Triumphs & Trials of an Organ Builder
The Venture Resumes
By early-to-mid 1945, the return of American industry to peaceful pursuits seemed apparent. I was eager to get back to being an electronic organ builder. Also, I was hoping that as the country returned to peace, I would be able to dust off the operation I had mothballed years earlier and get back in the game. After all, my efforts in the organ business up to that point had "only" gotten me to first base. I was determined to go farther.
There were plenty of problems back in '45. For openers, parts were very scarce and funds were low. Fortunately, the lessons and survival skills I learned in my "early" years were still intact.
I remember that somewhere in this time frame I got an inquiry from Harold Steinbright, an executive at a chemical company who was an organ enthusiast. He told me an amazing story. The former owner of the chemical company, Mr. Grevel, had also been an organ buff who had commissioned an electronic organ experimenter-someone I had vaguely known about- to build him an electronic organ. Before the organ could be made to function, Grevel died. Because he had no surviving family or close associates, Grevel left the entire company to the employees along with the incomplete organ and parts inventory. As I recall, some of this story was covered by newspapers at the time. The company's new owners terminated work on the organ and put it into storage. The experimenter, Spencer McKellip, later became a consultant for C. G. Conn's organ division, which produced electronic organs from approximately 1947 into the early 1980s when production ceased.
Mr. Steinbright decided that he, too, wanted an organ and called me for a proposal to be tied into the unfinished organ and parts. I suppose he heard about my earlier successes by word-of-mouth and concluded that I could provide what he wanted. I jumped at the chance. I sorely needed the parts from that unfinished organ and the associated inventory being stored at his factory. We struck a deal. He obtained an Allen organ; I received a goodly quantity of scarce parts. These parts eventually helped me get some more organs out into the field which, in turn, exposed me to still more organ enthusiasts. At this stage in the venture, getting this kind of exposure was of prime importance.
I was never too busy to talk to people about organs and the organ business. Luckily, others shared my interest in the subject. They heard classical organ music in their church and popular organ music from the Hammond on the radio, in movies, and at concerts. I truly enjoyed talking to people about all aspects of the organ field. However, I must admit that because of limited, personal funds I very often would find myself scrutinizing these good folks for any signs of their having some spare cash -- money that "I" knew could be put to use as an investment in Allen Organ Company.
At some point during the first half of 1945, I decided that Allen Organ Company should become a corporation which subsequently occurred on July 17, 1945. I reasoned that a "corporate" structure would make a strong statement that the Allen Organ Company was "for real" and that I was committed to turning my hometown venture into a full-blown, business enterprise. It also allowed me to solicit investment money from friends and relatives in the traditional way -- by selling stock. My initial effort was moderately successful; the Corporation obtained enough capital to lease factory space, to buy some equipment, and to hire some people. By the end of the year, the Company had fifteen employees, a cabinet shop for building consoles and pedalboards, an electronics area, and a small testing area.
In 1946, I was able to sell eight to ten organs all in the local area. This along with acquired capital was enough to keep the Company going. In fact, my confidence was high enough to allow me to move to a new location at 8th and Pittston Streets in Allentown, which provided 14,000 square feet of leased factory space. Also, in this time frame, I realized that I could not adequately handle sales, engineering, accounting, production, personnel, and supervision myself. So, I asked a college friend, Michale J. MyLymuk, about joining the Company as shop manager; he agreed. He played an important role in the day-to-day operation of the company and eventually became Vice President of Production. There was an element of fate in our relationship. We became friends because we sat near each other in various classes at Muhlenberg; also, we both had some common hobbies. We sat near each other in college only because seating students in alphabetical order was customary in those days.
I must say that the Allentown area seemed to be an ideal place to set up the Company back in 1946. There was a good supply of capable "radio technicians" and cabinetmakers who responded to my help-wanted ads. The people of the area were known for their conscientious hard work. In addition, I related well to them. Again, fate was on my side by placing me in the right place at that critical time in the life of the Company.