Illustration by X. Atencio, 1956
Recently one of my own childhood wishes came true... we bought a player piano! I have wanted one for as long as I can remember, probably from the moment I first encountered the tinkling sound inside the Wonderland Music Store at Disneyland. I was entranced by the perforated paper roll going 'round and 'round, causing unseen fingers to play the keyboard. It was just about the happiest thing I'd ever heard.
In the early 1970s the Wonderland shop and piano were near the exit to Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln
Just beyond the racks of Disneyland Records and Big Golden Books, in its own magic spot was the player piano, surrounded by rows of red and white boxed music rolls that you could buy for your own piano at home (if you were lucky enough to have one!)
The QRS Company
has been manufacturing paper piano rolls since 1900, and (unbelievably) is STILL IN BUSINESS!!!
with over 45,000 titles - everything from Minnie's Yoo Hoo
to Guantanamera. Still in those same red and white boxes.
And here's a 1994 photo of the original Wonderland Music Player Piano in storage backstage in the Arcade Warehouse... Could it still be there?
The Wonderland Piano was a real old antique, even when it appeared at Disneyland in 1955. Made by the Chase & Baker Co. in Buffalo, New York, the piano would be 125 years old this year. On opening day it stood in the original Music Store (near the current Magic Shop), and in 1960 both store and piano moved next door to Lincoln. When Bear Country debuted in 1972, the piano was installed in the Wilderness Outpost where it must've played "Oh My Darlin' Clementine" a million times until it was finally retired in 1986 (though we hope not "lost and gone forever!")
The insides of player pianos are completely insane!
And now that we're all in the mood for it, let's have a little song we can join in and sing! I have here an old QRS "word roll" with the lyrics printed right on the paper.
"Turn On The Old Music Box", from Pinocchio (1940)