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Organ curator John Shaw preparing the new harmonic flute pipes for installation at the Great Auditorium. Photo by Mary Walton

By Mary Walton
     Back in the 1960s, in what organist Gordon Turk deplores as “an unfortunate attempt to modernize” the magnificent organ in the Great Auditorium, 44 large open wood pipes were removed, cut up and used for wind ducts.
     Their absence robbed the organ of its heft and rich, deep-throated tone. The person responsible “claimed to be an organ specialist but really should have been a plumber,” said Ocean Grove’s organ curator, John Shaw.
     But when Turk puts the pedal to the metal for the opening concert of the 2012 summer season at noon Saturday, the auditorium will once again fill with the sound that organ designer and builder Robert Hope-Jones intended listeners to hear.
     Earlier this month replacement pipes made of poplar, constructed by A.R. Schopp’s Sons of Ohio and ranging in size from four to sixteen feet, were shoehorned into the tight quarters behind the choir loft by a team of Philadelphia riggers. To gain access, a wall to the building superintendent’s office had to be removed and then replaced.
     There’s more. For some years Turk had longed for a set of harmonic flute pipes such as those found in the organs of certain French cathedrals. The Ocean Grove organ has many flute pipes, but harmonic flute pipes are distinguished by a small hole which reinforces certain overtones, giving them a clear “ringing” quality.
     Until recently Turk believed they would render superlative sound only if  housed in stone cathedrals. That is, until he played the organs at halls in Zurich and Vienna with acoustics similar to the wood-lined Great Auditorium. Could such pipes be installed here?
     Turk consulted, among others, Jean-Louis Coignet, the organ curator of the City of Paris, who had once visited Ocean Grove and pronounced the auditorium’s organ “magnifique.” Over the winter they worked via e-mail to establish specifications for 306 harmonic flute pipes ranging in size from one and three-fifths to eight feet, divided into five “ranks” played from the organ’s five keyboards. John Shaw installed them just this week.
     The two installations bring the organ’s total pipe count to 11,558.
     The cost of the additional pipes is $65,000, made possible by gifts from two donors, James G. Howes of Clearwater, Florida, a transportation consultant, and Dr. Liselotte Schmidt, a retired music professor who lives in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania.

Organ benefactor James G. Howes broadcasting the weekly radio program “Sacred Classics”

Howes, the grandson of  Methodist minister G.E. Lowman, a noted Baltimore radio evangelist, contributed $45,000 for the construction and installation of the open wood pipes in memory of his grandfather.  “I thought this would be a wonderful way to memorialize my grandfather and make a contribution to Ocean Grove that everyone could enjoy,” he said in an interview.

     Howes learned to play the organ in his grandfather’s church, the Baltimore Gospel Tabernacle, now an historic landmark. “I’m just good enough,” he said, “to know how much more I need to know.” He has also played and sung in the choir of the interdenominational Riverside Church in New York City.
     Howes’ grandparents were frequent visitors to Ocean Grove, as was his mother. Howes himself has been coming here since childhood and never misses a choir festival. A pilot who forged a career in airport management, Howes is also the president of Atlas Communications, which offers a weekly radio program, Sacred Classics, and produces CDs and concerts. One CD recorded in 2001 features Gordon Turk. Titled “Sacred Classics at Ocean Grove,” it has sold more than 3,000 copies, which Howes says is “very good for an organ record.”
     He will be in the audience Saturday when Gordon Turk will debut the organ’s new additions.
     Turk will also offer a July 4 recital (“Storms &Thunder, Stripes & Pipes”) and will play at a July 5 Summer Stars performance with the Philos Polished Brass Ensemble. And featuring, of course, the Auditorium organ.

One of the new 16-foot open wood pipes under construction earlier this year in Ohio

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Photo by Mary Walton

Blogfinger correspondent and editor Mary Walton’s father, Joseph Vogel, was stationed at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, when the Japanese attacked. A year ago she described how her parents were awakened in Navy housing at dawn by the sound of Japanese bombers. (Mary was less than three weeks old at the time.) When her father reported to the base, the quartermaster was handing out World War I Springfield bolt-action rifles. There was no ammunition.

Today she tells what happened next.

By Mary Walton

By the second wave of Japanese bombers, my father had his rifle, and ammunition had arrived. The sailors shot at the low-flying aircraft, “not really expecting to hit anything, but who knows, you know?” Some fired .45 caliber pistols. The sky was thick with smoke and ammunition. The Japanese kept coming. “They would dive down through that shellfire. You wouldn’t see how the hell they could ever survive long enough to even drop the bomb, but they would.” My father was at a pier when a launch pulled up with a half dozen burn victims. The boat pilot reported, “Well, the whole goddamn battle line is on the bottom.” He was referring to the eight U.S. battleships either sunk or damaged.

When his superiors discovered my father was a diver, they sent him with a rescue team to the USS Oklahoma, a storied battleship now bottom up in the mud, its inside hatches buried. He could hear the desperate banging and thumping of men trapped inside. The rescuers were helpless. “How the hell are you ever going to get through that deep, deep, deep mud and get inside the ship? There was just absolutely no way you could do it.” Rescue workers cut holes in the hull of the ship above the water; 32 men threaded their way to safety.

Later, my father was assigned to salvage ammunition from another sunken battleship, the Utah. “That was a hell of a job because there were bodies in there, and you would bump into them, and also it was pitch, pitch black, and there was fuel oil, big gummy black fuel oil.” They dove in shallow-water gear that looked like a gas mask with a line to the surface. My father was deep in the ship when someone accidentally cut off his air supply. He found an air pocket, filled his lungs with “a stinking breath of fuel-oil air” and made it to the surface.

Experienced first-class divers would go down only in units that had telephones and eight minutes’ air supply. “All of us second-class divers were eager, ’cause we were dumb,” my father said. “We didn’t realize how dangerous it was.”

When a disabled Japanese midget sub was towed ashore on December 8, my father and two other sailors assembled a rig to remove its torpedo. He remembers another sailor looking down at the missile with contempt. The warhead was fastened with mismatched screws. “What a piece of junk,” he said.

For months afterward, the island feared further attacks or even invasion. Authorities issued gas masks. Barbed wire snarled Waikiki Beach. There were nightly blackouts. Alcohol was banned, then rationed. Said my father, “It was pretty generous rations, maybe like two or three fifths a week, and a case of beer a week. I’d never drunk two or three fifths a week in my life. But it felt like your patriotic duty. People drank like fish out there. All you could do was sit in your house, listen to the radio or listen to some music or talk and drink.”

Thousands of reinforcements arrived. On Hotel Street, Hawaii’s red-light strip, lines stretched from the second-floor brothels down the steps and down the block. Bars were so crowded, the military instituted a two-drink limit. But, my father said, “if you tipped the waitress a dollar a drink, she’d never collect your ticket. You could stay all day.”

Dependents, including my mother, were evacuated as soon as travel seemed safe. My father remained on Oahu for almost a year. Along with doing small diving jobs — the major salvage work had gone to a private contractor — he was instructing crew members in submarine escape. Like generations of warriors, he discovered that “the worst part of war is that it’s so damned boring… You sit around waiting for something to happen, and when it happens, it doesn’t take very long and then it’s all over.”

USS Utah capsizing. Salvaging it "was a hell of a job because there were bodies in there, and you would bump into them..."

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By Mary Walton, Blogfinger Literary Editor

I was returning from errands Friday when a car pulled up in front of mine and a slender woman in dark glasses got out. She approached with a hesitant smile and introduced herself as Beth Gannon. We had never met, but I knew we had mutual friends.

She held out a camera, a black Canon Power Shot. “Is this your camera?” she asked.

Well, yes, the camera was indeed familiar. But what was Beth Gannon doing with my camera? The last time I had seen it, it was in my camera bag.

Mary's camera

Beth explained that she had been walking by Fletcher Lake earlier in the day with her children when she found it.

As it happened, I had been there taking a photograph for Blogfinger with a different camera. Clearly the Power Shot had dropped out of the camera bag. Beth had found it. But how had she found me?

Beth explained that when she opened up the photos looking for clues, she saw a video I had taken just the other night of fellow members of the Ocean Grove Book Club. We were circling the table at Cathy Rechlin’s home, helping ourselves to slices of pumpkin cheesecake. Beth recognized first one person and then another. Among them was Hetty Komjathy, whom she had known since childhood. Beth took the camera over to Hetty’s house.

“I saw Joan Knust and Judi Isaksen and Freddi Castle,” Hetty told me later. “And the pumpkin cheesecake. I said, ‘Oh, that’s Mary Walton’s camera.'”

Beth apologized for looking at my photos. “I hope you don’t mind.”

“Mind?” I said. I thought of how things could have gone another way. A less honest person might have kept the camera. Or it could have been found by an honest person who didn’t know anyone in the photos. And what if I had never made that video?

“I’m grateful,” I told Beth. “How lucky am I.”

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Margaret Stickel on the porch of 91 Cookman, circa 1960

By Mary Walton

Perhaps more than in most communities, the history of Ocean Grove lives in the hearts of families who have sunk deep roots in its sandy soil. For people like Paul Horn, a walk up Cookman Avenue is truly a trip down Memory Lane.

Some of his fondest childhood memories center on 91 Cookman, now a derelict house that has been prominently featured on Blogfinger’s pages. Earlier this year developer Jack Green purchased the house for the purpose of renovating it.

But for 41 years it was the home of Horn’s grandparents, John and Margaret Stickel, who bought it in 1924. Today Horn lives just down the street at 83 Cookman. Recently he and his wife, Loyce, and daughter, Cathy Cooper, reminisced about the family’s history.

Paul Horn's grandparents, John and Margaret Stickel, immigrated from Germany in 1890

John and Margaret Stickel immigrated around 1890 from the Black Forest section of Germany to Newark, where John became a brewmaster for Krueger Brewing Company. They had ten children. After Stickel retired they explored the Jersey shore by train. When they reached Ocean Grove, says Horn, “they just decided without a doubt that this was where they wanted to retire.”

As a child, Horn, now 87, often visited his grandparents. He remembers being sent to buy breakfast buns at Friedman’s Bakery on Cookman Avenue in Asbury Park. When no older than eight or nine he liked to rise early and walk south on the boardwalk to Bradley Beach to watch fishermen haul their catch ashore in a craft that looked like a huge rowboat. The men would push the boat onto the beach, where it was hooked to a cable and towed in farther. The glittering fish were piled into a truck and taken to the ice house at Newark Avenue. The young boy found the sight of the boat deep with fish “amazing. My eyes popped just to see it.”

In a celebrated incident, now a staple of family lore, his grandfather John was swept up by a riptide and pronounced dead when pulled ashore. But a lifeguard refused to accept the verdict and pounded his chest until he drew a gasping breath. He lived another 15 years.

Says Cathy, “When my grandmother used to tell the story, at the end she always said the same thing. ‘And he had ice cream later in the day.’ ”

Margaret Stickel lived at 91 Cookman until 1965, when she moved to a nursing home and the family sold the house. Paul Horn’s mother, Frieda, a crack statistical typist, eventually moved to Mt. Hermon Way. Paul grew up to graduate from Yale and become a professor of psychology at Indiana State. But every summer he and Loyce would pack up the family station wagon and drive back to the Grove. They rented 83 Cookman before purchasing it in 1990.

Loyce Horn says that her daughters, Cathy and Holly, “spent every summer of their childhood in Ocean Grove. As soon as they graduated college, they moved to Ocean Grove. They married in Ocean Grove and they’re still in Ocean Grove.” (Sort of. Holly Horn, a professional violinist, lives in Manhattan but summers here and is the owner and director of the Ocean Grove Violin Academy. Cathy, a family therapist, lives in Neptune City.)

As 91 Cookman became, in Horn’s word, “horrible,” he and his wife would look away when they passed the house. Now, with renovation underway, they fantasize about keeping it in the family. (Green plans to sell it after he’s done with the renovation.)

A few days ago Paul Horn walked up to the house, where a dumpster is now parked in front. His grandmother used to call the verdant side yard her “outdoor living room.” He pointed to the dilapidated second-floor porch. “That’s where my cousin had his hammock.”

The memories live still.

Today: The Stickels' great granddaughter, Cathy Cooper, and her dad, Paul Horn, on the porch of the old house. Photo by Mary Walton

MUSIC by Charley Pride:

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