RTOS Story – A Man and A Vision

In the spring of 1960, long time Floridian Daniel (Danny) Schultz, an Engineer moved his family to Rochester.  Having previously rescued, restored and installed a Wurlitzer in his home in Florida, he had been fortunate to meet and work with a former Wurlitzer organ installer of the period when they were being installed in theaters. Art Stopes was still active, had an organ building/ maintenance business and became a mentor to Danny’s hobby efforts. After the move to Rochester, Danny began searching for info on what organs remained in local theaters.   A visit to a local music store, Music Lovers Shoppe resulted in meeting Tom Grierson.

Tom said the Palace organ was somewhat playable but needed considerable work to bring it back to good playing condition. Also Tom also introduced Danny to local enthusiasts Jess Littlefield and Lloyd Klos who were to become his team members in the RKO Palace organ restoration. ​

RKO Theaters District Manager, Mr. Jay Golden

Tom was instrumental in paving the way with RKO to allow access and restore the organ due to his many year associations with Jay Golden, the RKO District Manager.  After permission was granted by Jay Golden and theater manager Frank Langkamp, Danny moved ahead with the project by enlisting the aid of his wife Oline, along with Jess and Lloyd, they began the job of returning the Mighty Wurlitzer to playing condition.  Fortunately, the instrument had escaped major water damage and the misdeeds of those who would do it harm with the exception of the pilfering of the brass saxophone rank sometime in the 1950s.  Working nights and weekends, often while the show went on, the little band worked diligently and quietly in the organ chambers for several months until the organ was played publicly for the first time in some 17 years by Tom Grierson in a mid-August Sunday morning concert in 1960.

With appetites whetted by articles in the local press and occasional television reports, Rochesterians who remembered the organ from its heyday emerged from the woodwork as they brought their families and friends downtown to once again revel in the beauty of the still opulent RKO Palace (the building was only 32 years old in 1960) and cheer as the gleaming white and gold console rose majestically from the pit at occasional informal concerts held during the next few years.