The other memorable procession in Boston
THE well-earned victory parade for the New England Patriots was held in Boston on Monday, a massive procession from Copley Square to City Hall Plaza that skirted Fenway Park, Harvard University, and the Jacob Wirth Restaurant.
I was unable to attend, being otherwise occupied, so shall report on another parade that was held in Boston some years ago. I refer to the first and only convention of the Guild of Former Pipe Organ Pumpers. This was, I believe, in 1938, when almost all church pipe organs had been converted to electric blowers, and most of us who qualified as "former" pumpers were still reasonably young.
The guild was organized by a former pumper in Three Rivers, Mich., a man by the name of Chet Shafer. He remained Grand Diapason during his lifetime. I had pumped the organ in the Congregational Church at Freeport, Maine, so was readily accepted as a member.
I was 12 and was paid 25 cents a Sunday to keep the wind up in the lovely old organ, which included Thursday-night choir rehearsals as well as funerals and weddings. My mother made me put the quarter in the Sunday School collection basket.
I was somewhat deflated to find, when I looked, that the parish treasurer carried me on his books as "boy to pump, 25 cents." Inasmuch as the organist couldn't play without me, I felt my importance deserved mention. In a small room back of the choir, I earned my salary by working a lever up and down, thus keeping a bellows full of wind. The lever came through a slot in the wall, my only rapport with the solemnity of worship.
The first church pipe organ in the New World was a gift to Boston from Queen Anne and is in King's Chapel in Boston. So the first convention of GOFPOP was held at Mother Parker's Rooming House, which is just down School Street from King's Chapel.
Members of GOFPOP from all parts of the world gathered to pump each other's arm up and down in the official grip and whisper the single secret word of membership. The pending agenda of official guild business was dispatched, and the guild song was sung with appropriate movements:
The pipe-organ pumper climbs up in his loft,
His overcoat, rubbers, and mittens he doffs,
And for pipe organ music he pumps loud and soft,
In those wonderful days of yore!
Gedopple, gedickel, geroar, gedecht,
Geroar gedecht, geroar gedecht,
Gedopple, gedickel, geroar, gedecht,
Geroar gedecht, gedoo!
Then came the parade, which is what I want to tell about. It was the shortest parade ever held anywhere. It was well planned by the Grand Diapason and his support officer, Vox Humana Lyman Armes, who was promotion superintendent for the Boston Post. Leading the parade, Grand Diapason Shafer came out the front door of the Parker House onto School Street, turned the corner, and went back into the hotel by the side door, a distance of 80 feet.
At the front door, however, he was joined by every piece of equipment of the Boston Fire Department except the fire boat in the harbor. Fire Commissioner Michael O'Flynn happened to be a fellow pumper of GOFPOP.
Bringing up the rear was a bellboy from the Parker House named McFinney, a nephew of Commissioner O'Flynn. As the fire engines continued down Tremont Street, the bellboy turned into the side door, waving to the populace that the parade was over.
GOFPOP never held another convention; the idea never entered anyone's head. Our ranks have dwindled, and our necessity was superseded by the electric organ. The few pipe organs left have electric blowers.
THE organ I pumped as a boy is still in business, but it had a close call some years back. It needed repairs because of age, and parishioners were aghast at the price. It would be far cheaper to scrap the thing and buy an electric organ, which would be "just as good." But a few cooler heads couldn't be convinced, and enough music lovers rallied to raise the needed money. The lovely old track organ came through nicely.
I went to the recital when the repaired organ was back in place, and it was beautiful. I was glad I used to pump her, and I was glad I no longer did, for I remembered how my tongue hung down when Miss Pratt, organist, would let go and shake the roof timbers with the recessional, after the benediction.
Pump as I did, the bellows gauge still dropped. Unless the people got outside quickly, so Miss Pratt could stop playing, I'd commit the unpardonable sin of letting the wind lapse into silence. I never did, but every Sunday I dreaded the recessional.
Then Miss Pratt would close the keyboard and leave, and I could emerge from my cubicle into the empty church and go home for Sunday chicken dinner.
When the worshippers have left, the glory has subsided, the hymn books are closed, and Sunday Service is over, only the organ pumper ever realizes how empty an empty church can be.