Triumphs & Trials of an Organ Builder
When I go back in time to find some kind of beginning to the Allen Organ Company, I think about my childhood in Jamaica, Long Island, New York. I was always relentlessly curious about the technology of the day. This curiosity led me to immerse myself in various technical projects which started out as toys when I was quite young and gradually became more sophisticated and serious as I grew older. I threw my whole mind and body into these projects. For instance, I remember building a battery-driven, electric "go-kart" when I was twelve or thirteen. It was a great thrill to eventually get it working as I initially visualized it, but I was never quite able to quench my thirst for challenge and was soon compelled to take on another project.
Somewhere along the way I became fascinated with radio. I started out playing with crystal sets and eventually ended up building a rather respectable ham radio station. My handmade receiver and transmitter allowed me to talk to numerous, faceless buddies all over the world. This all seemed like just fun at the time; but, as I look back, I realize that I learned a lot from doing these things in my own way. I remember numerous trips to the library to read about current subjects of interest. I would run home to eagerly apply what I learned to get through some kind of technical snag with which I was wrestling. To get things done, I generally relied on my own hands working with anything I could acquire. Of course, living near New York City helped. I recall all the trips to the surplus stores to pick up potentially useful odds and ends. Even the Great Depression failed to stifle my burning desire to continue my projects. Fortunately for me, the Depression, albeit a difficult time, did not totally deprive me of resources; however, out of necessity, I did have to cultivate a knack for inventiveness. Any money I was able to come by for the projects had to be used very wisely indeed.
I didn't realize it at the time, but the lessons learned during these early days would serve me well over the years to come. I gained a lot of self-confidence working on these early projects; I learned that with hard work and ingenuity I could take on ambitious goals and succeed. I retained this confidence over the years in essence, repeating those early youthful projects over and over again in the form of serious inventions and commercial enterprises.
And there's another lesson I learned early on for which I'm very grateful. Getting so involved with the nitty-gritty of those early projects gave me a certain intimacy with the real, physical world of street wisdom, in a sense. I tapped this wisdom many times over the years. As President of Allen Organ Company, the world's largest producer of institutional electronic organs, I've had to size up many situations from the very positive to the disturbingly negative, from applauding the "right stuff" to dealing with shameless frauds.