/ RTOS Story – Rochester Responds!

RTOS Story – Rochester Responds!

At a meeting at the Palace on March 13, 1965 it was agreed that the organ must be saved and remain in Rochester.  A goal of $10,000 was set and fund raising began in earnest.  Fund-raising concerts were scheduled, $1 and larger shares of stock in “musical nostalgia” were sold to the public, rummage and bake sales were held, and production of a pictorial booklet about the Palace and an LP record featuring Don Scott playing the organ all helped in the fundraising efforts.  Newspaper and TV publicity and an informational booth in the then bustling Midtown Plaza focused attention on the cause.  These efforts, along with a number of substantial private donations all contributed to the realization of the funds needed to purchase the organ and remove it to safe storage during the search for a new home.

​The organ was heard in its original home for the last time on July 21, 1965 when the “golden era” again reigned for one memorable night in Rochester.  The RKO Management and RTOS co-sponsored “A Glimpse of the Past”, a vaudeville-movie show done in the style of the 1930s.  Local Radio/TV luminary Eddie Meath was the master of ceremonies for a five-act stage show, complete with an orchestra in the pit.  Don Scott rose into the spotlight to play the organ in the Palace for the last time to a near capacity house.  On August 2nd, with Von Ryan’s express starring Frank Sinatra, on the screen, the marquee lights were turned off and the RKO Palace, “Rochester’s Most Beautiful Theatre”, just five months shy of its 37th birthday, closed its doors forever.

Farewell Event at RKP Palace
Removal of the Wurlitzer

​The organ was heard in its original home for the last time on July 21, 1965 when the “golden era” again reigned for one memorable night in Rochester.  The RKO Management and RTOS co-sponsored “A Glimpse of the Past”, a vaudeville-movie show done in the style of the 1930s.  Local Radio/TV luminary Eddie Meath was the master of ceremonies for a five-act stage show, complete with an orchestra in the pit.  Don Scott rose into the spotlight to play the organ in the Palace for the last time to a near capacity house.  On August 2nd, with Von Ryan’s express starring Frank Sinatra, on the screen, the marquee lights were turned off and the RKO Palace, “Rochester’s Most Beautiful Theatre”, just five months shy of its 37th birthday, closed its doors forever.

Removal of the RKO Palace

In the months following the announcement that the theatre would close, negotiations took place and RTOS arranged to purchase the organ for $6,000.  While this was a goodly sum in 1965 dollars, it was also known that organ brokers with deep pockets had their eyes on Opus 1951, who would skim off the ‘good stuff’ and then junk the remains .  Due to its near perfect condition it was a prime candidate.  However, RTOS was determined to preserve this important piece of Rochester’s history, here, and intact for the enjoyment of future generations.  RKO Regional Manager Mr. Jay Golden who shared this interest, managed to keep the brokers at bay while he quietly arranged the deal with RTOS.  Without his help, RTOS would have slipped into oblivion and ‘our’ organ most assuredly would no longer be in tact or Rochester today.

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