If you can help with any information, please contact me at jetraub_cpc@yahoo.com Thank You!