remembering the pianola

The inspiration for this post came from this pianola I saw in the Charters Towers Zara Clark Museum. I’m guessing the holes punched out in this pianola roll play a ballad of the slow variety given the visible lyrics …. through the long, dark hours. No knee slapping round the piano with this one! I’m sorry to say that my searching hasn’t uncovered the likely song on this roll. Perhaps someone can inform us.

pianola

The pianola or player piano was a popular home entertainment unit in the early and middle twentieth century if you could afford it, preferred perhaps if your piano playing skills were limited or non-existent.

From The Adelaide Chronicle of 30 March 1929 is a mouth operated mini-version. A few steps up from the kazoo don’t you think?

Pocket Pianola

Head over here to The Pianola Institute for a comprehensive summary of the history of the pianola. This catalogue was created 3 years after Edwin Scott Votey produced his pianola. Many player pianos had come before, but this one seemed to kick off their popularity.

historyjpgs_plabrochure

Cover of the first Aeolian Company Pianola Catalogue – New York, 1898.

This theatre advertising slide is from 1929 and is in the collection of the John Oxley Library at the State Library of Queensland. (out of copyright). Coincidentally, given the Charters Towers connection above, this slide was likely projected in a theatre either in Charters Towers or nearby. Perhaps the player in the museum was bought through W F Greenhoulgh.

Player pianosAnyone old enough to remember a few sing-songs around the pianola, and the boxes of piano rolls stored neatly away in specially designed timber furniture?


an accidental death

On 13 March 1922, this funeral notice for Steven Polkinghorne appeared in the Charters Towers press.

Steven Polkinghorne

A month later, this respected member of the Towers Concert Band was remembered by his fellow players.

Steven Polkinghorne photograph

One of these framed photographs is now housed in the Zara Clark Museum in Charters Towers.  It is accompanied by this story.

bass drummer

“At a picnic at the weir, Steve was boating with friends when a lady’s hat was blown into the water. Steve tried to rescue the hat but when he swam back his friends, as a prank, rowed away. It is believed that Steve tired, or had a cramp, and drowned.”

Both articles are from The Northern Miner via Trove Australia – 13 March 1922 and 13 April 1922 respectively.