Smorgasbord Posts from Your Archives 2022 – ‘Potluck’ – #History – Pump Organs by Joy Neal Kidney

Since this series began in January 2018 there have been over 1000 Posts from Your Archives where bloggers have taken the opportunity to share posts to a new audience… mine.

The topics have ranged from travel, childhood, recipes, history, family and the most recent series was #PotLuck where I shared a random selection of different topics. This series is along the same lines… but is a ‘Lucky Dip’. I have posts scheduled for another few weeks but that will bring this current series to an end. Another series will begin in the new year.

In this series I will be sharing posts from the half of 2022

In her second post in the series author Joy Neal Kidney shares the workings of the pump organ in the church where the family worshipped.

Old Pump Organs

During my growing up years, we worshiped at the Presbyterian Church in Dexter, where my Aunt Nadine (Neal) Shepherd was the pianist, organist (a pump organ), and choir director. Because so many choir members were from farm families, several months during the year, the choir became smaller.

We Neal cousins went to the Dexter school, just a couple of blocks from the church. Dexter had such a wonderful music teacher, Ruth Sellers, so in no time at all we could read music. Several of us also took piano lessons. Aunt Nadine recruited us for a youth choir, which eventually became the main choir.

When I was a junior in high school, Aunt Nadine was pregnant and needed substitutes at the organ and piano. I’d played piano for Sunday School, but the organ was a pump organ (video). That means that while you’re playing the keyboard, you also need to pump the bellows that made it play!

The pump organ is the instrument on the left. (The rear-view mirror is to be able to coordinate music with ushers, the pastor, and even when the choir processed in from behind the organist. Taken about 1961, First Presbyterian Church, Dexter, Iowa

I’m in the back row, second from left. My sister is on the front right. Eight of us are Neal cousins! Aunt Nadine is at the back right.

The keys operate reeds, so when you press the key, air from the bellows flows up the reed and makes a sound. You can change the sound by using the stops, which are pull knobs that add extra features. The expression “pull out all the stops” refers to using all the knobs of an organ at the same time.

The Dexter church eventually traded the pump organ for a Hammond electronic organ, which I enjoyed playing, but if I’d had the money at the time, I would still own that old pump organ. I enjoyed playing it and had figured out how to repair the bellows when needed it.

A Depression-Era Pump Organ

While working on Leora’s Dexter Stories: The Scarcity Years of the Great Depression, I became acquainted with Mary Wilt, a neighbor of the Wilsons back then. She knew that Leora Wilson could play the piano and that the Wilson girls played in the Dexter band, so she said they could have her pump organ since she didn’t play it anymore.

The surprise was that the Wilson family was so strapped for life’s necessities, there was hardly money for extras. They had even needed to burn furniture so they could heat part of the house they rented.

Dale needed a project for manual training. He transformed wood from that old organ into a radio table.

© Joy Neal Kidney 2022

About Joy Neal Kidney

Joy Neal Kidney is an Iowa author who grew up on a farm, now living in a Des Moines suburb with her husband, Guy, an Air Force Veteran of the Vietnam War and a retired Air Traffic Controller. Their son is married and they live out-of-state with a small daughter named Kate.

With God’s help, Joy is aging gratefully. Living with fibromyalgia for two dozen years has given her plenty of home-bound days to write blog posts and books. “Leora’s Early Years: Guthrie County Roots” is her third book in the “Leora Stories” series. Her research from decades ago has helped tell her grandmother’s stories.

She was presented with the 2021 Great American Storyteller Award “Honoring the woman who most beautifully tells the story of America to Americans,”by Our American Stories and WHO NewsRadio 1040.

Books by Joy Neal Kidney

My review for Leora’s Letters August 6th 2022

This book is an intimate inclusion in one family’s life and loss during the Second World War. Clabe and Leora work tirelessly on the farm they manage to raise their children and put something by for their dream of owning their own farm. In this rural environment it is natural for young men and women to perhap have their own dreams and even before Pearl Harbour one son has signed up with the Navy. Over the course of the war five sons would enlist to serve their country.

Through the letters written by Leora to her sons, and their often censored letters in return we share life on the home front and also their challenges as they go through training and then deployment. Their only link to home is these letters and others between each other and their sisters, and it is clear that this is a close knit and loving family doing their best through a very difficult time.

One can only imagine the constant worry any parent would have with a child serving on the front line, particularly with incomplete news reports in the media, long after major battles at sea and in the air. But to have five sons in the line of fire in the Pacific and in Europe must have been unbearable.

The letters are beautiful in their simplicity and informality as they would have been between a loving family. There is also some wry humour as the boys encounter the world outside their rural upbringing and undergo their training, as well as a deep love of their parents as they send money home toward their dream of owning their own land.

From the first page we are drawn into this family and feel the hope, love and loss they suffer over the course of the war. Whilst there is sadness, there is also admiration for a brave mother and her sons who believed in doing their duty, and respect for the sacrifice this family made. War should never be glorified, but those who lay their lives on the line for their country should be, especially when young with their whole lives ahead of them.

This period for all of us is now moving from living history as the last of those who can share their stories pass away. It is so important  that major events such as major conflicts are fought by ordinary men and women and their stories deserve to be told and remembered.

The author has done a wonderful job in collating these letters that recreate so vividly this time in world histry. By doing so she honours the members of her family, including her own parents who lived, loved and lost so much.

Read the reviews and buy the books: Amazon USAnd: Amazon UKMore reviews: GoodreadsWebsite: Joy Neal Kidney – Facebook: Joy Neal Kidney Author – Twitter: @JoyNealKidneyInstagram: Joy Neal Kidney


37 thoughts on “Smorgasbord Posts from Your Archives 2022 – ‘Potluck’ – #History – Pump Organs by Joy Neal Kidney

  1. I’ve had a go on a pump organ with foor bellows. Turns out my coordination is as bad as I thought it was! I have Leora’s Dexter Stories on my KIndle. I need to bump it up! xx

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Pingback: Smorgasbord Weekly Round Up – 26th September – October 2nd 2022 – Hits 2004, Bocelli, Culinary ‘H’ foods, Basking Sharks, Podcast, Reviews, Health and Humour | Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

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