Davis Carousel

QUESTION:  The Wurlitzer 165 displayed next to the Emperor here at the American Treasure Tour was once displayed at the Davis Carousel in Griffith Park, Los Angeles.  What type of machine complements it now?
A)  Another Wurlitzer 165
B)  Stinson 165 Military Band Organ
C)  Artizan B Band Organ
D)  North Tonawanda Musical Instrument Works Model 14 Band Organ

So, a week's exploration of the land that would become Griffith Park in the heart of Los Angeles, California is finally coming to a close. You've been wondering all this time where it was going, and now you have an answer: it's bringing us to one of the few remaining merry-go-rounds found in its original setting in the city: the Davis Carousel!  As with all things, the Davis Carousel does have a story. It was built in 1926 by the Spillman Engineering Company of North Tonawanda, New York.  Spillman was the maiden name of the wife of Allan Herschel.  Never heard of him?  Herschel is considered the first American (an immigrant from Scotland, but we are, after all, all immigrants) to establish a business dedicated to the construction of merry-go-rounds. He partnered up with his wife's brothers to create the Herschel-Spillman Company. It lasted a few years but bad blood between the partners led to a split and, we're sure, tense family gatherings. So Spillman Engineering went independent. But we digress.

Members of the Spreckel Sugar Company commissioned the carousel so that it could be placed at their Mission Beach Amusement Center in San Diego, California. The Great Depression did the center in, and in 1935 they closed down, and the carousel went to the city's Balboa Park as part of the California Pacific International Exposition. After two years, Ross Davis purchased it and moved it to Griffith Park, where it has been ever since.  Davis commissioned a band organ for his carousel and, in 1939, Wurlitzer sent him the very same Model 165 currently on display next to the Emperor in the American Treasure Tour's Toy Box. It is hardly a conventional 165, though. By '39, Wurlitzer had retired production of automatic music machines in their North Tonawanda factory, so they assembled the machine from what they had around, including a Model 157 facade. The machine is in near-perfect condition, showing off its original paint and having never required any restoration of which to speak. And the carousel continues to entertain kids, as it did for the daughters of Walt Disney, who went on record as saying the Davis Carousel in part inspired the creation of Disneyland. And, being in Los Angeles, there can be no surprise that it has also been on television, notably during a commercial in which a young James Dean was handing bottles of Pepsi to teenagers as they rode the horses.

ANSWER:  B)  Sintson 165 Military Band Organ.  We're sure you caught our joke - there's no such thing as a North Tonawanda Musical Instrument Works Model 14 Band Organ!  We always have a lot of fun here at the American Treasure Tour blog!


QUESTION:  The Disney California Adventure Park opened next to Disneyland in 2001 on land that had previously been dedicated to what purpose?
A)  Waste treatment
B)  Parking
C)  Nature trails
D)  An airport

Yesterday's discussion of Walt Disney has inspired the blog to delve a little deeper into the man who created an empire.  Aside from the fifty-five animated features developed at the Walt Disney Animation Studios and numerous other films both animated and live action created by Disney and their affiliates, they have also become the world leader in theme park destinations. That all started in Anaheim, California, a suburb of Los Angeles. During the 1940's and early-Fifties, Walt Disney received countless requests from fans to visit his animation studios.  Aware that they would not be all that exciting, he tried to think of a way to please his fans. Meanwhile, he took his two daughters to Griffiths Park, a wooded refuge in downtown L.A. dominated by an observatory used in numerous films. There was also a carousel owned by Ross Davis. Disney's daughters, Diane and Sharon, loved to experience the carousel and its Wurlitzer band organ (more on that in another blog), but Walt and the other parents found the experience somewhat boring. He wanted to be entertained, too, and suspected other parents would agree.

In 1955, Disneyland opened with great fanfare. The day was July 17th, averaging at 101 degrees Fahrenheit, which proved difficult. Asphalt poured that morning was still hot enough that women's high-heeled shoes sank into them. And there were problems with the plumbing, such that they had to choose between keeping the toilets working or the water fountains. They wisely opted for the former, although visitors accused Pepsi of rigging things to improve sales of their beverage. And only about half the people who entered the park had legitimate tickets. Others either obtained counterfeit tickets or climbed the fences to get in. So yes, there was a lot of chaos, and some criticism.  Walt invited the 'legal' visitors to come back the next day for free for a second chance. People have been going ever since. In fact, there are currently twelve parks around the world: two in Anaheim, four in the Orlando, Florida region, two in Tokyo, two in Paris, one in Hong Kong, and the newest one in Shanghai, China. 

ANSWER:  B)  Parking.  It had been the original parking garage for Disneyland.