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The Mighty Wurlitzer

By Melissa Young

I wrote this a few years ago but decided to post it today in memory of my grandma, who passed away Sunday evening.

It used to be a chicken coop. That’s how the history always starts, a history that sounds almost like a legend because it has played in my ears for as long as I can remember. The black and white photos along the narrow entry hall verify the unlikely beginnings–showing how the chicken coop evolved into a dance hall. I often stared at the pictures, trying to feel the walls of that coop around me. I usually couldn’t.

The Organ Loft of my childhood was more exotic than the modernized version that exists now. It had dark red, casino-style carpet, with red flocked wallpaper. Small whiskey flasks were always arranged neatly behind the bar. It felt wicked in a wonderful way, all scarlet and dim. And there, at the center of everything, was the organ—the mighty Wurlitzer. Somewhere between blue and purple in color, with gold trim, the organ shimmered under the spotlights. I loved to put my nose up to its lacquered finish and just stare at the glitter. I loved sparkle, and that organ was full of it.

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