The year was 1931, when movie theatres advertised such things as "Bank Night," "20° Cooler Inside," and other local promotions. There was a theatre in Ottawa, Illinois, known as the Roxy. The doors opened at 6:00 p.m. and the organist played from 6:30 to 7:00 p.m., when the newsreels and local merchant slide commercials appeared on screen. That was when Bob Lewis first became acquainted with the theatre organ. When the console lights came on Bob was down at the console, sitting on the right end of the bench, and staying there until the movie started. When Bob was in high school he played percussions in the band and orchestra-while studying piano and organ with the man who played at the Roxy theatre.
Years later, Bob attended an organ program at the Rialto Square Theatre in Joliet, Illinois. It featured the Grande Barton 4-29 pipe organ along with an Allen Digital Theatre organ supplied by The Beautiful Sound in Countryside, Illinois. The sounds of the great pipe organ, along with those of the exciting digital organ, "lit the fire" in Bob's heart once again. Here was a digital organ that very closely rivaled the sound and beauty of a pipe organ-WOW! The seed had been planted.
At his home in Villa Park, Illinois, where Bob lived with two of his sisters, an addition to the already existing music room at the rear of the house was decided upon. Bob signed the contract for a GW319-EX in October of 1999.
In July of 2003, after Bob attended a Tom Hazleton organ concert, Tom suggested that Bob should have a George Wright GW-IV. Once again, the wheels started turning and in August of 2003 a contract was signed for a GW-IV! A short time later, the organ was installed and things settled down to a mild "roar."
Then at the American Theatre Organist Society's 2004 National Convention in Milwaukee in July, Walt Strony introduced the new Quantum™ TO-5Q Renaissance™ Unit Orchestra-a five-manual, fifty-five rank theatre organ. Bob's wheels started turning again and the following December he signed a contract with Lee Maloney for the purchase and installation of a TO-5Q!
Once again, Bob had to go back to the drawing board to incorporate the changes needed to accommodate the TO-5Q. The GW-IV left the premises in April of 2005 and the TO-5Q was installed in June. Bob's TO-5Q, the third one off the assembly line at Allen Organ Company, was voiced by Walt Strony. Walt has voiced all of Bob's organs with truly outstanding results, as noted by everyone who has played them-especially the TO-5Q.
Over the years since his GW319-EX many fine organists have played at Bob's "Third Avenue Theatre," as he calls it: Barry Baker, Walt Strony, Jonas Nordwall, Tom Hazleton, Jelani Eddington, Lyn Larsen, Dave Wickerham, along with many notable local artists. Bob sponsors three or four major concerts during the year. He invites friends, business associates, and senior citizens who fondly remember the glory days of the theatre organ and silent movies with organ accompaniment. The doors of the "Third Avenue Theatre" are always open to visiting artists and organ clubs, who periodically hold their socials there.