JOPLIN, MO.--- Gerold Koehler of Joplin has been repairing and collecting calliopes, nickelodeons, band organs, juke boxes and player pianos for 15 years. At present, he has 36 of these historic instruments. He finds them in junk and antique shops, furniture stores and through two collectors groups to which he belongs. Many pieces date from the early years of this century, and are marvels on engineering.
Their names are exotic as their inner workings. Caliola, Violano, Berrywood, Pianolin, and Empress. This regina music box is the oldest piece in the collection, dating back to 1893. Most of the machines play perforated paper rolls, and can belt out tunes from the gay nineties up to present day country and western. Gerold has three huge band organs, which if listened to at close range, can make your ears sit up and take notice.
The Scopitone is a juke box with movies made for a few years in the 1960's, they're rarities today and Gerold has 34 of them in various stages of restoration. Collecting this musical memorabilia is challenging and interesting, but Gerold says it's not for everyone.
"You have to stay on it. You have to tune the pianos at least once a year. The pipes need to be tuned on some of the machines, they need to be oiled. The mechanics of the machines need to be taken care of. The rallies need to be repaired. There's a lot of mechanical things. You have to have electronic abilities, you have to have mechanical abilities, or you have to have a live-in repairman in order to keep this stuff going," said Gerold Koehler, instrument collector.
Gerolds most visible music maker is this converted 1967 Cadillac hurst, which he has fitted with a 43 note brass pipe calliope played by piano roll or by hand. Its lively and loud music always commands attention. It's been exhibited at several public functions and recently has played at Six Flags in Texas.